PaperHive Conversations: Margalit Shilo

Girls of Liberty by Margalit ShiloGirls of Liberty by Margalit Shilo

Margalit Shilo is a professor in Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Department at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. Her research focus lies on the history of Jewish women in pre-state Israel, i.e. Yishuv. Her previous books Princess or Prisoner?: Jewish Women in Jerusalem, 1840-1914 and Jewish Women in Pre-State Israel: Life History, Politics, and Culture shed light on the lives of Jewish women and their role in Yishuv society at the turn of the 19th century. Shilo presents a female perspective of pre-state Israel that has mostly been erased from the nation’s male-centered historic narrative. Her most recent work Girls of Liberty: The Struggle for Suffrage in Mandatory Palestine examines the Zionist women’s struggle for the right to vote in Mandatory Palestine.

What are the big issues in your research area now?
What aspects should researchers focus on more intensively in the future?

My research area is: Jewish women in pre-state Israel, 1840 – 1948. This is relatively a new field. Most of the research so far focused on women in the Kibbutz, and my aim is to focus on women in the cities who developed the fields of medicine, welfare, education, music, the arts and more.

Margalit Shilo

Margalit Shilo

Being open access, your book is now available to the entire world.
Besides academic experts, who should definitely read it? And why?

Anyone who is interested in the social history of the Jewish population in pre-state Israel, 1840 – 1948; for those who are interested in women’s politics; for those who want to understand the attitude of Judaism and Zionism to women.

PaperHive would like to know if the reader had only 5 minutes, what specific pages or sections should they definitely read to gain insight into your research?

“The Zionist movement, the manifesto noted, had granted women equality from its inception” (pp. 48 – 49)

“Zionist feminism derived from two sources: the heritage of Jewish culture over the ages and the universal value of human equality.” (p. 49)

“Unlike suffragist activity elsewhere in the region, where feminism was perceived as a movement brought in from outside and imposed by western imperialism, Zionist feminism was an integral part of the Jewish national movement.” (p. 49)

Her favorite passages are: pp. 47 – 51 and 138 – 140.

How does the Zionist suffrage struggle compare to other contemporaneous struggles?

See pages 138 – 140: The Uniqueness of the Struggle. The most unique phenomenon was the initiative to establish a women’s political party.

Were there any surprising findings you came across during the research process?

The question which intrigued me most was: How effective was the women’s political party in gaining the vote? The surprising finding was that the women had only very partial influence on their gaining the vote.

About the Author

Lisa Matthias
Studies North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests are Media Studies, Political Communication, and US Foreign Policy.