Who Was Henrietta Adler? Originally Published July 8-9, 2022.

Born either on July 14, 1870, or on December 1, 1868 (sources conflict), Henrietta “Nettie” Adler was the granddaughter of the Chief Rabbi of England Nathan Marcus Adler, and her father Hermann Adler would serve in the same post (he was deputized when his father’s health declined, and was later elected). 

Ms. Adler was interested in education.  She had been educated at a private school, and went into social work, advocating training and clubs for young persons.  She served as a school manager in London.  Meanwhile, she was honorary secretary of the Committee on Wage Earning Children from 1899 to 1946.  She was also a Member of  Council of the Anglo-Jewish Association and a member of the Jewish Board of Guardians.  (The latter was a charity established by the upper class Jews in the East End of London to seek relief for Jewish immigrants, and it would help sustain all Jewish poor in London; it is now Jewish Care.  Ms. Adler had accompanied her mother visiting Jewish immigrant families.)  In 1902, she became vice-president of the Union of Jewish Women, and the Jewish Chronicle dubbed her “one of the most earnest and unostentatious of Jewish communal workers.”  It was her political career which would gain her notoriety.

A member of the Liberal Party, to the dismay of her Conservative father, she became active in Hackney, becoming a member of the governing boards of the Dalston County School, the Hackney Downs School, and the Hackney Technical Institute.  The members of the Progressive Party (which aligned with the Liberal Party) put her onto the London Education Committee in 1905, standing for election to it in 1910. 

Now, the Liberal Party had created the London County Council in 1899 without saying whether women were permitted to stand for election to it.  Two female candidates ran for election, and won, but the Conservatives who lost filed suit.  The women never took office.  When the Liberal Party came back into power they clarified the law to include women, which passed in 1908, and Nettie Adler would be one of the two women elected in 1910 under the Progressive Party.  Additionally Ms. Adler served as a justice of the peace; women could be appointed magistrates as of 1920.

Ms. Adler would be continually reelected until the 1925 election, which she lost when the votes were divided among four parties rather than two - the Labour Party had come into play in that election.  In 1928 she would be reelected as a Liberal Party candidate, as the Progressive Party had dissolved.  She would be again defeated in 1931; we note that anti-Jewish sentiment had become an issue at that time.  Thereafter she was placed onto the London County Council Public Health Committee for three years.  She would be made Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1934 for her work in London government.  She reportedly made it into Hitler’s Black Book, too.