Activism: Voting Rights

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American Jewish Congress

Women have played an important part in the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) since the organization was first established after World War I.

Jenny Apolant

An ardent suffragist, Apolant served as a board member of the General Association from 1910 to 1925. In Frankfurt, where she was from 1919 to 1924 one of the first women municipal councillors, representing the Democrats, she initiated innovative institutions such as care for sick people, alcohol-free popular restaurants and, during the inflation, a central location for the sale of privately-owned valuables, a Sick Fund and winter aid.

Hertha Ayrton, 1926

Hertha Ayrton

Hertha Ayrton, born Phoebe Sarah Marks, was a distinguished British woman scientist, who, in 1902, was the first woman to be proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society.

Hannah Barnett-Trager

Hannah Trager, writer and communal activist, was born in London to Zerah (1843–1935) and Rachel Lea Barnett (1842–1924).

Judge Jennie Barron

Jennie Loitman Barron

Even as a schoolgirl, Jennie Loitman Barron ignored society’s limits and set high goals for herself. In her long career as a lawyer and a judge, and in her lifelong work for women’s rights, she set many precedents for women in Massachusetts and across the United States.

Alice Goldmark Brandeis

A champion of progressive causes, Alice Goldmark Brandeis was outspoken on behalf of woman suffrage, industrial reform, organized labor, the legal rights of children, and the fledgling American Zionist movement.

Cécile Brunschvicg

Cécile Brunschvicg was one of the grandes dames of French feminism during the first half of the twentieth century and especially during the interwar years. Although her chief demand was women’s suffrage, she also focused on a range of practical reforms, including greater parity in women’s salaries, expanded educational opportunities for women, the elimination of prostitution and alcoholism, and the drive to reform the French civil code, which treated married women as if they were minors.

Hillel Professionals at an "Inter Racial Conference" at the Southeastern Hillel Conference, 1948

Civil Rights Movement in the United States

Despite widespread awareness of significant contributions to the movement by Jewish women, the documentary record and public perception reflect the roles and experiences of men. Scholarship in American Jewish history, civil rights history, and women’s studies does not directly address the contributions of Jewish women. Nor does it ask what Jewish cultural influences primed young Jewish women to respond (in numbers disproportionate to their representation in the population) when the civil rights movement put out the call.

Felice Cohn

Felice Cohn was one of Nevada’s first women lawyers, an author of suffragist legislation in Nevada, and one of the first women admitted to the United States Supreme Court.

Frances Allen De Ford

Frances Allen de Ford chose the nontraditional route for women of medical school and medical practice to continue her paternal family’s tradition of philanthropy. As a physician, de Ford pioneered hygiene measures in the Kensington section of northeast Philadelphia, a heavy industrial and malaria-ridden district.

Die Deborah

As the most important German Jewish newspaper in America, Die Deborah propagated a program of German identity, of bourgeois culture, and of Jewish Reform in which women were assigned a strategic place. The paper published essays on Jewish religion, culture, and history, and debates on education. Literature, mostly ghetto novels, was given a privileged place. While Die Deborah reported on Jewish issues from all over the world, it focused on news from Germany, and it gave special attention to the cultural life of the German immigrant community in America.

Hannah Bachman Einstein

Hannah Bachman Einstein’s activism and volunteer activities bridged very different worlds, from temple sisterhood leadership to lobbying and helping draft legislation for children’s welfare. She helped draft what became the Child Welfare Law of 1915, was the first female board member of the United Hebrew Charities, and served as president of the New York State Association of Child Welfare Boards.
Mary Fels

Mary Fels

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

Ariel Sharon and Michal Modai, December 10, 2001

Feminism in Contemporary Israel

The first wave of feminism in Israel washed over the country as early as the pre-statehood Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. "Old Yishuv" refers to the Jewish community prior to 1882; "New Yishuv" to that following 1882.Yishuv period.

Lillian Wald

Feminism in the United States

Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.

Henrietta Franklin

A leading advocate for advanced education for women, she supported the rise of women in professional life, even employing an Anglo-Jewish woman surgeon. Furious at the educational, civic and political limitations imposed upon women, Henrietta Franklin became active in the British suffrage movement. She and her sister Lily Montagu also joined the extended Franklin family and friends in helping to create and lead the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (founded November 3, 1912), an organization dedicated to attaining suffrage in Britain and equal religious and communal rights for women in the Anglo-Jewish community.

Ida Weis Friend

Ida Weis Friend worked to improve the lives of those in her Southern Jewish community on many levels. Her leadership in Jewish organizations, such as Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women, and her political activism, such as her time as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and Commission on Interracial Cooperation, earned her many honors and accolades.

Susan Brandeis Gilbert

On June 5, 1916, Susan Brandeis, a University of Chicago Law School student, watched her father, Louis Dembitz Brandeis (1856–1941)—a Harvard Law School graduate, millionaire, socially conscious Boston lawyer—take the oath of office as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was the first Jewish associate justice of the Court, and Susan would soon be the first woman lawyer whose parent sat on that bench.

Pauline Goldmark

Pauline Goldmark

Pauline Goldmark was a social worker and activist, part of a group of women seeking the vote and reforms of the urban and industrial excesses of the early twentieth century. A major method of social reformers was to investigate, accumulate facts, present these to the public and lawmakers, and assume that, once educated, the public and legislators would enact the desired changes. Goldmark pioneered in methods of social research central to these reform efforts.

British Delegation to World WIZO Founding Conference, Carlsbad, 1921

Romana Goodman

Romana Goodman was at the heart of Zionist life in England.

Rahel Levin Varnhagen, July 7, 1822, by William Hensel

Habsburg Monarchy: Nineteenth to Twentieth Centuries

The experience of Jewish women under the Habsburg Monarchy differed greatly according to the part of this large and extremely diverse country in which they lived. The Habsburg Monarchy was a dynastic state, whose territory had been acquired over many centuries and whose inhabitants spoke a wide array of languages, practiced many different religions, and constructed many different ethnic, national and cultural identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Esther Herrman

Esther Herrman

Esther Herrman was born on August 7, 1823, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, to Sophia (Van Ysen) and Emanuel Mendels. She had three sisters, Gamma (b. 1821), Jette (b. 1821), and Adelaide (b. 1825), and came to the United States as a child following her mother’s death in 1827. In 1843, she married Henry Herrman, a native of Baden who was born October 13, 1822. By 1847, Esther and Henry had moved from New York City to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he started a business supplying sailing vessels. Their first children were born there: Sophia (1847) and Henrietta (1848). They moved to Boston, where Henry operated a clothing business and their son Abraham was born (1850).

Aletta Henriette Jacobs

A pioneer in many realms—birth control, women’s suffrage, peace activism, and envisioning a wider future for women—Aletta Henriette Jacobs was born on February 9, 1854, in the small town of Sappemeer, Netherlands, the eighth of eleven children of Abraham Jacobs, a country doctor, and Anna de Jongh. Her assimilated Jewish family maintained social and intellectual ties with other Jewish families in the area.

Jewish League for Woman Suffrage

The Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (JLWS) was the only Jewish women’s organization in England—and the world—devoted exclusively to obtaining both national and Jewish suffrage for women.

Jewish Woman, The

The Jewish Woman, a quarterly magazine published under the auspices of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) between 1921 and 1931, was created to give the world “its first organized record of Jewish womanhood’s aspirations and successes.”

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