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Ann Summers, ‘Gender, Religion and an Immigrant Minority: Jewish women and the suffrage movement in Britain c.1900–1920’

“Gender, Religion and an Immigrant Minority: Jewish women and the suffrage movement in Britain c.1900–1920,” is an article written by Ann Summers. It is a case study which focuses on the relationship between Jewish and Christian campaigners in their want for the female suffrage. It is a complex article which focuses primarily on prominent Jewish women who were involved in not only trying to attain the suffrage but also wanting religious equality. This was because they felt both issues went hand in hand.

Summers begins the article by showing how Jewish women were not as well represented in communal work compared to their Christian counterparts. The Jewish women only began to gain social rights nearer the end of the century. For example, how the Jewish male Visiting committee membership was slowing down resulting in the formation of an official female committee in 1881. These groups usually conducted social work but became more productive when women had gotten involved more. Summer also makes the point that despite the women’s work being so influential during this time, they were not accredited until the 21st century.

The article then describes how Jewish women may have been denied equal rights due to the traditional views of men and women which were heavily prominent throughout the Jewish culture. It could also be attributed to the classical perception of masculinity. This was particularly the case regarding minority male immigrants who were already emasculated by British natives. They would be reluctant to give women equal rights purely because they had to feel like they had t have power of some sort. A group which promoted gender equality was created. The National Association of the promotion of social sciences provided a forum for men and women to meet on equal terms and was responsible for many social reforms aimed at women. In 1902, Lily Montagu persuaded scholar Claude Montefiore to head a group of men and women – which became the Jewish Religious Union – and allowed for men and women to sit together during worship.

Later in the article, Summer’s notes that the Jewish groups campaigning for women’s suffrage were late to the scene with the Jewish league becoming involved in 1912. This was because they wanted to bring co-religionists on board. There was also noticeable anti-Semitism in the major British suffrage movements which was a likely reason to why many Jewish women were not given the credit they deserved. This was arguably the reason why they were unable to make as much of an impact on universal suffrage as the Christians did. However, both religions united and created a standing joint committee of representatives of religious suffrage societies.

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