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Pogrebin, Letty Cottin


POGREBIN, LETTY COTTIN (1939– ), U.S. feminist activist, prolific writer, and cofounder with Gloria *Steinem of the National Women's Political Caucus. Born in Queens, New York City, to Cyral (Halpern) and Jacob Cottin, Pogrebin was among the first girls to celebrate a bat mitzvah in Conservative Judaism (1952). A 1959 graduate of Brandeis University, she married Bertrand Pogrebin, a New York City lawyer, in 1963. Following her marriage, Pogrebin worked for Bernard Geis Associates, a publishing company, becoming director of publicity and vice president. Her experiences inspired her first book, How to Make It in a Man's World (1970). In 1971, Pogrebin helped found Ms. Magazine with Steinem. Getting Yours: How to Make the System Work for the Working Woman (1975), continued her concern for women's status in the workplace.

Pogrebin's writings reconciled feminist convictions with marriage and family life. A mother of twin daughters and a son (and later grandmother of six), Pogrebin discussed sexrole socialization and principles of nonsexist child-rearing in Growing Up Free: Raising Your Child in the 80s (1980) and Stories for Free Children (1982). She worked with Marlo Thomas to create Free to Be You and Me, a record, book, and television special of nonsexist songs and stories, for which she received an Emmy Award. In Family Politics: Love and Power on an Intimate Frontier (1983), Pogrebin argued against "family fetishists," who insisted on "the old-fashioned, confining, authoritarian family, or no family at all." Pogrebin elaborated on the meaning and politics of relationships in Among Friends: Who We Like, Why We Like Them and What We Do with Them (1987).

For the first two decades of her career, Pogrebin was not overt about her Jewish identity. Her disenchantment with Judaism began when she was barred from reciting *kaddish following her mother's death when she was 15. In her memoir, Deborah, Golda and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America (1991), she chronicled her 1980s reconnection with Jewish life: "I decided it was worth the effort to incorporate the nice Jewish girl I was raised to be into the uppity woman I had become." Pogrebin's high-profile status in the secular feminist movement made the book a powerful example of a Jewish commitment that embraced feminist/liberal social activism. She also wrote a second memoir, Getting Over Getting Older (1997), as well as a critically acclaimed first novel, Three Daughters (2002).

Pogrebin's essays and articles have appeared in diverse publications, including the New York Times, Tikkun, the Nation, and Good Housekeeping. She was a leader in the National Women's Political Caucus, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the International Center for Peace in the Middle East, Americans for Peace Now, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the New Israel Fund. She spoke out against antisemitism in the women's movement (Ms. Magazine, June 1982) and de-cried the United Nations declaration that equated Zionism and racism.


S. Weidman Schneider. "Letty Cottin Pogrebin," in: P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore (ed.), Jewish Women in America (1997), vol. 2, 1087–89; "Pogrebin, Letty Cottin," in: Current Biography Yearbook (1997).

[Wendy Zierler (2nd ed.)]

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