Unions

Content type
Collection

Pauline Newman

Pauline Newman was a labor pioneer and a die-hard union loyalist once described by a colleague as “capable of smoking a cigar with the best of them.” 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

Bas Sheva Abramowitz (“Bessie” was created by an Ellis Island immigration officer) was born on May 15, 1889, in Linoveh, a village near Grodno in Russia. She was one of ten children born to Emanuel Abramowitz, a commission agent, and Sarah Rabinowitz. In 1905, Bessie, who spoke only Yiddish and some Russian, joined an older cousin in immigrating to America. Most 1905 immigrants fled czarist oppression and anti-Jewish violence, but Bessie reported that her aim in leaving home was to escape the services of the local marriage broker.

Lillian Herstein

The history of Jewish women in the American labor movement tends to focus on those whose careers unfolded in the needle trades. Such was not the case with Lillian Herstein, who was a teacher and a nationally known labor leader. Ethel Lillian Herstein, the youngest of six children, was born on April 12, 1886, in Chicago. Her parents, Wolf and Cipe Belle, emigrated from Vilkovishk, Lithuania, shortly after the U.S. Civil War, not only for economic reasons but because of Wolf’s admiration for Abraham Lincoln and his ideals.

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.

Working Women's Education in the United States

This article discusses the many types of education Jewish working women received, focusing on the 1910s through the 1930s, the height of the workers’ education movement in the United States.

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.

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 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

Judaism and the social history of German Jewry are the major topics of Eva Gabriele Reichmann's scholarly work and publications, as evidenced by the numerous essays and lectures she devoted to those subjects. She was a member and co-worker in various organizations dedicated to Christian and Jewish relations and in other Jewish organizations, as well as a board member and research fellow of the Leo Baeck Institute.

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. As Jews who emerged from a left-wing cultural tradition, they nurtured a commitment to social justice, which would develop into what is often called “social unionism.” From their position as an ethnic and religious minority, as well as from their position as women, they helped to shape the direction of the mainstream labor movement.

International Ladies Garment Workers Union

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union was founded in 1900. The eleven Jewish men who founded the union represented seven local unions from East Coast cities with heavy Jewish immigrant populations. This all-male convention was made up exclusively of cloak makers and one skirt maker, highly skilled Old World tailors who had been trying to organize in a well-established industry for a couple of decades. White goods workers, including skilled corset makers, were not invited to the first meeting. Nor were they or the largely young immigrant Jewish workers in the newly developing shirtwaist industry recruited for the union in the early years of its existence. But these women workers still tried to organize.

Ida Espen Guggenheimer

Born on December 8, 1866, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ida Espen Guggenheimer was the oldest child of Jacob and Fannie (Bachman) Espen. She had one brother, Frank, and two sisters, Hannah and Sophie. Her father and his brother were importers of lace. She was educated at the Friends School in Philadelphia and attended school in Dresden, Germany, when her family traveled in Europe.

Ruth Gay

With a few strokes of her pen, Ruth Glazer (later Gay) painted a vivid portrait of the culture of second-generation Jews in New York. As a free-lance writer and editor for over fifty years, she has explored the Jewish experience of both America and Germany.

Sandra Feldman

For Sandra Feldman, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1986 to 1998, and president of the national American Federation of Teachers from 1997 to 2004, these were fighting words.

Mary Fels

Mary Fels, an ardent and philanthropic Zionist, promoted Jewish settlement in Palestine and Israel throughout her life.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Forty-four percent of the approximately two million Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1886 and 1914 were women. Although these women were more politically active and autonomous than other immigrant women, dire economic circumstances constricted their lives. The hopes these immigrant women harbored for themselves were often transferred to the younger generation.

Esther Dischereit

Esther Dischereit, a German-Jewish writer living in Berlin, speaks for the second and third generation of children of Holocaust survivors. Her prolific production covers all genres, including prose, poetry, sound installations, and concept art. She uses her many talents to fight anti-semitism and racism and to give a voice to the persecuted and forgotten.

Subscribe to Unions

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox