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Unions

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 radicalism appears to have grown out of the same sources as male radicalism—the changes experienced by the Jewish community in late nineteenth-century Europe and America, including proletarianization and the secularization of Jewish religious values. But Jewish working women’s radical consciousness and their militant collective action in America emerged in the face of extraordinary obstacles.

Rose Schneiderman

For nearly half a century, Rose Schneiderman worked tirelessly to improve wages, hours, and safety standards for American working women.

Ethel Rosenberg

Few Jewish American women evoke as varied and passionate a response as Ethel Rosenberg. Convicted and executed on June 19, 1953, with her husband Julius Rosenberg, for conspiracy to divulge atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, Rosenberg was only the second woman in the United States to be executed by the federal government.

Rose Pesotta

Known primarily as one of the first female vice presidents of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), 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 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.

Rose Wortis

Rose Wortis was an Eastern European immigrant needleworker who devoted her life to working-class organizing and the Left.

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.

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.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Unions." (Viewed on December 13, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/unions>.

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