This article examines relations between the first social workers in the Yishuv—the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine (1918–1948)—and their male leadership, with emphasis on the decade between 1930 and 1940. It sheds light on the gender conflict between male administrative leaders and female service providers and the tension between social work as an arm of the nation state and as a tool of social activism.

Feminist methodology and a qualitative analysis yield the following themes: (1) the social workers' gender approach; (2) their perception by men; and (3) the conflicts involved in their multifaceted dynamics with the Zionist establishment.

The findings indicate that social workers operated at the interface between the interests of the establishment and those of their clients. With their commitment to nation-building, their professional principles and their concern for women's rights and social justice, these pioneers blazed a trail to female independence and public activism, while at the same time remaining committed and subordinate to a gender discourse dominated by men and national values.


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pp. 74-96
Launched on MUSE
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