My dear girls, you are going out into the great world. Your task is to plant the holy seed in the souls of pure children. In a sense, the destiny of Israel of old is in your hands
As the founder of the Bais Ya’akov (House of Jacob) educational movement, Sarah Schenirer brought about a revolution in the status of women in Orthodox Judaism. Upon her untimely death from cancer in 1935, there were 200 schools serving over 35,000 girls across Europe. A seamstress, who lacked any formal qualifications, she was born into a prominent rabbinic family in Cracow, Poland. By all popular accounts, Schenirer was a hugely charismatic women, a trait reinforced by the fact that even during her lifetime and beyond the walls of the schools she founded, she became aN legendary and inspirational figure.
Under her direct leadership and direction, The Bais Ya’akov became a progressive and pioneering educational movement, partly due to innovative teaching methods. At the seventieth anniversary of her death in 2005 a library was founded in the Central Bais Ya’akov in Jerusalem to gather an archive that documented the early years of the movement and indeed, Schenirer’s life. Many women, former pupils of her schools, contributed to the project, including the only surviving photograph of her, her passport photo.
More about Schenirer’s life and work can be found here in the Jewish Women Encyclopedia.