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Virginia Levitt Snitow Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-876

Scope and Content Note

The collection encompasses the personal papers of Virginia Snitow, especially during her active years in the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress and an organization she founded, US/Israel Women to Women. Papers contain correspondence, writings and voluminous notes with both fiction, and non-fiction writings on racial, gender and class equality. Also included are family stories and diaries chronicling Snitow's time spent in her summer home in Grenada.

Dates

  • undated, 1909-2001

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English with some French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:

American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

email: reference@ajhs.org

Biographical Note <extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Virginia Snitow lights candles on Israel Birthday cake at Convention Banquet, with Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, Shad Polier, Michael S. Comay, and Theodore Bikel (From the American Jewish Congress Records, I-77, Box 745, Folder 31)" href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=4715852" show="embed" title="Virginia Snitow lights candles on Israel Birthday cake at Convention Banquet, with Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, Shad Polier, Michael S. Comay, and Theodore Bikel (From the American Jewish Congress Records, I-77, Box 745, Folder 31)"/>

A long-time teacher, activist, and philanthropist, Virginia Snitow was born in Brooklyn on April 9, 1911 to Louis Levitt (1874-1960) and Tillie (Toba) (Rosenberg) Levitt (1892(?)-1959). She attended the Girls' High School in Brooklyn, Hunter College for her undergraduate degree, and her post graduate at Columbia University, She worked as New York City teacher of English at Wadleigh Public High School for Girls in Harlem through the 1930s and early 1940s.

As a teacher at Wadleigh, she wrote the essay, "I Teach Negro Girls." This article dealt with the obstacles faced by her students in achieving academic success. Originally published in the New Republic in 1942, it was also reprinted in the Negro Digest to critical acclaim. Written in 1958, "The Mushroom Cloud" described the dangers of nuclear energy. A prolific writer, Snitow was also published in Ship and Sailing, Family Circle, Western Political Quarterly and Jewish Currents. The collection includes copies of these articles, as well as many unpublished articles assembled as "I Remember Letters," "Confrontations of a Quiet Woman," "Biography of Juarez" and "People and Places" and poetry assembled as "Poems and Sayings."

After a brief marriage to Harold Clemenko, in 1935, Virginia Levitt married Charles Snitow, an attorney who developed the national and then international Tradeshow business. They had two children, Ann Barr Snitow, born May 8, 1943 and Alan Mark Snitow born February 4, 1948.

A frequent traveler, Virginia and Charles Snitow purchased a winter home on the island of Grenada. She did much of her writing there, including many of her "I Remember Letters" and her "Grenada Diaries."

Along with Leonard & Jean Boudin, Margaret Mead, William Scott, and a number of artists and writers, Snitow founded the progressive Downtown Community School in New York City. Snitow initially became active in the Scarsdale-White Plains Chapter of the American Jewish Congress, then the Westchester County Division. Eventually, Snitow rose through the ranks of the national American Jewish Congress (AJC) over two decades. In 1958-1959, Snitow organized and directed a study group called the Wednesday Morning Discussion Group. This program became a prototype for the AJC, used for new member outreach. The published articles are part of this collection.

Always politically active Snitow attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami as an elected delegate for New York State.

Through her years in the AJC Women's Division, Snitow was an outspoken opponent on issues of racial inequality, parochial school aid, the war in Vietnam, and nuclear power. But her passion was one of equal rights for women, both in the United States and in Israel. She was elected President of the AJC Women's Division in March 1964. On her retirement from the Women's division in March 1971 Snitow received "A Woman of Our Time Award."

Snitow fought against elimination of the Women's Division, which was founded by Louise Waterman Wise in 1932, into the AJC. In 1982, the division became fully merged into the American Jewish Congress.

Her most significant contribution to helping women in Israel was the founding of US/Israel Women to Women in 1978. After seeing a news item about the closing of a women's shelter due to lack of funds, Snitow raised the money and formed this organization that supported a rape crisis center, women's studies courses, a health hotline, leadership development programs, battered women's shelters, antidiscrimination lawsuits, a lecture series, and pregnancy advisory services. Their motto was "Women Must Help Women."

Virginia Snitow passed away at her home in Scarsdale on October 16, 2000. After her death "The Virginia Levitt Snitow Lecture Series" was established by Women to Women in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities.

Chronology

1911
Born April 9, 1911 to Louis Levitt and Tillie (Toba) (Rosenberg) Levitt in Brooklyn, NY
1927
Graduated from Girls' High School in Brooklyn
1931
Graduated with BA in English from Hunter College
1931-1933
Graduate work at Columbia University in English Literature
1932-1944
Taught at Wadleigh Public High School in Harlem, New York, New York
1935
Married Charles Snitow, son of Aaron Snitow and Mary (Sackowitz) Snitow, November 2, 1935 (6 Heshvan 5696) (after marriage and divorce of Harold Clemenko (Clem))
1942
"I Teach Negro Girls" published in the New Republic
1943
Daughter Ann Barr Snitow born May 8, 1943
1944-1946
Taught at Seward Park High School, New York, New York
1945-1947
Active in the Downtown Community School
1948
Son Alan Mark Snitow born February 4, 1948
1952
Parents Louis and Tillie divorce, June 4, 1952
1957-1966
Vice President United States World Trade Fare
1959
Mother Tillie Levitt dies, July 22, 1959 (16 Tamuz 5719)
1960-1962
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) representative to the UN
1960
Father Louis Levitt dies, June 15, 1960
1961
Became a shareholder of Artis Corporation
1964-1970
National President American Jewish Congress Women's Division
1968
Appeared on WNBC Channel 4 TV to discuss "Full Equality in a Free Society," July 14, 1968
1968
Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, pledged to Eugene McCarthy
1969
Delegate to the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health
1969
Received "A woman for our time award," January 20, 1969
1970-1972
Co-Chair Governing Council American Jewish Congress
1970-1973
President Leadership Conference of National Jewish Women's Organizations
1970-1975
Founder and Vice President of Encounter Films, Inc
1971
Recipient of "A Woman of Our Time Award" as outgoing president of the National Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress, March 28, 1971
1972
Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Miami
1973
Snitow's first visit to Port Saline, Grenada
1975
Attended the Paris energy conference, November 25, 1975
1975
Attended the Universal Front of Survival in Brussels
1977-1978
New York State Co-ordinating Committee for International Women's Year
1977
Named to Hunter College Hall of Fame
1978
Founded US/Israel Women to Women
1979
Recipient of the Louise Waterman Wise Laureate for distinguished service and dedication to the American Jewish Congress and for strengthening community life. May 14, 1979
1980
Honorary Vice President American Jewish Congress
1981
Appeared on Channel 11 AJC program "To Be A Woman Soldier." August 19, 1982
1992
Recipient of the National Organization for Women (NOW) New York Chapter Susan B. Anthony Award. February 11, 1992
2000
Included in 27th edition of Who's Who in the East
2000
Charles passes away, June 28
2000
Virginia passes away in Scarsdale, October 16
2005
US/Women to Women (W2W) became part of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). The Virginia Levitt Snitow lecture series established by Women 2 Women in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities.

Extent

9.85 Linear Feet (18 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 index card box)

Overview

The collection encompasses the personal papers of Virginia Snitow, especially during her active years in the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress and an organization she founded, US/Israel Women to Women. Papers contain correspondence, writings and voluminous notes with both fiction, and non-fiction writings on racial, gender and class equality. Also included are family stories and diaries chronicling Snitow's time spent in her summer home in Grenada.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

Individual gifts given to the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) in part by Alan Snitow and Ann Barr Snitow, and the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) (2008.41).

Processing Information

In 2016, an additional .5 linear feet was added to Series V as Box 20. The majority of the materials in this accession came in scrapbooks; this material was put in disassembled and put into acid-free folders.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Virginia Levitt Snitow (1911-2000), undated, 1909-2001   P-876
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Sandra Cohen
Date
© 2017
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • January 2017: Materials from 2008 accession was added to the finding aid by Nicole Greenhouse.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States