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Votes For Women* Hannah Trager Foreword The struggle of the Jewish woman for her rights and her independence among Jewish settlers in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel was an inseparable part of the ideology of the Jewish national struggle, and the women took it for granted that with the attainment of the goals of the Zionist revolution, their rights would be automatically attained as well. Thus, on consideration of the situation of Jewish women in Palestine from 1882, the beginning of what is known as the Ffrst Wave of Immigration, until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, it will be observed that women consistently and actively insisted on equal participation in all national projects. They fought for the right to be included in agricultural work in the period of the Second Wave, 1904-14; took part in the founding of kibbutzim and other settlements in the period of the Third Wave, 1918-25; joined the road building and construction workforce during the Fourth Wave, 1926-31; enlisted in the British army in World War II and fought in the ranks of the Jewish underground groups in the 1930s and 1940s. Women participating in these activities were mainly from socialistzionist movements. After the State of Israel was established, there was a decrease in ideological fervour and, surprisingly, a decline, even a regression, in a woman's awareness of herself and her need for liberation. She began to concentrate increasingly on housework, work she had previously seen as demeaning. When working outside of the home, she sought jobs more suitable to her as a housewife and mother, whereas before she had wanted only to be included in so-called man's work. She also began now to emphasize her "feminine" appearance and charms—values she had provocatively rejected earlier; and willingly or otherwise, she began to accept her secondary place in society. In military service, with all its apparent equality, she performed duties, for the most part, that were designated as "woman's work," such as secretarial, nursing, social work, and teaching functions. This regression lasted some 30 years, and it was only with the awakening of the feminist movement in the U.S.A. and elsewhere that Israeli women began to become aware of feminist issues. At the beginning of the 1970s, when the echoes of the women's liberation movement reached Israel, the reaction was negative and derisive. Even today, when the topic © 1990 Journal of Women-s History, Vol. 2 No. ι (Spring) * This is the unedited original English version of an account written in 1923, describing events in 1886. See Trager's biographical sketch on page 199. 1990 Documents: Hannah Trager 197 of women's rights has more or less won acceptance on various platforms and is frequently discussed, the feminist movemenf s membership is small and its activities are limited. The public is generally indifferent. The following story, "Votes for Women" by Hannah Trager, is an inspiring example of the earlier wave of Jewish immigrants to Palestine who took women's social equality with men seriously. Perhaps the uncovering and promotion of this history can help to spark a kindred movement in Israel. Yaffa Berlovitz Votes for Women One Sabbath afternoon all we young people assembled in the house of a favourite young married couple to discuss affairs from our point of view, which, naturally enough was not always approved of by our elders. After a while we got on to the question of the "emancipation of women", which was already in the air. Now we girls had talked it over already among ourselves, but today the young men were present too, and they declared that in principle it was all very well, indeed quite right, that women should have their say in communal matters, but they would have to be prepared for having a vote by quite a different system of education. This was always a sore point, because most of the young men had studied and passed their High School or University examinations, but several of the girls had also attended a high school in Russia, but had been shut out from the Universities by the Russian "percentage" and...


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pp. 196-199
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