"Jewish Women Stand Ready to Help Other Jewish Women": The National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Maternalism, 1893-1943




Taylor, Hannah Kelfer

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This thesis is a cultural, gendered, and religious history of activities of the National Council of Jewish Women in the first fifty years of their existence, with a focus on the Progressive Era. Through examining the philanthropic endeavors of the Council, their distinctly Jewish version of the era's maternalism can be examined. The Council of Jewish Women, as the first national organization for Jewish women in the United States, had to justify their actions outside the home both as women and as Jews. As these identities intersected, Jewish women found both similarities and differences with their non-Jewish woman counterparts in the same philanthropic movements. Jewish women prioritized other Jews in their philanthropy and dealt with intra-Jewish religious issues while struggling to define themselves as relatively neutral national organization. During a time of rising political activity by women, the Councilwomen navigated dual roles as Jewish women and progressive woman reformers, often finding mainstream suffrage spaces unwelcoming to Jews. This study will use the National Council of Jewish Women as a lens to look at these issues of Jewish identity, specifically Jewish female identity, in the American diaspora.


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Clubwomen, Jewish women, Women's history, 1893-1943, Philanthropy, Progressivism