Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Virtual Women's History Scrapbook

From the JHSGW Collections...

Minnie Lansburgh Goldsmith, 1956Minnie Lansburgh Goldsmith ( 1871 - 1971)

Washington Jewry's mother of social services was Minnie Lansburgh Goldsmith. She began her pioneering social service career in 1895 as a founder of the Washington section of the National Council of Jewish Women. During her presidency in 1909, the group formed children's clubs and supported the Travelers Aid Society, the Federated Women's Club of the District of Columbia, and the Barney Neighborhood House.

A founder of and star fund raiser for the Washington Community Chest (later Metropolitan Division of the United Givers Fund, and still later, the United Way), Minnie Goldsmith was also president of the United Hebrew Charities (now the Jewish Social Services Agency) from 1906 until 1916. She is credited with founding the Jewish Foster Home (1911) and the Hebrew Home for the Aged (1922).

Clara Goldberg, 1943Clara Goldberg Schiffer (1911-2009)

Clara Goldberg, a Radcliffe alumna from Boston, took the first civil service exam for college graduates. She then moved to Washington, where she could earn more money and find more interesting work than in her hometown. Soon after President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, she started her career at the new Social Security Board.
Clara as remembered by her dauaghter, Lois Schiffer

Nettie Ottenberg, 1964Nettie Podell Ottenberg (1887 - 1982)

As a child, Nettie Podell migrated from Russia to New York, where she lived until her 1912 marriage to Louis Ottenberg. A graduate of the New York School of Philanthropy, later part of Columbia University, she first became a champion of social justice in the suffrage movement. She convinced philanthropist Alva Belmont to finance settlement houses for suffragists. She worked with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, organizing troops of "suffrage newsgirls" to sell papers discussing women's voting rights. After Congress passed the 19th Amendment, she continued to seek full voting rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia, finally won in 1964.

Jennie Biron, 1917Jennie Biron Clayman (1897 - 1976)

Like two of her six brothers, Jennie Biron, a native Washingtonian, wanted to go to war. Enlisting in the military, she served as a Yeomanette from May 1917 to July 1919. Because all military women were barred from combat, Biron took her tour of duty in the Washington, D.C. Naval Yard. Although her parents considered her secretarial job "unladylike," she took pride in her military service and later was an officer of the women veterans' Jacob Jones American Legion Post #44.