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Doris B. Gold

Pioneering Jewish Feminist
1919 – 2011
by Aviva Cantor

Doris Gold was a very dear and consummately loyal friend, a sage adviser, and an overflowing font of information from her encyclopedic mind on a wide range and diversity of areas.  And she didn’t stop with just expressing her ideas; she implemented them. And she happily and enthusiastically shared her ideas and information, her advice and criticism with anyone who needed it.

Doris was a farbrenteh feminist, even before the second wave of the women’s movement was underway. She was a knowledgeable and deeply committed Jew. Synthesizing these two values and principles, Doris Gold was among the very first Jewish feminists and was a farbrenteh Jewish feminist.

She was very active in the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, NOW.  She was one of the Founding Mothers of LILITH, the Jewish feminist magazine, now in its 35th year. She organized the 30th Reunion of many of the 500 participants in the First National Jewish Women’s Conference of 1973.  She initiated a program to honor Emma Lazarus at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty.    

Doris was a truly courageous woman, never afraid to speak and write on controversial and unpopular subjects, to debate and to foster debate in the Jewish community and in the feminist movement. She was never afraid to speak her mind no matter what the subject was and no matter what the consequences were. 

She was never conflicted about whether or not to stand up on some issue or for someone who needed her support. She never slogged through some inner debate, yes or no, what shall I do? It was natural for her to just go ahead forcefully and say and do what was right in her eyes.

At a time when women were confined to the home and afflicted with “the problem that has no name,” to use Betty Friedan’s words, she created jobs for herself by simply going to the organization she was interested in and making some innovative suggestions. Naturally, they hired her forthwith. For example, she organized programs at the Hall of Science in Queens and worked on Jacques Cousteau’s books. But Doris went beyond creating jobs she could amply fill.                                                                                                                            

She was a supreme organizer. She inspired and motivated; she had a fine sense of priorities and planning. Those of us for whom she was a mentor often said she could easily run a small government.

Doris was a pioneer. She filled needs that had been unrecognized before she took notice. One of her major projects was to establish Biblio Press, a small publishing company. Its first publication was another of her pathbreaking ideas: a bibliography of writings on Jewish women from 1900 to the 1980s, which, with its updated editions, continues to be used in many college courses and women’s groups. She went on to publish scores of paperback books including a biography of Ernestine Rose and the memoirs of Manya Schochat.

She was the original networker. Ask her a question about Japan, for example, and she’d tell you how to get in touch with a Japanese publisher she had become acquainted with via email. Ask her where to find a women rabbis’ group, Talmud classes for women, or an alternative hagadot for Passover, and it was like clicking on a web listing, only much easier and far more helpful.

Doris had a wonderful sense of humor. She could see the ironic and the contradictory and the ridiculous in things that happened and things that people said.  And her laugh – what a life-affirming laugh she had!  It was contagious; it cheered you up when you were losing faith in the goodness of humanity.

She was the literary agent for my book, “Jewish Women, Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life,” a feminist analysis of Jewish history, culture and psychology. It was Doris who told me over several years that I had to do such a book, I just had to.  Doris had never been a book agent before but of course that didn’t stop her. When visiting San Francisco in 1987 to spend time with one of the two beloved sons she raised with her husband, Bernie, she approached a publisher to kick around ideas for books on Jewish feminist subjects. She proposed my book idea – actually, her book idea – to an editor and got a contract for me. 

But that was just the beginning of her work as my literary agent.  She read my chapters. She made comments.  She listened to me kvetch about my troubles with my editor. She lent me her ears and let me cry on her shoulder. Her advice was always solid. She always made time for me; she always stood by me.  With Doris in my corner, I felt secure that I could triumph over the adversity in the publishing industry.

Doris was a rock.  She never faltered, never wavered in her commitments, principles, and loyalties. Everyone knew she would always “be there” for you. She will be remembered for her courage, her outspokenness, her enthusiasm, her dedication to feminism and Jewish feminism, to the Jewish community and to Israel, and for her imagination and innovation. She truly went where no woman had gone before.

If there is an afterlife and a Heaven, you can be sure Doris Gold will be organizing up there.

Adapted from a eulogy for Doris Gold, given by Aviva Cantor on July 7, 2011.

Aviva Cantor, a journalist and cross-country speaker, was the originator of Lilith, the Jewish feminist magazine, and the founding co-editor in its first decade. She authored Jewish Women, Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life (Harper, 1995); The Egalitarian Hagada, which she self-published; and The Jewish Women's Bibliography, 1900-1985 (Biblio Press). She is Vice President of CHAI: Concern for Helping Animals in Israel, Inc.

 

 

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6 Comments

Doris and I "met" through correspondence over the years, initially when she sought my help in finding
university library homes for some remaining copies of books the Jewish feminist press she founded, Biblio Press. And, in turn, from time to time she would send me clippings or other materials from her files that she thought would interest me. She also invited me to get together for an in-person meeting when I happened to be in New York City. A few years before she died I took her up on her offer and had a delightful visit. Over the course of a morning spent recalling episodes in her life, sparked by photographs, award plaques, drawings,and other memorabilia on hand in her Manhattan apartment, Doris conveyed how often she had actively “made things happen” in her life, rather than passively taking what came her way or accepting the judgment of those who told her she couldn’t do whatever it was she hoped to do. I published an article about this visit, highlighting in particular how Doris started Biblio Press and what some of the important books are that she published, including Miriam’s Well: Rituals for Jewish Women Around the Year; Voices of Thinking Jewish Women; The Jewish Women’s Awareness Guide: Connections for the 2nd Wave of Jewish Feminism; several useful bibliographies; and a collection of her own poetry, Honey in the Lion. My article, "Doris B. Gold: Jewish Women's Studies Publisher, 'Impossible to Live Without Making Things Happen,'" is in Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, v. 29, no. 3-4 (Summer-Fall, 2008), pp. 22-24. That issue of the journal is archived online at http://digital.library.wisc.ed... . The article begins on the 26th page of the pdf.

Doris and I "met" through correspondence over the years, initially when she sought my help in finding
university library homes for some remaining copies of books the Jewish feminist press she founded, Biblio Press. And, in turn, from time to time she would send me clippings or other materials from her files that she thought would interest me. She also invited me to get together for an in-person meeting when I happened to be in New York City. A few years before she died I took her up on her offer and had a delightful visit. Over the course of a morning spent recalling episodes in her life, sparked by photographs, award plaques, drawings,and other memorabilia on hand in her Manhattan apartment, Doris conveyed how often she had actively “made things happen” in her life, rather than passively taking what came her way or accepting the judgment of those who told her she couldn’t do whatever it was she hoped to do. I published an article about this visit, highlighting in particular how Doris started Biblio Press and what some of the important books are that she published, including Miriam’s Well: Rituals for Jewish Women Around the Year; Voices of Thinking Jewish Women; The Jewish Women’s Awareness Guide: Connections for the 2nd Wave of Jewish Feminism; several useful bibliographies; and a collection of her own poetry, Honey in the Lion. My article, "Doris B. Gold: Jewish Women's Studies Publisher, 'Impossible to Live Without Making Things Happen,'" is in Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, v. 29, no. 3-4 (Summer-Fall, 2008), pp. 22-24. That issue of the journal is archived online at http://digital.library.wisc.ed... . The article begins on the 26th page of the pdf.

I knew Doris Gold through childish eyes, as the mother of one of my closest high school friends. Very clearly, I remember the twinkle in her eye, her intellectual nature, and the way she could deliver an entire book's worth of information with just a single phrase and facial expression. She is missed; may she rest in peace.

I knew Doris Gold through childish eyes, as the mother of one of my closest high school friends. Very clearly, I remember the twinkle in her eye, her intellectual nature, and the way she could deliver an entire book's worth of information with just a single phrase and facial expression. She is missed; may she rest in peace.

I worked for Doris Gold many years ago as a young teenager. She had a very small office on 20th Street. I was sixteen years old at the time. Being Irish Catholic I was not very familliar with the Yiddish language or Jewish Folklore. Looking back I realize how much of an influence Doris had on me up until this day. She would diligently make phone calls to promote her authors, she would often read some of her letters to me, she kept records of all correspondence. She always had stories! Her work ethic and business savvy still leaves an imprint today. I can remember like it was yesterday her pressing her fingers together with conviction saying, "Chutzpah". I asked her what she meant when she used this word "Chutzpah", coming from an Irish household, this was a foreign language to me. She told me it was putting a little "ummf" into whatever you do, rolling up your sleeves, with a little bit ofelbow grease, with passion. She was an amazing story teller and all of these things you have written above about Doris are so true. A different mold, a different cloth she was cut from. A woman who stood for upliftment and lived it. She was truly amazing and unforgettable. I consider myself very lucky to have known her and those many afternoons I worked side by side with her are so dear to me, I feel so blessed. Thank you Doris Gold for giving many women a voice and a backbone to conquer the world with. Georgiana

I worked for Doris Gold many years ago as a young teenager. She had a very small office on 20th Street. I was sixteen years old at the time. Being Irish Catholic I was not very familliar with the Yiddish language or Jewish Folklore. Looking back I realize how much of an influence Doris had on me up until this day. She would diligently make phone calls to promote her authors, she would often read some of her letters to me, she kept records of all correspondence. She always had stories! Her work ethic and business savvy still leaves an imprint today. I can remember like it was yesterday her pressing her fingers together with conviction saying, "Chutzpah". I asked her what she meant when she used this word "Chutzpah", coming from an Irish household, this was a foreign language to me. She told me it was putting a little "ummf" into whatever you do, rolling up your sleeves, with a little bit ofelbow grease, with passion. She was an amazing story teller and all of these things you have written above about Doris are so true. A different mold, a different cloth she was cut from. A woman who stood for upliftment and lived it. She was truly amazing and unforgettable. I consider myself very lucky to have known her and those many afternoons I worked side by side with her are so dear to me, I feel so blessed. Thank you Doris Gold for giving many women a voice and a backbone to conquer the world with. Georgiana

Doris Bauman Gold, 2002
Full image

Pioneering Jewish feminist Doris Bauman Gold (1919 – 2011) in 2002.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Doris B. Gold, 1919 - 2011." (Viewed on April 27, 2017) <https://jwa.org/weremember/gold-doris>.

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