Nathan, Maud

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NATHAN, MAUD (1862–1946), U.S. activist, suffragist, and president of the Consumer's League. The second of four children born to Annie Florance and Robert Weeks Nathan, Nathan descended from a line of Sephardi Jews in America that included Gershom *Seixas, the first ḥazzan in the New York Jewish community, poet Emma *Lazurus, and Benjamin *Cardozo, a United States Supreme Court Justice. Her sister, Annie Nathan *Meyer, founded Barnard College. Maud Nathan married wealthy financier Fredrick Nathan, a first cousin 19 years her senior, in 1879; their only child, Annette, died in 1895 at the age of nine. The loss of her daughter and a desire to become more involved in society led Nathan to join the board of directors of New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. She also volunteered as a teacher of English to immigrants at the Hebrew Free School Association and served as her synagogue's first sisterhood president. Expansion of her involvement outside the Jewish community soon followed as the Board of Exchange for Women's Work offered an opportunity to engage in politics. Nathan successfully lobbied the sponsors of a bill placing a high tariff on imported beads, arguing that it would increase the economic pressures already placed upon women doing needlework in their homes. Nathan was then contacted by Josephine Shaw Lowell, founder of the Consumer's League, who asked for her assistance in investigating the conditions under which women worked in retail stores, including bad sanitation and meager earnings. As president of the Consumer's League from 1897 to 1927, Nathan investigated the bad conditions experienced by women working in retail and encouraged consumers to patronize shops which provided decent environments and salaries for their workers. Nathan then became active in the women's suffrage movement, serving as president of the Fifteenth Assembly District of New York's Women's Suffrage Party (wsp). While her husband strongly supported her involvement, other family members, including her three siblings, disagreed with the suffrage platform. Undeterred, Nathan specifically targeted Jewish women, including recent East European immigrants, for involvement in wsp activities. Her efforts within Jewish and non-Jewish circles on behalf of women's rights won her the admiration of individuals such as Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters, who wrote the foreword to Maud's autobiography, Once Upon a Time and Today (1933). Nathan was also the author of Story of an Epoch-Making Movement (1926), about the Consumers League.


A. Kaufman. "Nathan, Maud," in: P.E. Hyman and D. Dash Moore, Jewish Women in America, 2 (1997), 967–68; L. Gordon Kuzmack. Woman's Cause: The Jewish Woman's Movement in England and the United States, 18811933 (1990), 144–45.

[Shira Kohn (2nd ed.)]