Martyr, Mommy, & Matriarch: Gender Scripts of Jewish Women in Educational Leadership

Spring, 2008

Source: Jewish Educational Leadership. Spring, 2008 (6:3) pages 26-32 


This article initiates the dialogue of contemporary women in Jewish educational leadership by presenting two narratives of North American Jewish female administrators. The two narratives of Rivka and Sarah (pseuodonyms) were constructed from research on a larger study of women in educational leadership during the spring of 2004. Blackmore's set of eight gender scripts for women in educational leadership serves as the conceptual frame to interpret the findings.


A cheerful, intelligent and reflective director of an early learning center housed in a suburban Jewish community center, Rivka has been supervising a staff of 25 teachers and 102 children aged 2.5 through kindergarten for the last 22 years.


One of four assistant principals, Sarah has a background in learning disabilities, college instruction, teacher supervision and curriculum development, but at the Academy, a Jewish high school known for its high Ivy League acceptance rate, she was hired to monitor attendance, discipline, extra-curricular activities and scheduling.


In the paper, Rivka and Sarah's narratives are fleshed out and interpreted by using Blackmore's eight gender scripts for women in educational administration.


Jewish Gender Scripts
The authors make their original contribution by presenting three unique gender scripts unique from Blackmore's that arise from the narratives of Rivka and Sarah: the Martyr, the Mommy and the Matriarch.


This research demonstrates that women in positions of Jewish educational leadership share several gender scripts with women in the broader field of educational administration. It also provides the field with additional gender scripts for reflection and analysis.

The martyr, mommy and matriarch scripts push to consider treatment of women in all areas of Jewish educational leadership.

More scholarship, discussion and reflection are required to further lines of inquiry opened by these gender scripts. Particularly, the gender script seems to the authors a fertile theme for further research and development.

Updated: Sep. 21, 2008