By Hannah Sherman, JWI Intern
March marks the recognition of Women’s History Month, 31 days dedicated to the celebration of women’s continued and ever-increasing influence in history. As an American Studies major, I have a nerdy passion for analyzing historical figures and their continued impact on the way our American society evolves. Therefore, in honor of Women’s History Month, here are some of the great influential Jewish women in history and their contributions to American life.
Throughout history, Jewish women have been prominent activists, politicians, entertainers and athletes, all contributing to American culture. Emma Goldman is one such figure, leading early feminist movements and distributing information on birth control (something that was then, and is again, a controversial issue). Similarly, Gloria Steinem became a leader of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s, campaigning for influential legislation like the Equal Rights Amendment and co-founding the groundbreaking Ms. Magazine.
In the past several decades, women have risen through the ranks in politics, proving that women are just as capable of holding powerful leadership positions as men. Madeleine Kunin became not just the first and only female governor of the state of Vermont, but the first Jewish women to be elected the governor of a U.S. state. Additionally, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice to serve on the Supreme Court, and Gabrielle Giffords was elected Arizona’s first Jewish Congresswoman, exemplifying great courage and strength throughout her career.
Jewish women have equally contributed to the arts and sports as well. Singer-songwriter and feminist advocate, Debbie Friedman, forever changed the Jewish music scene, leaving a lasting legacy on the impact of music in religious observance. Academy Award winning actress and Israeli native, Natalie Portman, proudly celebrates her Jewish heritage, and Sasha Cohen won the silver medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
In the month of March, we take the time to honor and recognize Jewish women and their continued strong presence in all spheres of American life. In celebrating the past, we hope to inspire the future, paving the way for new generations of Jewish women to have an equally important imprint on the future American history.