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This Week in History: Events in May

Bessie, Sidney, Selma, and Philoine Hillman, 1922

Labor leaders announce their engagement at May Day Parade

May 1, 1916

Labor leaders Bessie Abramowitz and Sidney Hillman announced their engagement while leading the clothing workers' contingent in the Chicago May Day Parade.

Publication of Gladys Rosen's Jewish bicentennial guidebook

May 2, 1975

The American Jewish Committee announced publication of a guidebook by Gladys Rosen suggesting ways to recognize Jewish contributions to the United States during the Bicentennial celebrations.

Lillie Steinhorn

Longest-serving federal employee Lillie Steinhorn retires

May 3, 2000

Lillie Steinhorn retired from the Social Security Administration as the longest-serving federal employee on record.

Roberta Peters Album

Opera singer Roberta Peters is born

May 4, 1930

Soprano Roberta Peters had the longest tenure of any Metropolitan Opera soprano and has worked to popularize opera throughout her career.

Barbara Dobkin

Barbara Dobkin receives honorary degree

May 5, 2011

Barbara Dobkin, the Founding Chair of the Jewish Women's Archive, receives an honorary degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in recognition of her visionary advocacy of women's causes.

Nacha Rivkin, founder of the first U.S. girls' yeshiva, is born

May 5, 1900

Nacha Rivkin founded the first yeshiva for girls in the U.S. to give her daughter and other girls an educational opportunity denied to them

"The Fountainhead," by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" is published

May 6, 1943

Rand's most famous novel launched the popular and controversial philosophy of Objectivism.

Maxine Kumin

Poet Maxine Kumin wins Pulitzer Prize

May 7, 1973

Writer Maxine Kumin won the esteemed award for poetry for her collection "Up Country: Poems of New England."

"A Muriel Rukeyser Reader"

Poet Muriel Rukeyser receives important literary award

May 8, 1942

In winning an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the young poet was recognized as an important presence on the American literary scene.

National Council of Jewish Women's Original Badge

Jewish women's advocate Esther Ruskay is featured speaker at NCJW New York launch

May 9, 1894

An advocate for both women and traditional Jewish practice, Esther Ruskay spoke on "The Revival of Judaism" at the founding meeting of the New York section of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Steve Benson on the Death of Sylvia Syms Thumbnail

Singer Sylvia Blagman Syms dies during standing ovation

May 10, 1992

Jazz singer Sylvia Blagman Syms dies of a heart attack at age 74 while receiving a standing ovation after a performance.

Alma Gluck

Singer Alma Gluck is born

May 11, 1884

Born in Romania, opera and concert singer Alma Gluck went on to become a major performing and recording star in the United States

Amy Eilberg

Amy Eilberg ordained as first female Conservative rabbi

May 12, 1985

Amy Eilberg became the first woman ordained as a Conservative Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary's commencement exercises in New York City.

World Tennis Magazine, February 1991

Gladys Heldman launches "World Tennis Magazine"

May 13, 1953

Tennis player, promoter, and women's advocate Gladys Heldman published the inaugural issue of "World Tennis Magazine." a forum calling for equal status and opportunity for women athletes.

Rebecca Affachiner flies the first Israel flag

May 14, 1948

"The Betsy Ross of Israel" sewed and flew the first Israeli flag after the state was founded

Jennifer Gorovitz

Jennifer Gorovitz becomes first female CEO of a major Jewish federation

May 14, 2010

Jennifer Gorovitz was named Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation, one of the largest federations in the country.

Thumbnail of Rachel King on Mayyim Hayyim

Mayyim Hayyim, a progressive community mikveh, opens

May 14, 2004

Innovative community mikveh and education center in Newton, Massachusetts, gives new meaning to ancient ritual

Fanny Goldstein, librarian and founder of Jewish Book Week, is born

May 15, 1895

Goldstein was the first female Judaica librarian and the first woman to direct a branch library in Massachusetts.

Etta King Discusses the Kosher Meat Boycott Thumbnail

Jewish women protest kosher meat prices on Lower East Side

May 15, 1902

Thousands of Jewish housewives rioted on the Lower East Side, making news and inspiring other women organizers

Rabbi Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl

Angela Warnick Buchdahl is invested as first Asian-American cantor

May 16, 1999

Buchdahl became the first Asian American cantor, and just two years later, made history again by becoming the first Asian American rabbi.

Bertha Kalich

Yiddish theater star Bertha Kalich is born

May 17, 1874

The "leading lady" of American Yiddish theater sought to raise the artistic standards of the genre, emphasizing serious plays.

Jane Eisner

Jane Eisner appointed first female editor of "The Forward"

May 18, 2008

Trailblazing journalist Eisner breaks one more barrier, becoming the first woman editor of the country's largest Jewish newspaper.

Lily Winner publishes a defense of open immigration in "The Nation"

May 18, 1921

Writer, playwright, and activist Winner was a progressive voice for immigrants and immigration reform.

Rabbi Sandy Sasso

Sandy Sasso ordained as first female Reconstructionist rabbi

May 19, 1974

Sandy Sasso became ordained as the first female Reconstructionist rabbi by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia.

Hedda Sterne, January 1, 1950

Hedda Sterne Protests the “Monster National Exhibition.”

May 20, 1950
“I never thought in terms of a career, but I worked with tremendous urgency." - Artist Hedda Sterne
Paula Sinclair on Gilda Radner (Image)

Death of comedian Gilda Radner at 42

May 20, 1989

Comedian Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42.

Atlantic City hotel apologizes to Bertha Rayner Frank for anti-Jewish discrimination

May 21, 1907

The proprietors of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel in Atlantic City apologized to Bertha Rayner Frank for her experience with anti-Jewish discrimination at their hotel.

Clara de Hirsch

Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls opens

May 22, 1899

The Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls, a residence and vocational training center for young women, opened its doors.

Susan Sontag, 2001

Susan Sontag publishes last essay

May 23, 2004

Susan Sontag's last essay, "Regarding the Torture of Others," was published in the "New York Times Magazine."

Thumbnail of Rachel King on the Publication of Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice, 2015

Carol Gilligan publishes "In a Different Voice"

May 24, 1982

Psychologist Carol Gilligan published "In a Different Voice," the first book to argue that women's psychological development could not be understood by studying men.

Beverly Sills

Birth of opera star Beverly Sills

May 25, 1929

Birth of opera star and arts advocate Beverly Sills.

Belle Moskowitz

Political trailblazer Belle Moskowitz wins passage of bill regulating NY dance halls

May 26, 1910

Belle Moskowitz, who became the most important female political activist of her day, passed a bill through the New York State Assembly requiring major NY dance halls to obtain a license.

Clara Lemlich in a Shirtwaist, circa 1910

Activist Clara Shavelson leads butcher shop boycott

May 27, 1935

New York City women, led by activist Clara Shavelson, picketed Manhattan butcher shops to demand a reduction in the price of meat.

"The Settlement Cookbook," by Lizzie Black Kander

"Settlement Cookbook" author Lizzie Black Kander is born

May 28, 1858

Birth of Lizzie Black Kander, a leading Jewish social reformer in Milwaukee and author of the still-in print "Settlement Cookbook."

Gertrude Elion, circa 1988

Virginia Holocaust Museum unveils plaque honoring Dr. Gertrude Elion

May 28, 2012

The Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond celebrated Jewish American Heritage Month by unveiling the Jewish-American Hall of Fame plaque honoring Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine Dr. Gertrude Elion.

Pearl Lang

Birth of choreographer Pearl Lang

May 29, 1921

Birth of influential dancer and choreographer Pearl Lang.

Etta King on Adah Isaacs Menken's Last Performance Thumbnail

Racy actress Adah Isaacs Menken appears in her last performance

May 30, 1868

Adah Isaacs Menken, a racy actress whose cult of personality brought her stardom, gave her last performance.

Steve Benson on the Dedication of Bashka Paeff's War Memorial Thumbnail

War memorial by Bashka Paeff dedicated in Kittery, Maine

May 31, 1926

"We should set up memorials that would make us loathe war instead of admire it.” - Sculptor Bashka Paeff

Birth of multi-talented Ruth Hagy Brod

May 31, 1911

Birth in New York City of Ruth Hagy Brod, who would have a varied career in journalism, publishing, and public service.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History: Events in May." (Viewed on December 14, 2018) <>.


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