Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Hortense G. Moses, 1876-1918
By Karen Carver-Dosser Stewart, Community College of Dallas County
Hortense G. Moses was born Hortense Guggenheimer in 1876 in Baltimore, Maryland. While no formal education has been found in historical records, Hortense became an instrumental activist for Jewish women during the early 1900's. Hortense married Jacob Moses in 1903, who was a lawyer, judge and State Senator. Judge Moses was an advocate and champion for fair treatment under the law. He also lobbied for decent detention centers for those accused of breaking the laws, criminals as defendants, before their trials were held. Jacob was a perfect partner for Hortense, sharing the same drive and passion through activism for equality and suffrage for women. Jacob would often refer to himself as a feminist, which was quite an attractive quality to Hortense.
Jacob was a staunch Democrat and a popular political activist during the early 1900's. As a Senator in 1902 Jacob introduced a bill to allow women to be admitted to the Maryland bar, not a popular action during this time in Maryland. Jacob co-authored a book entitled "Equity Procedure" which dealt with legal procedures and equality. Jacob was a well respected member of "upper" society, and Hortense also became an activist for suffrage and equality for women which skyrocketed Hortense to popularity.
During this time period organizations such as NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) became a popular outlet for female activists who worked diligently in the battle for woman suffrage. Hortense became very active in the suffrage movement. Hortense was instrumental in mounting support for suffrage throughout Baltimore society. However tragedy struck and Hortense died prematurely in 1918 and never witnessed her dreams as a suffragist when the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 became a reality. Even with the passing nationally of the 19th Amendment, Maryland did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1941.
In 1916 Baltimore was home to many Jewish women's organizations. These organizations had interests in various areas of society, including feeding and sewing for the needy, and holding religious services and classes for children. Hortense realized that time and leadership were wasted by these organizations not working together. With this in mind Hortense realized the benefits of cooperation and exchange and worked to unite the various groups of women to meet the needs of society. Hortense founded and became the First President of the Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations.
The Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations became a popular and active organization. Hortense managed to convince twenty-nine organizations to join the call as one organization to meet the needs of those suffering in society. During World War 1 the organization assisted in projects involved in war relief and government activism.
After a peace was reached in 1918, the organization's leaders turned their attention to community issues, education and world wide Jewish problems. The organization also became active in women's suffrage, legislative issues and veterans issues. Baltimore was known for the Jewish population in the city during this time and the Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations encouraged Jewish women, and sometimes men, to invest in their society and their neighbors.
Hortense Jacobs, though she lived a very short time period, was a woman ahead of her time. Although she passed in October of 1918, she created a legacy that is still operational in 2019. Hortense Moses, along with her husband Jacob Moses, demonstrated throughout Jewish Society the importance of activism and volunteerism which resonates today.
Rosenwaike, Ira. "Jewish Deaths Included in the Vital Records of American Cities 1821-1829." American Jewish Historical Quarterly , vol. 58, no. 58, ser. 3, 3 Mar. 1969. 3.
Rosenwaike, Ira. "The Jews of Baltimore 1810." American Jewish Historical Quarterly , vol. 64, no. 4, June 1975. 3.
Judge Jacob M. Moses Papers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland; database listing accessible online at https://jewishmuseummd.pastperfectonline.com/byperson?keyword=Moses%2C+Jacob+M.+%28Judge%29.
"The Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations of Maryland"-current website of organization, accessible online at http://jewishwomensfed.org/Index.html.