04/17/17 — Biography of Gertrude Weil released this month

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Biography of Gertrude Weil released this month

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on April 17, 2017 8:14 AM

A biography of Gertrude Weil is being released this month and Wayne County residents will have a chance to hear the author speak at the Wayne County Public Library on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m.. A book signing will follow.

Leonard Rogoff's book "Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the South," paints a vivid picture of the indomitable Miss Weil, who is one of Goldsboro's most famous residents. Miss Weil, who died in 1971,  spent her life working for many social causes such as women's suffrage, economic improvements for the poor, a Jewish state in Israel and civil rights.

She made national headlines as a young woman when she discovered a stack of illegal voting ballots at a polling place and destroyed them on the spot. And she famously integrated Mina Weil pool by diving headfirst into the water while she was in her eighties.

Miss Weil famously did not like publicity of any kind focused on herself and said more than once that all she did was what any right-thinking person should do.  

Most often, she would turn down the leadership role of whatever campaign she was involved in, and serve as the secretary instead, working behind the scenes. Still, she was a tiny dynamo who feared no reprisal and enjoyed robust debate over any issue.

The daughter of Henry and Mina Weil, she was a graduate of Smith College who returned to Goldsboro and lived her whole life in the home where she was born. It is now a historic site on Chestnut Street.

But although she lived in Goldsboro, she was a world traveler who was friends with some of the biggest names in social reform during the first half of the 20th century. She lived during a time when women were beginning to assert themselves, and she fought long and hard for social reform in the South, where women were expected to be seen and not heard.

Rogoff is research historian for the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina and the author of several books, including "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina."

The book was published by the University of North Carolina Press in Chapel Hill and is available at the Wayne County Library, a facility Miss Weil helped establish. The auditorium at the library is named for her.

The book can be ordered online or by stopping by Books-A-Million, where it also can be ordered.