Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Rebecca Rosenthal Judah, 1866-1932

By Dr. Randolph Hollingsworth, Assistant Provost, Division of Academic Excellence, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

Rebecca Rosenthal Judah (1866-1932) was a highly respected leader in the Louisville community both for her work with the National Council of Jewish Women and for women's rights in general. She was born on January 13, 1866, in Jeffersonville, Indiana to Robert M. Rosenthal and Bertha Meyer. She graduated in 1882 from the Louisville Female High School and married Jacob B. Judah of Louisville. He went on to become the superintendent of a large dry goods department store, John C. Lewis & Co., on South 4th Street. The couple lived in Louisville at 639 Fifth Street, then later at 1528 Everett Avenue.

Rebecca Judah helped to establish a Louisville chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1893 and served as its president from 1896 on. The Louisville chapter joined the Kentucky Federation of Woman's Clubs in January 1906 and worked to support the Louisville School Suffrage movement. They also provided a teacher twice a week to "one large department store to teach practical arithmetic and spelling to [employed] girls" (perhaps at the John C. Lewis & Co. store); and they equipped a kindergarten at the non-sectarian "Home of the Innocents," which allowed Jewish children to attend.

She was also involved in many other charitable organizations such as the Neighborhood House, the Consumers' League of Kentucky, the Child Labor Association, Fresh Air Home, Hebrew Relief Association, the Travelers' Aid Society of Louisville and was part of the committee of women charged with improving the enforcement of truancy laws in Louisville. The Louisville Section also helped to run the city's free public baths, provided care for immigrants in need, and supported libraries locally and in nearby rural areas. In 1902 she became the treasurer of the National Council of Jewish Women, a position she continued to hold for many years.

The annual conventions of the Kentucky Equal Rights Associations could always count on Judah to take a leadership role. For example, she was elected as a Vice-President at the 24th KERA convention in 1913. When she was not serving as a Vice President for the state suffragist organization, she would serve as treasurer. Judah received mention in History of Woman Suffrage for her "helpful" contributions to state suffrage work. She remained active in the organization through 1920.

Mrs. Judah died in 1932 and was buried at The Temple Cemetery. Later, her husband Jacob was buried alongside her. You can find her burial plot on the KWSP's Votes for Women Digital Map.


"Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities - Louisville, Kentucky," Goldring-Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life,

"Jewish Societies,"  Collier's Self-Indexing Annual, 1905: A Contemporaneous Encyclopedia and Pictorial History of Men and Events of the Past Year, as Recorded and Described by the World's Foremost Specialists in Every Department of Human Progress (P.F. Collier & Son, 1905), p. 377.

"Judah, Mrs. Jacob B." In American Jewish Year Book, Volume 7. Edited by Cyrus Adler and Henrietta Szold (American Jewish Committee, 1905), p. 73.

"Louisville," Jewish Virtual Library,

"Report of the Louisville Section," in Triennial Report of Secretary Council of Jewish Women (1908), 293-96.

Ida Husted Harper, et al. eds., History of Women Suffrage: 1900-1920, vol. VI (New York: J. J. and Ives Company, 1922), [LINK.]

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