Labor Rights

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Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Gertrude Weil

Leah Berkenwald

Gertrude Weil was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1879. Her father, an immigrant from Germany, was among the business and civic leaders of the community. At the age of 15, she was sent to Horace Mann High School in New York City. She went on to Smith College, where, in 1901, she became the first graduate from North Carolina.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Fannia Cohn

Leah Berkenwald

Her life offers evidence of the possibilities and limitations of women’s activism in the American labor movement.”

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
Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Emma Lazarus

Leah Berkenwald

Emma Lazarus was born in 1849 to Moses and Esther Nathan Lazarus, descendants of the pioneering group of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who settled in New Amsterdam in the mid 1600s.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Pauline Newman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1890, Pauline Newman was barred from the local public school because she was Jewish. As a girl, her opportunities for a Jewish education were limited. Her father tutored well-to-do boys in Talmud; he eventually allowed her to attend Sunday classes, where she learned to read and write both Yiddish and Hebrew. The obstacles she faced in getting an education motivated her to fight for gender equality later in her life.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Belle Moskowitz

Leah Berkenwald

Born in Harlem in 1877, Belle Moskowitz (née Lindner) enjoyed a successful career as a reformer, settlement worker, and labor mediator before becoming a force in Democratic politics in the 1920s. A close advisor to New York governor and presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith, by the 1928 elections she was the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Clara Lemlich

Leah Berkenwald

When Clara Lemlich was growing up in the Ukraine, her religious parents did not want their daughter learning Russian, the language of an antisemitic empire. But the strong minded girl was drawn to Russia’s literary masters—Tolstoy, Gorky, and Turgenev—and to the revolutionary literature being written in Russian. She took on odd jobs—sewing buttons, teaching folk songs, writing letters for illiterate women—to pay for Russian lessons and later for books she kept hidden from her family.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in 1889, Bessie Abramowitz Hillman grew up in the Russian empire, in the city of Grodno, now part of Belarus. When she was 15, she immigrated to America “to escape a marriage broker,” she later said. She settled in Chicago, where she had distant relatives. She was soon involved in the fight for better wages and working conditions.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Rose Schneiderman

Leah Berkenwald

Born in 1882 into a devout Jewish family in Saven, Poland, Rose Schneiderman was raised from an early age to believe she was capable of doing anything a man could do. Her parents enrolled her in a Jewish school at the age of four. Two years later, the family moved to the city of Chelm so that Rose could attend a Russian public school and receive an excellent secular education.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Rose Pesotta

Leah Berkenwald

Rakhel Peisoty, who later changed her name to Rose Pesotta, was born in 1896 in a Ukrainian railroad town that was then part of the Russian Empire. Even as a child, she had the passionate convictions that would guide her later life as a labor activist and anarchist. Rose’s older sister, who belonged to an underground anarchist group, encouraged her to read the works of social revolutionaries. Rose attended a school for girls that taught a standard Russian curriculum, while offering secret lessons in Jewish history and Hebrew.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

The Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

Leah Berkenwald

Though we at JWA celebrate women’s history all year round, March brings us the great opportunity of Women’s History Month.

"It's up to us to save ourselves"

Leah Berkenwald

Yesterday, Rabbi Jill Jacobs published an op-ed at ReligionDispatches.org that connects the labor struggles of the past with those of the present, using the words of labor organizer Rose Schneiderman to inspire us today.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions

New "Triangle Fire" film: What was missing

Ellen K. Rothman

Next Monday, February 28, 2011, PBS will broadcast a new American Experience documentary, Triangle Fire, about one of the most horrific, and most consequential, workplace disasters in American history. A variety of special programs—gallery exhibitions, musical performances, conferences, even an HBO movie—are taking place over the next month to mark the centennial of the fire that left 146 workers dead. (A full listing of events is online at www.rememberthetrianglefire.org.)

Sophie Gerson, 1910 - 2006

In her later years, Sophie was a tireless activist with the National Council of Senior Citizens, fighting for universal health care and defense of Social Security. A woman of charm and passion, she developed ties with a range of local activists, including nuns and other local Catholics.

Evelyn Dubrow, 1911 - 2006

Ninety-five years was not long enough for us to enjoy [her] passion, wit, commitment to justice, and love of life.

Emma Goldman Mug Shot, 1901

Henrietta Szold and Emma Goldman: Star-crossed "Women of Valor"

Leah Berkenwald

December 21st is the winter solstice and this year it was also the date of a lunar eclipse. December 21st, however, is also a big day for two important "stars": Henrietta Szold and Emma Goldman, two very important women in JWA's online Women of Valor exhibit.

Reality check: Wage gap for Jewish professionals worse than national average

Kate Bigam

Much to the dismay of a number of Jewish organizations, the Senate neglected to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act last month, effectively shelving it for the foreseeable future. The bill, which would have augmented current civil rights law to protect against sex-based pay discrimination, had received broad support from civil rights and women’s rights groups but faced opposition from business organizations, whose members said it would be both difficult and expensive to enforce.

Elsie Frank, 1912 - 2005

Mother’s public debut was not exactly spontaneous — in 1982 my brother Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank faced a tough re-election campaign. We were all engaged, but probably the most effective family effort was a campaign commercial featuring Mother, in her rocking chair, explaining that she trusted Barney to protect Social Security.

Dorothy Ray Healey, 1914 - 2006

…Her ability to see the potential in every person and to help translate that potential towards reality – through teaching and shared organizing; through coaxing and prodding towards action; but mostly, through the most respectful and honest listening one could ever encounter – had enormous political ramifications.

Rose Pastor Stokes: Jewess with Attitude

Jewesses With Attitude

On April 5, 1905, J.Graham Phelps Stokes —Yale graduate, businessman, scion of one of New York’s “Four Hundred” families, social worker at the University Settlement on the Lower East Side, dabbler in progressive politics — announced his engagement to Rose Pastor — Russian Jewish immigrant, cigarmaker-turned-journalist, self-identified girl of the Jewish ghetto.

Imagining the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

Hasia Diner

What is about this fire that draws us so intensely? Why has this one event become such a touchstone for political, artistic, and cultural work?  How do we explain the nearly one hundred years of memorialization, activism, and creativity inspired by the events which transpired on March 25, 1911 at 29 Washington Place, just east of New York’s stately Washington Square?

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions

Lillian Wald

Lillian D. Wald was a practical idealist who worked to create a more just society. Her goal was to ensure that women and children, immigrants and the poor, and members of all ethnic and religious groups would realize America's promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Gertrude Weil

Gertrude Weil's passion for equality and justice shaped the course of her long life. Inspired by Jewish teachings that "justice, mercy, [and] goodness were not to be held in a vacuum, but practiced in our daily lives," Weil stood courageously at the forefront of a wide range of progressive and often controversial causes, including women's suffrage, labor reform and civil rights. She worked tirelessly to extend political, economic and social opportunities to those long denied them.

Justine Wise Polier

An outspoken activist and a "fighting judge," Justine Wise Polier was the first woman Justice in New York. For 38 years she used her position on the Family Court bench to fight for the rights of the poor and disempowered. She strove to implement juvenile justice law as treatment, not punishment, making her court the center of a community network that encompassed psychiatric services, economic aid, teachers, placement agencies, and families.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman dedicated her life to the creation of a radically new social order. Convinced that the political and economic organization of modern society was fundamentally unjust, she embraced anarchism for the vision it offered of liberty, harmony and true social justice. For decades, she struggled tirelessly against widespread inequality, repression and exploitation.

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