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Martha Ackelsberg interviewed by Julie Colatrella, 2010 April 16


Scope and Contents

In this oral history, Martha Ackelsberg describes her work in Jewish feminist communities and her experiences with attempts to make sense of her lesbian identity in terms of her Judaism. The interview first focuses on Ackelsberg’s early observations of gender inequalities within Judaism and then moves into her work within feminist organizations such as Ezrat Nashim and B’Not Esh to try to combat those injustices. Ackelsberg’s describes her feelings on current gay issues such as the word “queer,” gay marriage, and the troubles that come about when defining a unified LGBT or Jewish LGBT community. The interview frames Ackelsberg’s relationships both with her ex-husband and with her current partner, Judith, and investigates the intricacies involved in becoming a lesbian step-parent and the multiple definitions of family that have become central to Ackelsberg’s life, passions, and academic work.

Dates of Materials

  • 2010 April 16


Conditions Governing Access

This interview is available for research without restriction.

Conditions Governing Web Access

This interview may not be placed on the web because there was no formal web access agreement signed. Please consult with special collections staff at to inquire about the existence of or access to digital copies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to this interview has been transferred to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Martha A. Ackelsberg was born in New York City in 1946 and is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Princeton University (where she received her Masters and PhD). She has been a faculty member of Smith College since 1972, where she teaches government and the study of women and gender. She taught one of the first courses dealing with gender at Smith College (“Women and Social Change”) and has been a member of the Committee on the Study of Women and Gender and the Five College Women’s Studies Committee. Her work at Smith focuses on the construction of gender and citizenship in the realm of what she calls “applied feminist theory,” and the anarchist women’s organization in Spain.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Ackelsberg was involved in the women’s health movement in New York City and student activism at Princeton during her time there as a graduate student during the years of 1968 and 1972. She has also been involved with several movements aimed at changing the status of women within the Jewish community, including the politics of changing family structures and the place of the LGBT community.

Martha Ackelsberg currently lives with her partner, Judith Plaskow, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she is involved with various feminist, progressive, and Jewish organizations. She and her partner contribute to current “gay marriage” debates.


1 oral histories (transcript and video)

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063