February 26, 2024
Theresa Malkiel

Theresa Malkiel:The voice of Women

Theresa Malkiel was born on the 1st of May 1874 in Russia. Her father was a goldsmith and her grandparents were rabbis. Her parents died when she was eleven years old. She then moved to live with her aunt and uncle in New York City. She became the first-ever Jewish woman to graduate from Vassar College in 1896. Theresa Malkiel never married or had children and this meant that she spent her entire life working for social justice.

She was one of the founders of the National Women’s Trade Union League. Then went on to found both the National Consumers’ League, which looked after women’s rights at work. Along with Florence Kelley, the Women’s Party of New York State.

She worked for over forty years fighting for the rights of working women, especially women from immigrant families. Theresa Malkiel wrote a book in 1912 called The Woman Movement, which sold over 100,000 copies. Theresa became one of the most important leaders of the women’s movement in America. She had to go all around the country giving lectures to make money as most of her work was unpaid.


Making of the Leader 

First Signs by Theresa Malkiel

Good in Education

After arriving in New York in 1891, she start her education at the private school, Rosewood Vocational School. She then decided to go to Vassar College. Theresa Malkiel became the first Jewish woman from outside Europe to get a degree from there

Fight for her education

Theresa Malkiel’s job as a social worker for the New York City Board of Education didn’t allow her much spare time for study, but she did manage work through the night and weekends on social issues such as helping immigrant families settle into the city and establishing day nurseries for working women.

Theresa Malkiel

Fight for Social Cause

Joining the Social Cause

Theresa Malkiel’s key arguments for better education for women. Better working conditions for them were very convincing and she pushed her cause all over the US. She did very well in getting women to work alongside men when they were first allowed to do. But she lost many supporters when most of these women left their jobs when they married. For example, she persuaded a number of women who worked with her in factories that they should have the right to supervise their own children while they were at school.

Theresa Malkiel’s belief was that girls falling behind in school would mean their chances of becoming mothers would be lower, so it was important that they should get the best possible education.

Jining the politics

She joined Socialist Labor Party (SLP) in 1893 and later became a member of the SLP’s Women’s Section. Later she joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA) after resigning from Socialist Labor Party in 1899. In 1909 she joined the National Woman’s Party and she worked for women’s rights until the time of her death in 1948.


Fight for the women Rights by Theresa Malkiel

She was interested and active in a number of causes and campaigned for better treatment of black people, better working conditions, better working hours, better pay, and education. Her main field of interest was women’s rights, the women’s suffrage movement, and consumer protection.

Theresa Malkiel worked as a social worker for the New York City Board of Education but was also an author who wrote about feminism. In 1907 she wrote The Sex Side of Life, which examined the differences between men and women.


National Women’s Day

She started National Women’s Day on the 28th of February in 1909. It was first celebrated in New York City.

Theresa Malkiel’s work for the working woman was not limited to just one day a year, she worked hard all through the year to try and improve things for them. She also worked very hard to get women people to vote, so much so that she was nicknamed the “Petticoat Lobbyist.” Most people thought that it was only right and proper that women should be allowed to vote, but back then there were many men who said that it would be a bad thing. As women were expected to make up their own minds about politics, Theresa Malkiel was often called a traitor by her socialist friends when they refused to follow her lead on the subject of votes for women.

National Committee for Women

Theresa Malkiel’s work was not easy, she had to go all around the country giving lectures to earn a living because the work she did for social justice was unpaid. She traveled all over the United States and Canada teaching people about women’s rights. She worked very hard for a number of different groups, such as the National Consumers League, the Women’s Trade Union League, and even the Democratic Party, but it was her work for Women’s Day which changed American society forever. Theresa Malkiel became one of the most important leaders in America during her lifetime.

She was also one of the founders of the National Women’s Trade Union League in 1903. She then went on to found both the National Consumers’ League and later along with Florence Kelley founded the Women’s Party of New York State in 1908.

Other Social Works of Theresa Malkiel

Theresa Malkiel was a member and Chairman of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and organized International Congresses against Child Labor in 1904, 1909, and 1922.

She founded the first-day nursery in America in 1908 she helped establish the Girls Trade Union League to help young girls find work. She also established a group for young immigrant women called The Young Women’s Hebrew Association. In addition, she opened up her home to homeless women called Women Helpers.

National Consumers League

Worked as an investigator for the New York State Factory Investigating Commission from 1904-1908. Co-founder of the National Consumers League (NCL) in 1899.

The National Consumers’ League was the major women’s organization that worked for reform in the workplace for women and children, especially on health and safety issues. At that time most working women were not protected by labor laws. NCL lobbied for laws to protect them, and also encouraged workers to petition and work with employers to form unions.

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