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Civil Rights

Ernestine Rose

Ernestine Rose’s extemporaneous speeches on religious freedom, public education, abolition, and women’s rights earned her the title “Queen of the Platform.”

Adrienne Cecile Rich

Adrienne Rich, one of the best American poets of our time, is not someone who would take pride in the description, “not just a woman poet.” She has shown that, far from being a limiting or qualifying word, “woman” can be a badge of honor. It can speak of possibilities too long unexplored and passions once turned away. It can be a declaration of freedom and of power.

Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier espoused an activist concept of the law and a rehabilitative rather than a punitive model of judicial process, she pioneered the establishment of mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services for troubled children. She also took a leading role in opposing racial and religious discrimination in public and private facilities.

Peace Movement in the United States

Throughout the twentieth century, Jewish women have played a major role in American peace organizations and movements.

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

In 1913, the women of Reform Judaism, who were organized in independent, local synagogue sisterhoods founded in the 1890s and 1900s, united to create a national organization of women dedicated to religion. Reform Jewish women joined the American women of the era who established a host of voluntary associations to further various social and communal agendas.

Annie Nathan Meyer

Annie Nathan Meyer promoted women’s higher education; chronicled women’s work; dramatized women’s status in plays, novels, and short stories; raised funds for Jewish and black students; wrote hundreds of letters to the editor; published art, drama, and music criticism; and championed physical activity and the outdoors.

Elizabeth Holtzman

A member of the generation that came of age in the 1960s, Elizabeth Holtzman has pursued a public career epitomizing some of the most important trends in postwar American and Jewish life. In her successive roles as a congresswoman, Brooklyn district attorney, and comptroller of New York City, she emerged as an effective and activist public servant, a forceful campaigner, and a champion of liberal and feminist causes. Her career illustrates the recent empowerment of ambitious, highly motivated, professional young women and the increasing role of Jewish figures in electoral politics. In addition, she has been a dedicated Jew, with a highly regarded record of communal commitment and achievement.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bas Sheva Abramowitz (“Bessie” was created by an Ellis Island immigration officer) was born on May 15, 1889, in Linoveh, a village near Grodno in Russia. She was one of ten children born to Emanuel Abramowitz, a commission agent, and Sarah Rabinowitz. In 1905, Bessie, who spoke only Yiddish and some Russian, joined an older cousin in immigrating to America. Most 1905 immigrants fled czarist oppression and anti-Jewish violence, but Bessie reported that her aim in leaving home was to escape the services of the local marriage broker.

Lillian Herstein

The history of Jewish women in the American labor movement tends to focus on those whose careers unfolded in the needle trades. Such was not the case with Lillian Herstein, who was a teacher and a nationally known labor leader. Ethel Lillian Herstein, the youngest of six children, was born on April 12, 1886, in Chicago. Her parents, Wolf and Cipe Belle, emigrated from Vilkovishk, Lithuania, shortly after the U.S. Civil War, not only for economic reasons but because of Wolf’s admiration for Abraham Lincoln and his ideals.

Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen was a social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Civil Rights." (Viewed on March 19, 2018) <>.


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