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Jessie Bernard


BERNARD, JESSIE (1903–1996), U.S. sociologist and feminist. Born Jessie Sarah Ravitch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Jewish-Romanian immigrants, Bernard received B.A. (1923) and M.A. (1924) degrees from the University of Minnesota. Her M.A. thesis was entitled "Changes of Attitudes of Jews in the First and Second Generation." In 1935 Bernard earned a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. In some of her work Bernard collaborated with her husband, Luther Lee Bernard, a professor of sociology whom she had met at the University of Minnesota. Bernard spent many years on the faculties of Washington University and Pennsylvania State University. In her early career she researched issues relating to Jewish life. Later, her concerns focused on the family, sexuality, and gender. In her sixties Bernard became an ardent advocate of feminism; she was an influential figure who was regarded as a role model for younger women. She served as president of the Eastern Sociological Association and president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems; in retirement Bernard was a visiting professor at Princeton University. Among awards established in her name are the Jessie Bernard Wise Women Award of The Center for Women's Policy Studies and The American Sociological Association's Jessie Bernard Award for scholarly works dealing with the role of women in society, presented at the group's annual meeting. Among Bernard's publications are Academic Women (1964); The Future of Marriage (1972); The Future of Motherhood (1975); and The Female World (1981). Bernard's books were often best sellers and frequently controversial. The Future of Marriage, for example, concluded that, while men thrived emotionally in marriage, women were oppressed.


R.C. Bannister, Jessie Bernard: The Making of a Feminist (1991); M.J. Deegan, "Jessie Bernard," in: Women in Sociology: A Bio-bibliography Sourcebook (1991); Obituary, New York Times (Oct. 11, 1996).

[Libby White (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.