The Shirley Spiegel Scholarship was created in 2017 by Phyllis Solow and Susan Nestor to support the education of self-identified lesbians with a preference for students with a history of working to improve the lives of lesbians.
About the Creation of the Scholarship:
Shirley Spiegel was born in Lodz, Poland in May of 1909. One of her earliest memories was of her mother hiding her in a barrel full of grain to protect her from the Cossacks riding through the neighborhood on horseback, randomly attacking Jews with sabers. In 1914 she left Lodz with her mother and two siblings via train to Germany where the family boarded a ship and crossed the Atlantic in steerage class, a long arduous trip. The ship docked in Philadelphia where the family settled. From a young age Shirley was interested in medicine, but her dream of becoming a doctor was out of her reach due to class and gender. She married after high school and soon gave birth to a son. The young couple struggled financially and Shirley was soon pregnant again. Wanting to end the pregnancy, she turned to a network of neighborhood women who led her to a doctor who was known to perform abortions. Her recovery was long due to sepsis and uncontrolled bleeding.
As a consequence of this very frightening experience, Shirley became an outspoken advocate of a woman’s right to choose. A burning rage against injustice burned inside of her. She lived a life of service to improving the quality of women’s lives. My partner Susan and I felt loved by her kindness, generosity, and total acceptance of us as lesbians. We want to honor her with these scholarships for women.
Phyllis Solow and Susan Nestor