Pamela Nadell joins us to discuss her new book America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today.
What does it mean to be a Jewish woman in America? In a gripping historical narrative, Pamela S. Nadell weaves together the stories of a diverse group of extraordinary people―from the colonial-era matriarch Grace Nathan and her great-granddaughter, poet Emma Lazarus, to labor organizer Bessie Hillman and the great justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to scores of other activists, workers, wives, and mothers who helped carve out a Jewish American identity. This includes women connected to the military and wartime from Abigail Minis in the Revolution to Eugenia Levy Phillips serving the Confederate cause to WWII WACs like Doris Brill.
The twin threads binding these women together, she argues, are a strong sense of self and a resolute commitment to making the world a better place. Nadell recounts how Jewish women have been at the forefront of causes for centuries, fighting for suffrage, trade unions, civil rights, and feminism, and hoisting banners for Jewish rights around the world. Informed by shared values of America’s founding and Jewish identity, these women’s lives have left deep footprints in the history of the nation they call home.
Pamela Nadell is the author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, published in 2019 by W.W. Norton. A professor and Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History at American University in Washington, DC, she is a recipient of the university’s highest faculty award, Scholar/Teacher of the Year. Her other books include Women Who Would be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination, 1889-1985, a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award. Past president of the Association for Jewish Studies, she has also received the American Jewish Historical Society’s Lee Max Friedman Award for distinguished service to the profession. She and her husband, parents of two grown children, live in North Bethesda, Maryland.