Unions

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Teaching Profession in the United States

Jewish women in the United States became professional teachers to an extent unprecedently in Jewish history. Through Jewish educational organizations, Jewish schools, and public schools, female Jewish teachers have played an important role in shaping the North American teaching profession.

Socialism in the United States

Disproportionate numbers of Jewish immigrant women in America were associated with socialism in the first decades of the twentieth century. Their ideological commitment was expressed mainly in activism in left-leaning garment workers' unions. Their radicalism grew out of the same sources as male radicalism (changes experienced in late 19th century Europe and America, including proletarianization and secularization), but Jewish working women's radical consciousness and collective action emerged in the face of additional and different obstacles.

Rose Schneiderman

For nearly half a century, Rose Schneiderman worked tirelessly to improve wages, hours, and safety standards for American working women. She saw those things as “bread,” the very basic human rights to which working women were entitled. But she also worked for such “roses” as schools, recreational facilities, and professional networks for trade union women, because she believed that working women deserved much more than a grim subsistence.

Ethel Rosenberg

Ethel Rosenberg, convicted in 1953 alongside her husband for conspiracy to divulge atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, became the second woman in the United States to be executed by the federal government. The verdict and the Rosenbergs’ execution became one of the most-questioned cases in United States history, as well as one piece of a much larger Cold War picture of anti-Communist hysteria and antisemitism.

Rose Pesotta

Rose Pesotta was an iconic labor organizer and president of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in the early twentieth century. Pesotta saw her union organizing as an opportunity to fulfill the anarchist mandate “to be among the people and teach them our ideal in practice.”

Pauline Newman

Pauline Newman played an essential role in galvanizing the early twentieth-century tenant, labor, socialist, and working-class suffrage movements. The first woman ever appointed general organizer by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Newman continued to work for the ILGWU for more than seventy years—first as an organizer, then as a labor journalist, a health educator, and a liaison between the union and government officials.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bessie Abramowitz devoted her life to unions, organizing her first strike at fifteen, announcing her engagement on a picket line, and continuing her efforts for workers’ rights until her death. She remained active in union activities until her death in New York City, on December 23, 1970, at age eighty-one.

Lillian Herstein

Lillian Herstein was an early twentieth-century teacher and a nationally known labor leader. She spent her career advocating for worker education and served as the advisor on child labor legislation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva in 1937.

Helen Rosen Woodward

Helen Rosen Woodward is best known for her contribution to the world of advertising and is generally believed to be the first female account executive in the United States. She was also prolific author who was committed to social justice.

Rose Wortis

Rose Wortis was an active union organizer and member of the Communist Party in the first half of the 20th century. She was an elected official of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Trade Union Unity League, and the New York District Communist Party.

Working Women's Education in the United States

Although young immigrant Jewish women had always been especially motivated to become educated public-school students, the workers’ education movement in the 1910s and 1920s tried to teach workers specifically about social activism. Organizations such as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union created summer schools at colleges to educate women workers about trade unionism.

Theresa Wolfson

Theresa Wolfson, economist and educator, taught at Brooklyn College from 1929 until her retirement in 1967. A prolific writer, she published in the fields of labor economics and industrial relations. As early as 1916, Wolfson studied barriers to the advancement of women in the workplace and the unequal treatment of women within trade unions.

Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen was a twentieth-century social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer gave a voice to the voiceless, empowering thousands of women union workers through her initiatives in the late 20th century. Wertheimer established the trade union women’s studies program in 1972 and developed several other academic programs, giving working women access to education and the ability to interact and organize with other union workers.

Roosje Vos

Roosje Vos was an organizer of the Dutch socialist movement and an editor of De Naaistersbode, the journal of the seamstresses’ trade union. She represented the interests of feminists and women in the movement, at times at odds with her fellow leaders.

Sara Szweber

Sara Szweber was an influential leader in the Jewish labor party, the Bund, first in Belarus, then in Poland, and later in New York.

Hannah Marks Solomons

Hannah Marks Solomons was an influential San Francisco educator and civic worker, as well as the wife of a leading member of the Jewish community.

Helene Simon

A groundbreaking pioneer in the theory and practice of social policy and social welfare in Germany, Helene Simon derived her philosophy and ideology from two seemingly disparate sources: her strictly Orthodox Jewish parental home and the leaders of the Fabian Society in London, especially Beatrice and Sidney Webb.

Eva Gabriele Reichmann

Born in Silesia, Eva Gabriele Reichmann studied economics in Germany and, after fleeing the Nazis, in London. A prolific writer, especially after her retirement in 1959, Reichmann focused mainly on Judaism and the social history of German Jewry. She was awarded several medals for her contributions to democracy, freedom, and tolerance and died at the age of 101.

Hortense Powdermaker

Hortense Powdermaker explored the balance of involvement and detachment necessary for participant-observer fieldwork in cultural anthropology, stressing the ability to “step in and out of society.” Her secular Jewish identity was apparently a factor in learning this skill, exemplified in an academic career that included thirty years of college teaching and the writing of five major books based on widely diverse fieldwork studies.

Marion Phillips

As Chief Women’s Officer of the Labour Party, Marion Phillips was one of the most important figures in the campaign to free women from domestic drudgery at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her work brought a quarter of a million women into the Labour Party.

Modern Netherlands

Like Jewish women everywhere, Dutch Jewish women struggled with issues of assimilation, emancipation, and equality as both Jews and women. This article summarizes the conditions and challenges facing Jewish women in the Netherlands and the paths to progress and change they sought—education, work, activism, and literature, among others—from the nineteenth century to the present, including after the particular decimation of Dutch Jewry during the Holocaust.

Labor Movement in the United States

Jewish American women have played a central role in the American labor movement since the beginning of the twentieth century. As women, they brought to trade unions their sensibilities about the organizing process and encouraged labor to support government regulation to protect women in the workforce.

International Ladies Garment Workers Union

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union was founded in 1900 by eleven Jewish men who represented seven local East Coast unions with heavy Jewish immigrant populations. Initially excluded from the union, women began organizing and eventually developed bargaining power after the Uprising of the 20,000 in 1909.

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.

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