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Activism

Eugenia Goodkind Meyer

A prominent civic leader in Westchester County, New York, Eugenia Goodkind Meyer was a longtime advocate of civil rights.

Bette Midler

Humor is an extremely effective tool with which to observe human behavior. When the comic laughs at herself as well as at the foibles of her audience, she creates a connection between people and an opportunity to examine serious subjects in a funny manner. Important and forbidden topics receive airings. Bette Midler’s knowing smile, which rarely leaves her face, reminds her audience that a humorous perspective, on any and all subjects, offers catharsis alongside illumination.

Eve Merriam

The tactility and fertility of language, its joys and journeys, are the stuff of Eve Merriam’s more than fifty books of poems for children. “Eat a poem,” she urged her readers and listeners (for her, poetry was to be “out loud”). “Don’t be polite. / Bite in. / Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin.”

Irma May

Irma May was a pioneer in American Jewish philanthropy. Her reports from Eastern Europe motivated social action, while her political and speaking skills moved both the New York and larger Jewish community.

Media, Israeli: Portrayal of Women

The integrated examination of the content of the Israeli print and electronic media engaged either in documenting reality (e.g. newspapers, news programs, current-events programs, talk shows, social programs) or in entertainment (e.g. quiz shows, soap operas, children’s programs) demonstrates the perception of the marginality of women in Israeli society. While men are presented as the “normal,” women, who constitute the majority of society, are presented as the minority “other”—the exception, the incomplete, the impaired, the marginal.

Maskilot, Nineteenth Century

In referring to Jewish women proponents of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) who wished to take part in the cultural and social revolution that the Haskalah movement preached, the Hebrew term maskilot refers not only to their ideology but also to their language: these were women who wrote in Hebrew.

Rosa Manus

Though Rosa Manus was one of the leading Dutch feminists before World War II, her memory has since been overshadowed by more famous contemporaries such as Aletta Jacobs. The fact that her life was also interwoven with pacifism, the struggle against fascism and the decline of Dutch Jewry, has largely been forgotten. More than other feminists, Rosa Manus suffered from the difficult position in which Jews were placed following the rise of fascism in Germany, when many women’s organizations were anxious to avoid being perceived as too Jewish. Carrie Chapman Catt, who regarded her as a pupil, assistant and adopted daughter, remembered her as one of the first to die for “the cause,” ignoring the fact that Rosa Manus had been arrested for her pacifist activities and deported as a Jew. And although her name appears on the memorial to those who died in Ravensbrück, there are several witnesses who testify to her having been taken, gravely ill, to Auschwitz.

Gill Marcus

Gill Marcus, who never married, was born in Johannesburg in 1949. Her grandparents were from Lithuania but her parents, Molly and Nathan, were born in South Africa. Both her parents were members of the South African Communist Party and from an early age Gill was made aware of the iniquities of apartheid; the Marcus home, open to people across the color line, was very different from that of the average white South African household.

Theresa Serber Malkiel

Theresa Malkiel was an activist for labor, women’s rights, and especially socialism. In one of her many published articles, she wrote, “The socialist regime [is] the only true exponent of complete equality and political economic independence.” Theresa Serber Malkiel, one of four daughters, was born on May 1, 1874, in Bar, Russia. The Serber family immigrated to New York in 1891, and although she had been educated, Theresa worked in a garment factory. Within three years, she helped to found the Infant Cloak Makers’ Union.

Clara Malraux

During her long and active life Clara Malraux was motivated principally by her feminist convictions and by her growing awareness of herself as a Jew. In her youth she struggled to escape the stifling role assigned to women of the bourgeoisie, to become a participant in life rather than a spectator. Her determination to create a meaningful and engaged life for herself caused her to reject the role of a conventional wife. After the failure of her attempt to forge an egalitarian marriage, she succeeded in making a life for herself by playing an active role in the French Resistance during World War II, going on to a successful career as a writer and activist after the war. In her middle years, her experiences during the war forced her to confront her identity as a Jew. In her essay on the German-Jewish intellectual and salonnière Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Malraux saw these two concerns as intimately linked. “Respect for women and respect for Jews go hand in hand,” she wrote. Born into the assimilated haute bourgeoisie, with little knowledge of Judaism and little identification with Jews, her experiences as a Jewish single mother of an ailing child during the war transformed her into a passionate defender of Israel often in conflict with other left-wing intellectuals.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Activism." (Viewed on December 3, 2016) <https://jwa.org/topics/activism>.

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