Women of Valor: The Legacy Quilt

Women of Valor Overview

women of valor quilt

This 8' by 5' hand-crafted quilt features compelling stories of eleven women who, between the years of 1850 and 1950, were advocates for social justice and woman rights and who worked in our Atlanta community to make lives better.

The quilt rests on its own stand and is accompanied by a museum educator and classroom materials. To bring the quilt to your venue, please contact Sandy Berman by e-mail or at 404-870-1862.


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Pat Pugrant, Volunteer Museum Educator, speaking about the women whose lives are highlighted on the quilt to a group of school children.

Pat Pugrant, Volunteer Museum Educator and coordinator of the quilt, speaking about the women whose lives are highlighted on the quilt to a group of school children

Josephine Joel Heyman

Josephine Joel Heyman (1901-1993) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Smith College in 1923. In 1924, she married Atlanta attorney Herman Heyman and began to immerse herself in charitable "good works." Josephine assisted in a hospital program for babies whose mothers could not nurse. She took sterilized bottles to lactating women, usually African Americans, and returned the filled bottles to the hospital.

On graduation from college, Jo joined the Temple Sisterhood and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and would later assume the presidency of Council. During the 1930s, through NCJW, she conducted Tuesday night classes to teach English to refugees from Hitler's Germany. These immigrants had to register as enemy aliens when America entered World War II, so Josephine engaged the services of her husband, Herman, to obtain permission from the government for them to congregate for classes. Josephine served as chair or co-chair of the Women's Division of the Federation in 1942, 1945, 1950, 1953 and 1969.

Josephine Joel Heyman

Josephine Joel Heyman

When the Association of Southern Women For the Prevention of Lynching expanded in 1930, she became an active member. Josephine was also one of five women founders of the United Nations Association of Atlanta in the 1940s, and, as a long-time member of the League of Women Voters, Mrs. Heyman encouraged political debates. She and Eleanore Raoul Greene started the Dekalb County Chapter, served as its president, and they and eight other women were honored by ERA Georgia in a 1981 rally at the state capitol. Throughout the 1960s she was involved in organizations promoting racial desegregation.


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Jo Heyman quilt square

Josephine Joel Heyman quilt square.

Rebecca Gershon

Rebecca Gershon (1899-1987) was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and graduated cum laude from Smith College in 1919. She was the childhood sweetheart of Ralph McGill, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher of The Atlanta Constitution. In 1921, she married Harry Gershon and moved to Atlanta.

Throughout her years in Atlanta, Reb Gershon devoted herself to community service. In the 1930s she belonged to the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, a forerunner of the Southern Regional Council, and was also a member of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. She and others, in a citizen's fact-finding group, charted inadequacies in Atlanta black schools. This commission discovered that only four African American schools had kindergartens or gyms. In 1946, the Atlanta Urban League, of which Mrs. Gershon served as a board member for over 20 years, persuaded white officials to spend 30 percent of a $9.9 million bond issue on low income city schools. Grace Hamilton, a past-executive director of the Urban League, and who later became the first African American woman in the Georgia Legislature, described her as, "very effective, a quiet person who worked behind the scenes, never in the limelight, but committed to the core."

In the late 1930s Rebecca Gershon encouraged the Atlanta Section of the National Council of Jewish Women to organize a Club for New Americans that taught English to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. She was so often in attendance at club meetings that one of the newcomers asked her "how long are you in this country? Your English is so good." Not only did she help them with the assimilation process, but she also mothered some of the young people who immigrated without parents. Rebecca Gershon was an ardent supporter of Hadassah. She was a life member of that organization and was honored by Hadassah with the Myrtle Wreath award in 1973.


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Rebecca Gershon quilt square

Rebecca Gershon quilt square.

Stella Steinheimer Bauer

Stella Steinheimer Bauer (1875-1959) was born in Atlanta, the daughter of David and Isabelle Mayer Steinheimer. Her father was among the founding members of The Temple and as a young woman Stella joined the Atlanta Section of the National Council of Jewish Women and the Temple Sisterhood. She was a devoted advocate of Jewish education.

In an address delivered to the convention of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods in 1919 she stated: "Our chief aims have been to further the religious ideals for which we stand; to inspire our members with a love and reverence for our sacred faith, and to lead our children to respect and honor the beautiful forms and ceremonies of our holy religion. Only during the war did we stray from our first purposes, and because the emergency appeal came from headquarters, we too, responded to the call. In every local drive that was made during the war our Jewish womanhood joined hands with the women of every other creed to assume their share of the burden put upon our community. Cheerfully and willingly did the Temple Sisterhood do her part, showing no distinction between Jew and non-Jew in the gifts bestowed."

Stella Steinheimer Bauer

Stella Steinheimer

Stella was prophetic when she wrote again, in 1919, that: "We need to hold our children longer in the Religious School - to offer them something that will interest as well as instruct them. They pass out of the religious life too quickly, become careless and indifferent and all too soon forget the teaching of the earlier years. If we had something that would bridge the gulf between the religious training of the child and the pleasure or instinct of young manhood and young womanhood, then, indeed, could we feel that something worthwhile had been accomplished to preserve the Judaism that perhaps lies dormant in the heart, but that could be re-awakened to the glory of our cause."

Stella was president of the Atlanta Section, National Council of Jewish Women, from 1910-1912 and helped to institute sewing classes, a kitchen garden, mothers' meetings and storytelling hours at the Jewish Educational Alliance for immigrant children.


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Stella Steinheimer Bauer quilt square

Stella Steinheimer Bauer quilt square.

Rhoda Kaufman

Rhoda Kaufman (1888-1956) was born in Columbus, Georgia, to middle class German Jewish parents. She attended Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1909. Following graduation she moved to Atlanta, where she became involved as a volunteer with the Associated Charities of Atlanta. She was successful in leading the movements that formed the Children's Code Commission and the Commission for the Feebleminded. When the Georgia Board of Public Welfare was established in 1920, she went to work there as an assistant secretary. She served in that capacity for three years and was then promoted to Executive Secretary of the Welfare Department. Through her efforts the department gained the reputation of being the most progressive in reform efforts in the United States .

In the 1920s, she was vilified by the Ku Klux Klan in their efforts to abolish the Welfare Department (they were against state and government interference), but was supported by the local press, which condemned the Klan's attacks and praised her work. In 1930, she began graduate work at Emory University and in 1932, was invited to take part in the National Conference of Social Work under the Hoover Administration. From 1937-1944, Miss Kaufman was active in the Social Planning Council of Atlanta. She completed a report on Health and Welfare in Fulton and Dekalb Counties that was used to plan future welfare and health programs. She also organized a program of supervised playgrounds and community centers. These two achievements brought Rhoda Kaufman the honor of being named Woman of the Year in Social Welfare in 1943 and in 1945 she was listed in the American Women's Who's Who.


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Rhoda Kaufman quilt square

Rhoda Kaufman quilt square.

Rebecca Solomons Alexander

Rebecca Solomons Alexander (1854-1938) was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and spent much of her youth in Savannah. Following her marriage to Julius Mortimer Alexander, she moved to Atlanta, where she remained for the rest of her life. In her memoir she recalled several incidents during the Civil War, including the following: "All talk was of war and as if it were yesterday I remember being told the war had started - 12 April when Anderson was fired upon at Fort Sumter. It was Saturday and my nurse was putting the finishing touches to my toilet for Synagogue and I was waiting for my cousin Nellie, Uncle Joe's daughter and my boon companion who always came for me and went to services together as she came in eight I called to her 'Nellie the war has begun' upon which she called up to me 'then I am going straight back home.' I did not want to run into danger either, but my gentle mother re-assured me, and together she and I went to pray 'that the South would win."

Rebecca Solomons Alexander was the first president of the Atlanta Section, National Council of Jewish Women, and remained in that position from 1895-1902. Under her direction, the section was actively involved with the founding of the Atlanta Free Kindergarten Association that was later housed at the Jewish Educational Alliance. She also established a Sabbath School on Decatur Street for the children of newly arriving immigrants.


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Rebecca Solomons Alexander quilt square

Rebecca Solomons Alexander quilt square.

Fanny S. Boorstin

Fanny S. Boorstin (1898-1986) was born in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1941, she tried to find a place for an elderly woman to live. At the time the only place available for the aged who could not stay with their children were rented rooms in a Kosher home. The predicament of this woman weighed heavily on Mrs. Boorstin. Because of the plight of this woman she began a campaign to find a way to care for these individuals.

Fanny Boorstin

Fanny Boorstin

Through her efforts and despite criticism from the community, Mrs. Boorstin organized a small group of people dedicated to this cause. With the assistance of Ida Goncher and Frank Garson, Mrs. Boorstin continued her campaign and mainly through her efforts and determination a Jewish Home was realized in 1951.


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Fannie Boorstin quilt square

Fanny S. Boorstin quilt square.

Ida Natkoff Goncher

Ida Natkoff Goncher (1892-1962) was born in Bialystok, Poland, and immigrated to the United States, settling in Atlanta in 1908 when she was 16 years of age. She moved in with her Aunt Carrie Bokritzky and met and married Sam Goncher. Ida Goncher was active in a number of civic and Jewish community organizations. Concerned about the assimilation process of other immigrants, Ida organized Americanization classes in her home. As an advocate for the less fortunate in her community, Ida notified the Fulton County Health Department about the numbers of unvaccinated children in the neighborhood and allowed her home to be used by the county to dispense shots.

From 1930 to the early 1950s, Ida Goncher was foster mother to numerous children in need of a home. She is remembered fondly by Holocaust survivor Benjamin Hirsch, who had the good-fortune to live in her home in 1948. He is quoted as saying: "I was one of the lucky ones; I finally got to the States and now I have a mother."

Ida Goncher is also credited with helping Fanny Boorstin bring the plight of the impoverished elderly to the attention of the community. When organizational leaders refused to believe that there were older citizens within the community in need of assistance, Mrs. Goncher personally took them to the dozens of substandard boarding homes where the "forgotten elderly" were living. Ida Goncher also helped to establish the Atlanta chapter of Mizrachi Women. Although extremely active in every organization in which she participated, she would never assume the presidency because she was embarrassed because of her accent.


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Ida Goncher quilt square

Ida Natkoff Goncher quilt square.

Evelyn Greenblatt Howren

Evelyn Greenblatt Howren (1918-1998) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and later graduated from Vanderbilt University. Upon graduation she returned to Atlanta and became captivated with pursuing a career in flight. In 1939, she started taking flight instruction at Candler Field and received her private rating on November 3, 1941. A month later, she joined the newly-formed Civil Air Patrol and became a member of the first all-women's squadron of CAP.

Evelyn in later years, flying for

Evelyn in later years, flying for
the Lovable Brassiere Company.

In June 1942, she became one of the first class of eight women Air Traffic controller trainees and was one of only three who were pilots. In November of that same year she was released from her Air Traffic Controller duties to become one of thirty members of the fist class of Women's Air Service Pilots (WASPs) and was one of 23 who graduated at Ellington Field in Houston on April 24, 1943 . She remained a WASP throughout the remainder of WWII ferrying planes or test flying various types of aircraft until her honorable discharge on December 20, 1944. Upon her return to civilian life she became a flight instructor, and in 1947 established Flightways, Inc. In 1968 the company, one of a handful in the nation where flight operations were managed by a woman, was sold to Lockheed.


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Evelyn Greenblatt Howren quilt square

Evelyn Greenblatt Howren quilt square.

Esther Kahn Taylor

Esther Kahn Taylor (1905-1992) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Marcus and Janice Kahn. Her father was a founder of Congregation Shearith Israel and helped to bring Rabbi Tobias Geffen to Atlanta. She began music lessons at an early age, and music continued to play an important role throughout her life. In the late 1920s, Esther joined Hadassah and became a very active and involved member.

Esther Kahn Taylor

Esther Kahn Taylor

When asked why she joined Hadassah she replied: "Hadassah, that was a natural, because in our dining room there was a large, framed picture of Herzl. And my father was a Zionist, and he was the one who was in charge of collecting the pushkes." She became president in of the Atlanta Chapter in 1933. Later, Esther also became a member of the League of Women Voters and the National Council of Jewish Women, where she served as chair of the legislative committee, under whose auspices she traveled to Washington for the Cause and Cure of the War conference.

Following World War II, she traveled to Palestine and witnessed the good work of ORT and the international ORT schools. On her return she invited 20 women to her home to begin a local chapter of ORT in Atlanta. After her children were grown, she returned to her love of music and attended Juilliard School of Music for eight consecutive summers. She also was a member of the Atlanta Music Club, and as a member developed a Classical Music radio program on WCON. In the 1950s she was instrumental in trying to extend the Atlanta Music Club's educational program to include African Americans.


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Esther Kahn Taylor quilt square

Esther Kahn Taylor quilt square.

Catherine Alhadeff Cohen

Catherine Alhadeff Cohen (1898-1987) immigrated from the Isle of Rhodes to Atlanta’s Sephardic Jewish community. As a single parent, she supported her four daughters by working the assembly line at the Bell Bomber plant during World War II.


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Catherine Alhadeff Cohen quilt square

Catherine Alhadeff Cohen quilt square.

Annie T. Wise

Annie T. Wise (1866-1929) was born in Hungary. She immigrated to Atlanta as a young girl and later established herself in the field of education. She was hired as the principal of Commercial High School in 1910, and in 1919 became the first female instructor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


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Annie T. Wise quilt square

Annie T. Wise quilt square.