Tag Archives: Jewish Women

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg died when she was just 47 years old, and was described as a small, frail woman. But in those 47 years she managed to pack enough in for two lifetimes and leave a huge impression on the world which she left behind.

Rosa was born in Russian-ruled Poland to a Jewish family in 1871, the youngest of 5 children. She was a keen learner from a young age, learning to read and write by the time she was 5. At the same age she suffered a hip complaint which left her with a limp she would live with for the rest of her life. She was home educated until she was 9 when she was accepted to a prestigious girls’ gymnasium. Rosa performed well at school, but was denied the recognition she deserved; she wasn’t given the gold medal that other girls earned for their achievements because of what the school called ‘an oppositional attitude toward the authorities’ – an attitude which wouldn’t leave her any time soon! There was a lot of anti-Jewish and anti-Polish sentiment at the school, which was mostly full of the daughters of Russian soldiers and nobility. She wasn’t allowed to speak Polish while she was there, only Russian. Continue reading Rosa Luxemburg

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Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi

Gracia Mendes Nasi was one of the most influential and wealthy Jewish women of Europe in the 1500s. Her family was originally from Spain but was expelled from the country as all Jewish people were at the time. They fled to Portugal but were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition.

She married a wealthy trader, Francisco Mendes Benveniste, whom she was connected to through her mother’s side of the family. While they had a public and lavish Catholic wedding, they also had a private Jewish ceremony and rituals. Francisco died soon after, leaving Gracia a young widow with an infant daughter. He also left Gracia in charge of half of his business, leaving the other half to his brother Diogo. This was a very unique situation, as most women did not hold positions of any power.

Continue reading Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi