Reproductive Rights

Content type

Bertha Floersheim Rauh

Dedicating her life to ameliorating the condition of the poor, the oppressed, and the sick, Bertha Floersheim Rauh first worked for over twenty years as a volunteer and for twelve years as Director of the Department of Public Welfare of the City of Pittsburgh. She brought about many reforms in the public services sphere throughout her career and was highly regarded by her colleagues and the communities she served.

Harriet Fleischl Pilpel

Harriet Fleischl Pilpel was a prominent participant and strategist in women’s rights, birth control, and reproductive freedom litigation for over half a century.

Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Israel, 1948-2000

While the earliest women’s NGOs in Israel focused on contributing their share to nation-building, today’s organizations advocate and practice feminism. Over the past few decades, they have grown in number, modified their strategies, and raised new issues, yet hurdles continue to undermine their influence.

Bessie Louise Moses

Gynecologist, professor, and contraceptive pioneer Bessie Louise Moses spent a long professional life as a public health advocate and women’s health specialist. She founded the first birth control clinic in Baltimore, organized clinics throughout Maryland, and lectured and wrote a book promoting contraception to the public.

Lena Levine

Lena Levine used her medical and psychological training to offer women pioneering services for birth control, sex education, and marital counseling. She co-founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1948 and wrote best-selling advice books about women’s sexual fulfillment that championed equality for women in marriage.

Madeleine May Kunin

Madeline Kunin broke ground as the first woman governor of Vermont and the only woman to serve three terms as governor, before making history again as ambassador to Switzerland and facilitating compensation from Swiss banks to Holocaust survivors.

Matilda Steinam Kubie

Matilda Steinam Kubie directed her energies toward the support and growth of charitable institutions that sought to better the lives of those in the Jewish community. She helped many organizations extend their reach through her leadership and her savvy use of advertising.

Régine Karlin-Orfinger

Régine Karlin’s resistance activities would alone have warranted esteem and recognition, but she did not desist from further work. Totally bilingual in French and Dutch and even polyglot, since she was also proficient in both English and Russian, she had a brilliant career as a lawyer, characterized by her militant and unwavering support of causes that she considered just.

Rachel Kagan (Cohen)

One of two women to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Rachel Kagan shaped women’s rights in the new state. She left a powerful legacy from her work in social welfare in addition to her time as a Knesset member.

Aletta Henriette Jacobs

A pioneer in many realms—birth control, women’s suffrage, peace activism, and envisioning a wider future for women—Aletta Henriette Jacobs began her career as the Netherland’s first women physician in 1879. She went on to participate in many women’s rights conferences and was a staunch anti-war activist, traveling to the Hague and the United States to advocate her position.

Bertha Beitman Herzog

Bertha Beitman Herzog was an active participant in local and national women’s associations in Cleveland, Ohio. From 1928 to 1930, Herzog served as the first woman president of the Jewish Welfare Federation (later the Jewish Community Federation) in Cleveland, and she received the Charles Eisenmann Award for outstanding community service in 1941.

Esther Herlitz

Esther Herlitz was a feminist trailblazer in Israeli politics and diplomacy. She was the first official female Israeli ambassador, among six female Labor Party members who served in the eighth and ninth Knessets, and the first woman to serve on the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense. She also helped formulate and ensure the passage of a liberal abortion law in 1977.

Ida Espen Guggenheimer

Ida Espen Guggenheimer, a woman with a deeply ingrained sense of social awareness, was an early twentieth-century Zionist, a feminist, and a civil rights activist.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was a potent voice of anarchism in North America and Europe in the early twentieth century, and her controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies. Yet even after enduring many contentious interactions with law enforcement, Goldman continued to speak, write, and teach on freedom and individual rights, inspiring her followers to question authority at every turn.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was the author of a pathbreaking feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, which sold millions of copies and helped to provoke a feminist movement in the United States. She was an activist and writer who hoped to improve women’s lives by co-founding the National Organization for Women and other women’s political groups. Her many books focused on women’s rights, the women’s movement, and aging.

Käte Frankenthal

A stubborn nonconformist from an early age, Käte Frankenthal was a physician and politician active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party. While running her own successful private practice, she was active in sex reform legislation and played a prominent role in the Federation of Women Physicians.

Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone was one of the founders of radical feminism in the United States. At age 25, she published The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, which brought together the dialectical materialism of Marx and the psychoanalytic insights of Freud in an effort to develop an analysis of women’s oppression that was inclusive of the dimensions of class and race.

Feminism in the United States

Jewish women participated in and propelled all aspects of the women's rights movement, from suffrage in the nineteenth century to women's liberation in the twentieth. Despite occasional instances of antisemitism in the general feminist movement, Jewish women were passionate advocates of feminist goals.

Feminism in Contemporary Israel

The first Israeli radical women’s movement was established in 1972. The 1973 Yom Kippur War then created an awareness of the meaning of the gendered role division between men and women, and soon after the war, a choir of voices, organizations, and movements began to fight for feminist causes. In the twenty-first century, the feminist landscape expanded, but the feminist field remained highly divided.

Birth Control Movement in the United States: 1912-1960

In the 1910s, Margaret Sanger began the family planning movement in the United States. While Sanger was not Jewish, Jews had an enormous impact on her activism, and her activism indelibly shaped the lives of Jewish women in America.

American Jewish Congress

The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) advocates for Jewish interests in the United States and abroad. Women have played an important part in AJCongress since the organization was first established after World War I.

American Birth Control Movement

Jewish women activists were among the first in the United States to highlight the need for reproductive health care. Women from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds found common political cause promoting access, advocacy, and education in the American birth control movement, achieving successes and confronting challenges throughout the twentieth century.

Bella Abzug

A leader of the women’s movement, Bella Abzug fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and other vital legislation for the rights of women as a member of the House of Representatives. Towards the end of her career, she focused on global issues of women’s rights and human rights, ensuring that those issues were continually addressed by the United Nations.

Abortion: Halakhic Perspectives

While halakhic discussions about abortion largely excluded the arguments and perspectives of women, in general poskim (decisors) determined that a woman’s life takes priority over the life of the fetus. Halakhic perspectives have explored the point at which the fetus is considered a human and taken the mother’s physical and psychological health into account in determining her right to abort.

Jewish Women Advocates

Lily Rabinoff-Goldman

Crossposted on JVoices

A few years ago, I read Devil in the White City, Erik Larson's non-fiction account of the history of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, complete with architecture, politics, and a murder mystery.  Good stuff.  But I didn't realize that the Chicago World's Fair was also the site, 115 years ago this week, of the first Jewish Women's Congress, which was part of the Fair's World Parliament of Religions.


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