Women Poets and Writers

Kadia Molodowsky, as pictured in Yidishe dikhterins

Although most books on these shelves have men’s names on the spines, you will find works by women writers as well. Women have been writing and publishing poetry in Yiddish since 1586 and prose since the 1609 publication of Rivke bas Meyer’s Menekes rivke (Rivke’s Nurse). The earliest texts, published in Kracow, Amsterdam, and Prague, were devotional—prayers (tkhines), sermons (droshes), and moral advice (musar bikher). Through Ezra Korman’s 1927 anthology, Yidishe dikhterins (Yiddish Women Poets), we know about the “lost” early women poets, who were wives or daughters of printers or rabbis. Korman also included over sixty women poets from the modern period.

Rokhl Korn, as pictured in Yidishe dikhterins

From the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, through the revolutions and immigrations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women joined men in writing secular Yiddish poetry, fiction, autobiography, and journalism, as well as philosophical, political, and critical essays. Although women authors were involved in the major literary movements of their time, they struggled to be published, read, and acknowledged, and to be included in the world of imagination and ideas that Yiddish writing represented.

Chava Rosenfarb in the former Lodz Ghetto

Today scholars and translators continue to rediscover women writers in Yiddish. Look on our shelves for books of poetry by Kadia Molodowsky, Malka Heifetz Tussman, Rokhl Korn, Celia Dropkin, Anna Margolin, Malka Lee, and Rukhl Fishman; for novels by Esther Singer Kreitman and Chava Rosenfarb; and short stories by Rokhl Brokhes, Fradl Shtok, and Blume Lempel. Use these contemporary works and translated anthologies of short stories by women as guides to explore, read, and learn. 

More on Yiddish women writers from our collections:   

A newly curated selection of items by and about Yiddish women writers from our website (includes works in Yiddish and English translation, articles, recordings, podcasts, and more) 

Anita Norich writes about a recent rediscovery of unfinished works by Kadia Molodowsky

Faith Jones writes about Ezra Korman’s 1927 anthology, Yidishe dikhterins (Yiddish Women Poets), which gave female Yiddish poets their due.

Goldie Morgentaler, daughter of Yiddish writer Chava Rosenfarb, describes her mother's three-volume novel about life in the Lodz Ghetto, entitled The Tree of Life.

A Great Jewish Books Book Club resource guide on the life and work of Chava Rosenfarb