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Nursing in the United States

Early in the twentieth century, trained nursing was not considered a suitable profession for a young Jewish woman. Jewish quotas on admission to nursing school were maintained well into the twentieth century, and nursing education continued be characterized by Christian underpinnings as late as the 1950s, stunting the prominence of Jewish nurses.

Nursing as a Female Profession in Palestine (1918-1948)

Nursing was a well-respected profession for Jewish women in Palestine, until doctors and nurses clashed about the proper level of education for nurses in the 1930s. Despite the challenges women faced in the medical field, they contributed greatly during times of war and violence before the founding of Israel.

Anna Braude Heller

A brilliant pediatrician used to working in difficult circumstances, Anna Braude Heller struggled to keep children’s hospitals open through both World War I and World War II, even as the Nazis occupied Poland and placed Jews in ghettos. Although she evaded deportation in 1943, she was killed shortly afterwards when German soldiers raided the Warsaw Ghetto.

Health Activism, American Feminist

American women have been the “perennial health care reformers.” Women’s health activism has often coincided with other social reform movements. Since the late 1960s, Jewish women have helped create and sustain the women’s health movement through decades of substantial social, political, medical, and technological change.

Women's Health in the Ghettos of Eastern Europe

Women in the ghettos of Eastern Europe often outnumbered men, but within ghetto populations, women generally had lower mortality rates than men, perhaps due to their ability to adapt to their surroundings and use of public health services. However, women suffered uniquely; many women did not menstruate, suffered from symptoms caused by hormone imbalances, and endured prohibitions against childbirth.

Martha Wollstein

Responding to the public health crisis of the early twentieth century with a declaration that the current generation of women physicians had “entered societies and laboratories for the benefit of all,” Martha Wollstein had an exemplary career in pathology and the experimental study of childhood diseases.

Charlotte Wolff

A pioneering German-Jewish lesbian and feminist physician, Charlotte Wolff became interested in sexology, psychotherapy, and chirology while working as a physician in Berlin’s working-class neighborhoods. Soon after the Nazis came to power she fled to France and then to England, where she began researching and writing books on chirology. In the 1960s she turned her research to homosexuality and published a landmark study on lesbianism.

Rosa Welt-Straus

Rosa Welt-Straus was a women’s rights activist who was active in the struggle for women’s suffrage in both New York and Mandatory Palestine. She helped form the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in New York and later became head of the Union of Hebrew Women in Palestine, which she went on to represent internationally.

Vera Weizmann

A Zionist and a physician, Vera Weizmann was a founding member of the WIZO. She accompanied and assisted her husband Chaim, the president of the Zionist Federation of Britain and first president of Israel, as he negotiated the founding of a Jewish state.

Marie Pichel Levinson Warner

Born in 1895 in Ohio, doctor Marie Pichel Warner worked for the birth control movement in the United States.

Rosa Zimmern Van Vort

Rosa Zimmern Van Vort was a member of Virginia’s first generation of trained nurses. She devoted her career to the training and education of nurses.

Turkey: Ottoman and Post Ottoman

The Jewish population of Turkey navigated far-reaching changes in the political, social, and geopolitical spheres in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, as the Ottoman Empire pursued reform and collapsed and the Turkish Republic that took its place imposed a process of “Turkification” on its residents. During this period, Jewish women partook in traditional customs relating to religion, family, and the home, while also accessing new opportunities in the public sphere through education and political engagement.

Helen Brooke Taussig

Helen Brooke Taussig was one of the most celebrated physicians of the twentieth century. Through her research and teaching. she was a leader in the development of the medical specialty of pediatric cardiology, pioneering treatment for infants with congenital cardiac defects.

Rahel Straus

Rahel Goitein Straus, a pioneering woman medical doctor trained in Germany, was a model “New Jewish Woman” of the early-20th century. Successfully combining a career as a physician with marriage and motherhood, she committed herself to Jewish and feminist causes and organizations throughout her life, while also embracing Zionist ideals.

Hannah Mayer Stone

A pioneering physician and advocate of birth control, Hannah Stone defied both New York City police and the federal government in her efforts to make contraception legal and available to American women in the early twentieth century.

Lina Solomonovna Stern (Shtern)

Lina Shtern, biochemist and physician, was the first woman professor at the University of Geneva and the first woman named to the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Born in Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire, she returned to the Soviet Union out of political idealism. A member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during World War II, she was a victim of postwar repressions that targeted both scientists and Jews.

Judith Steiner-Freud

As a Holocaust survivor, Judith Steiner-Freud fulfilled her faithful and influential mission. From the 1940s to the 2010s, she devoted herself to the calling of transforming nursing into an academic profession, raising the status of Israeli nurses, and promoting the welfare of Israeli society and other diverse population groups.

Bertha Kaplan Spector

Born in a Russian shtetl, Bertha Kaplan Spector became a bacteriologist whose authoritative research helped to control an epidemic of amebic dysentery during the Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair. Her work contributed to a better understanding of the disease, as well as to new standards of hygiene.

Rachel Skidelsky

In 1894, at a time when “working mother” was a contradiction in terms for middle-class women, Rachel Skidelsky, a Russian immigrant with a husband and two children under age ten, was a well-known physician in the city of Philadelphia.

Judith Tannenbaum Shuval

Judith Shuval is one of the main scholars in the field of the sociology of health in Israel. Her research on migration and health, inequality in health, self-care in health, the doctor-patient relationship, and the processes of professional socialization has been based in concrete life in Israel and has broader implications for such topics cross-culturally.

Mindel Cherniack Sheps

As a pioneering physician, biostatistician, and demographer, Mindel Cherniack Sheps was acutely aware of the role science could play as a powerful social force. She taught that peace, social justice, and science were inextricably bound; humanism in any field must be based on social equity and knowledge.

Sarah Shmukler

Sarah Shmukler was a nurse and midwife who emigrated to Palestine from the Russian Empire during the Second Aliyah period. Her short life was characterized by providing medical assistance to migrant workers in Palestine and by close friendships with her fellow pioneers.

Regina Schoental

Our knowledge of toxic substances in plants, in fungi, and of aromatic and other chemicals that cause cancer owes much to the pioneering work of Regina Schoental.

Eva Salber

Using the lessons she learned as a doctor in South Africa, Eva Salber worked with poor populations in Massachusetts and North Carolina to improve public health and empower community leaders. Salber also published three books that sharing her intimate knowledge of the various communities she helped.

Esther Rosencrantz

An accomplished doctor and tuberculosis researcher in her own right, Esther Rosencrantz is remembered most for an intense interest in Sir William Osler, her mentor, whom she researched.


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