Orthodox women helped create UK welfare state

Researcher says that Orthodox women keeping a low profile is a myth

haredi woman working 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
haredi woman working 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
New research by a British historian has uncovered a wealth of information linking the actions of hundreds of Orthodox Jewish women to the creation of Britain's welfare state during the early 20th century. "This research explodes the myth that Orthodox Jewish women are happy to maintain a low profile behind their husbands, fathers and sons," commented Dr. Yaakov Wise, Honorary Research Fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies at Manchester University. Wise carried out the study via a combination of interviews with members of the Jewish community and historical records with the aim of revealing the involvement of Jewish women in British society. "It also disproves the claim that the Jewish community is insular with little interest in wider British society," said Wise. "Following the emancipation of middle class women in the last quarter of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, many women became politicized and contributed greatly to the public good. But what isn't as well known is that Jewish women were also part of this process." Among the Orthodox women that Wise found had contributed to Britain's social welfare state were his own grandmother, who led a strike of female tailors during the depression of the 1930s. Other activist women included Henrietta (Nettie) Adler, who campaigned to end child labor and was one of the first two women members of the London County Council; Dr. Mary Gordon, who worked as a medical officer in Holloway Women's Prison; and Councillor Sarah Laski, who also campaigned for improving conditions for women and children. "There were even Jewish suffragettes and members of special female trade unions," said Wise, adding that, "Jewish women were also very much involved in the Victoria Jewish Hospital Manchester, which was the first Jewish-sponsored hospital to be built in Britain."