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Feminism

Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs

The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs (ELF), a progressive women’s group, grew out of the Emma Lazarus Division, founded in 1944 by the Women’s Division of the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order of the International Workers Order (IWO). Formed to provide relief to wartime victims, but especially to combat antisemitism and racism and to nurture positive Jewish identification through a broad program of Jewish education and women’s rights, the Emma Lazarus Division attracted a membership of leftist, largely Yiddish-speaking women, many of the immigrant generation. Among its founders was Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the young woman who had called for the general strike of garment workers that sparked the 1909 Uprising Of The 20,000. Shavelson and other organizers believed that, because of the Holocaust, thousands of women had become “newly aware of themselves as Jewish women,” but they urgently needed “history, self-knowledge as Jews, and cultural products” that could sustain the fight against fascism. In its early years, the division offered fellowships for fiction and history on Jewish themes. It also supported a home for French war orphans and a day nursery in Israel, and championed a broad range of women’s issues.

Andrea Dworkin

“Every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.” This encomium from Gloria Steinem may, however, be balanced against another comment, by the British critic John Berger, who maintained that Dworkin was “perhaps the worst misrepresented writer in the Western world.” Together, the two statements convey not only Dworkin’s brilliance but also the perhaps predictable antipathy, hostility and even ridicule evoked by the forceful and impassioned attacks on pornography and violence against women for which she became famous—or notorious.

Ruth Dreifuss

An outspoken and strong feminist, Switzerland’s first Jewish member of the Federal Government and first woman president Ruth Dreifuss was born in St. Gall in Eastern Switzerland on January 9, 1940. Her father Sigi Dreifuss (1899–1956) was from Endingen (Canton of Aargau), one of the two villages of old Switzerland in which Jews could live before the emancipation in 1866. The Dreifuss family was among the oldest in Switzerland. Her mother’s family left Alsace (near Colmar) after the German annexation in 1871 and Ruth’s mother Jeanne Dreifuss-Bicard (1905–1962) was born in St. Gall. Ruth’s brother, Jean Jacques, born in 1936, was a professor of physiology in the faculty of medicine at the University of Geneva.

Barbara Dobkin

Barbara Berman Dobkin is the pre-eminent Jewish feminist philanthropist of the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century. Her vision, dedication, generosity and financial commitment have contributed significantly to changing the landscape of Jewish women’s organizations and funding in both North America and Israel. In her central pursuit of the full equality and integration of women and women’s issues into every aspect of Jewish life, Dobkin co-founded Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project and has served as the chair of The Jewish Women’s Archive and the ten million dollar Hadassah Foundation. She has also been a pioneering donor-activist on Jewish gay and lesbian issues, in progressive Israeli organizations, and in the U.S. women’s funding movement, and has garnered a national reputation as a speaker on issues of women’s philanthropy and leadership.

Dorothy Dinnerstein

Since its publication, Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise (1976) has been recognized as one of the most important contributions to modern feminist thought. The book, translated into at least seven languages, is widely used in women’s studies courses and is an influential text outside academia as well. Comparing Dinnerstein’s book to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, one reviewer declared that this seminal essay not only belongs in “every feminist library” but in the “library of every well-educated person.”

Natalie Zemon Davis

Natalie Zemon Davis is a leading European historian, a pioneer in feminist studies, and one of the first women to assume a senior position in academic life. In 1987, when she served as president of the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization of historians in the United States, she became only the second woman ever to hold that post. Davis’s work has enriched historical understanding by challenging the boundaries of scholarly inquiry and broadening the scope of the historical profession.

Annette Daum

“Feminists can and should have a significant role in promoting understanding and respect between Christians and Jews.” These words of Annette Daum highlight her devotion to two causes: interfaith dialogue and feminism.

Creation According to Eve: Beyond Genesis 3

No feminist critic of the Bible has neglected to discuss the story or stories of the creation of woman; and yet, despite significant differences in theoretical approach and focus, their readings generally have been confined to Genesis 1–3. One may well ask why, since the matter of creation and femininity is also addressed beyond Genesis 3. Genesis 1–3 may in fact be construed as part of a larger unit of primeval history which ends only at Genesis 11, where the history of the patriarchs and matriarchs commences. This textual unit consists of a series of narratives and genealogies dealing with creation and crime and punishment—or both.

Rose Laub Coser

In a life devoted to studying how social structure affects individuals, sociologist Rose Laub Coser made contributions to medical sociology, refined major concepts of role theory, and analyzed contemporary gender issues in the family and in the occupational world.

College Students in the United States

While Jews have traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on education and learning, in the past they reserved the privilege of education primarily for their sons. Religious and cultural ideals assigning women’s place to the home and family combined with societal sexism and antisemitism to make the course charted by Jewish women in pursuit of a college education rocky and in many cases inaccessible. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Jewish women in America achieved parity with their male counterparts on college campuses, but only after many decades of struggle. Indeed, the obstacles facing all American women who sought to enroll in college institutions in the decades surrounding the turn of the last century proved numerous, imposing, and at times, defeating. For Jewish women, antisemitism posed an added challenge that they had to conquer in order to receive the college education they sought.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Feminism." (Viewed on February 25, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/feminism>.

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