Happy Women’s History Month! Help JWA continue to lift up Jewish women’s stories, this month and every month, by making a gift today!
Close [x]

Show [+]


Content type

Theresa Helburn

Called the “'Top Man' on Broadway” by the New York Woman, Theresa Helburn created a venue for great American playwrights as director of the Theatre Guild and played a key role in the history of the modern American musical. While she wrote plays of her own throughout the 1920s, Helburn is most remembered for the many ways she furthered the talents of others.

Anna Held

Anna Held was a performer with a flamboyant reputation for bathing in milk and champagne. As an actor in numerous farces, comedies, and musical comedies, she led a life of showmanship that prevents bibliographical certainty. Held was best known for her relationship with Florenz Ziegfeld, and some credit her with helping him create his famous Follies.

Hebrew Theater: Yishuv to the Present

Of all the theatrical professions, only actresses were truly partners in the enterprise of reviving Hebrew culture in the early twentieth century, and only in the 1980s did women writers and directors begin to work in Israeli theater. In the last few decades of the twentieth century and the first few decades of the twenty first, howeverwomen playwrights and directors have taken on increasingly prominent roles.

Hebrew Drama: Representation of Women

Prior to the 1980s, there was an almost total absence of women-related topics and women’s voices in Hebrew theater, but many talented women have fought for their voices to be heard on the Hebrew stage. Today, active women playwrights whose plays are presented in mainstage and fringe theaters have a significant impact on Hebrew theater.

Renee Harris

Renee Harris survived tragedy aboard the Titanic to become New York’s first female theater producer. After taking over her husband’s producing career after he died when the ship sank, Harris’s first and most famous production was Damaged Goods, a play about syphilis. During World War I, she sent a troupe of actors to Paris, pioneering the practice of entertaining troops.  

Nan Halperin

Nan Halperin was known as “The Wonder Girl” for her comic performances and rapid quick changes on the vaudeville stage. Halperin had a highly successful career, making her Broadway debut in 1914 and headlining on Broadway until 1934. She was one of the highest-paid actresses in vaudeville, famous for her “song cycle” performances. 

Vera Gordon

Although she started acting in Russia at a young age, Vera Gordon initially struggled to build a career in the United States. She went on to a long career on stage and screen, however, known especially for portraying Jewish mothers in a positive light—with warmth and deep emotion.

Jennie Goldstein

Jennie Goldstein was one of the foremost Yiddish theater tragediennes, beloved by the public and acclaimed by critics for her acting skills and outstanding voice. During the 1940s, as opportunities in the Yiddish theater waned, Goldstein transformed herself into a comedian.

Therese Giehse

Focusing on difficult roles written for older women, Therese Giehse earned a reputation as a talented actress who brought Bertolt Brecht’s works to life. She co-founded an anti-Nazi literary cabaret called The Peppermill in 1933 and was known for touring successful anti-fascist theaterical works. She had a long collaboration with Brecht and developed a reputation as an “intellectual popular actress.”

Berta Gersten

Berta Gersten, a tall, regal, soft-spoken actor, was a highly acclaimed leading lady in the Yiddish art theater movement for fifty years. Her career on the English-language stage, though shorter, was also distinguished. Gersten was one of the original members of Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater, toured worldwide, performed in English films, and acted on Broadway.

Esther Gamlielit

Esther Gamlielit was prominent in a lineage of Yemenite singers, after Brachah Zefira and before Shoshana Damari. Gamlielit was a talented singer, dancer, and actress, known for performing songs with the Yemenite-style pronunciation of the Hebrew letters het and ayin.

Dorothy Fields

Dorothy Fields wrote songs for a wide variety of musicals that became classics of American culture, from “Hey Big Spender” to “A Fine Romance” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” which won an Academy Award in 1936. In 1971, when the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame held its first annual nominations, Dorothy Fields was the only woman named to the ballot.

Rose Eytinge

Reportedly the first American theater actress to earn a three-figure salary, Rose Eytinge was praised for her fiery, passionate performances.  Known for taking on physically demanding roles, on a performance tour stop in Washington, she was invited to the White House by President Abraham Lincoln. In 1905 she published her autobiography, Memories of Rose Eytinge, detailing her life in theater.

Phoebe Ephron

Phoebe Ephron was not only a successful playwright and Hollywood screenwriter but also the mother of four daughters, three of whom achieved success in the film industry as well, thereby proving that women could have both a career and a family. Ephron's family life influenced her writing, and the lessons she learned at her job were also taught to her children.

Louise Dresser

Louise Dresser was a celebrated singer in vaudeville and musical comedy, as well as a star in early motion pictures. Known largely for her rendition of Paul Dresser’s song “My Gal Sal,” she also sang his “On the Banks of the Wabash.” After vaudeville, Louise Dresser found success on Broadway, before moving to Hollywood to star in films opposite Will Rogers. 

Selina Dolaro

A determined and talented performer, Selina Dolaro raised four children alone while pursuing an illustrious acting and singing career in late nineteenth-century England and America. Dolaro performed in various London operas, most notably as the title role in the first English version of Carmen. She made her American debut as Carmen in 1879.

Ruth Dar

Renowned Israeli designer Ruth Dar works consistently with the top directors in Israeli theater. Her talents as a set and costume designer are demonstrated in her fruitful and creative dialogue with her theatrical partners and the visual transposition of the director’s conceptual emphases.

Lili Darvas

Lili Darvas was an internationally acclaimed actress, known on the stage and screen in Europe and the United States. Born in Budapest in 1902, as an actress Darvas combined the fetching qualities of an ingenue with the depth and mature allure of an experienced woman of the world, which led to her rise to fame in New York, Germany, and Hungary. 

Shoshana Damari

Shoshana Damari’s lush voice and her fusion of Eastern and Western musical aesthetics made her the voice of a generation in Israeli music, recording dozens of albums in her career. She made several movies, was known for her song “Kalaniyot” (Poppies), and was awarded the Israel Prize in 1988 for her contributions to Israeli music and culture.

Betty Comden

Betty Comden wrote lyrics and librettos for enduring and beloved musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and Peter Pan, winning some of the industry’s highest honors. Comden worked with her writing partner, Adolph Green for almost fifty years on different musicals, winning their final Tony Award together for The Will Rogers Follies in 1991.

Helen Louise Cohen

Helen Louise Cohen, an educator and author, made the study of drama more accessible and vibrant to countless high school students in the first half of the twentieth century. Although Judaism seemed to play only a small role in her adult life, it is Jewish culture and values that contributed to her regard for education and helped to shape her life’s work.

Zaharirah Charifai

Zaharirah Charifai was an influential Israeli actress who became nationally known in the role of Grusha in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and from then on performed in dozens of plays at the Cameri and the Haifa Municipal Theater. In addition to stage acting, Charifai appeared in three successful solo performances, on the radio, and in several films.

Fanny Brice

One of America’s great clowns, Fanny Brice built her career on a Yiddish accent and a flair for zany parody. Brice earned a reputation as a vaudeville star before creating some of her best-loved comedic personae for radio.


Brazil, Contemporary

Brazil is home to the second largest Jewish community in South America. Jewish women played important roles in the absorption of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and also made important contributions to Brazilian intellectual and artistic life.

Helen Abrahams Blum

Helen Abrahams Blum was an artist who developed a passion for theater. Blum exhibited her work in various galleries throughout the United States and designed scenery and costumes for the Little Theater Movement. She was an active member of the Rodeph Shalom Sisterhood and the international peace movement.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now