PAULA KASSELL, 1917-2012
FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF NEW DIRECTIONS FOR WOMEN, THE FIRST NATIONAL FEMINIST NEWSPAPER LEAVES US AT AGE 95
One of the most beloved of the pioneer feminists, Paula Kassell was a co founder of the Lakeland, NJ chapter of NOW, which later merged with Morristown NOW to become Morris County NOW.
Paula Sally Kassell, founder of the national feminist newspaper, New Directions for Women, was born on December 5, 1917, in New York City, the younger of two daughters of Daniel and Bertha Kassell. Her parents were both native New Yorkers. Daniel Kassell, largely self-educated, was a stockbroker. He was also a self-taught musician who played the violin, the piano, and the mandolin and was an expert bridge player. Berth Kassell was a homemaker who was active in community organizations. When Paula was six, the family moved to Yonkers, NY, where she lived until she married in 1941.
Paula attended public elementary school and Yonkers High School. As a child and teenager she often accompanied her mother to the Jewish Home for the Blind, a short distance from the family home. There she played with the blind children and later read to them and helped them with their homework. This experience awakened an interest in helping others that remained with her and resulted in a brief career in social work.
Daniel Kassell was ambitious for his daughters. At a time when relatively few women went to college, there was never any question that his two daughters would go. Both sisters went to Barnard College. Paula graduated in 1939, with a major in psychology and sociology.
At college her feminist consciousness took root; according to Paula, Barnard was a heady place for a young woman. Students were imbued with ambition. It was also here that Pala read ad was greatly influenced by Margaret Mead's book Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, which introduced her to the thesis that society, not nature, determined sex roles and even temperament.
After college, Paula worked briefly for the Yonkers, NY, Relief Department. On August 16, 1941, she married Gerson Friedman and moved to Dover, NJ, where she lived until her death on August 20, 2012. On her marriage Paula said, "There can be no such thing as an equal marriage in our society but mine was certainly among the most feminist." Her husband not only helped raise the children, but also contributed many hours of work to New Directions for Women. He died April 21, 1986
Paula continued to be a very active member until very recently, consulting and appearing several times on the chapter’s public access TV show (view her appearances below), which was named after her newspaper, New Directions for Women. Besides editing and writing a column for New Directions, she created a series of feminist conferences in the 1970s and 1980s and established the Positive Image of Women Award.
Paula was instrumental in getting the New York Times to use the term Ms, and convincing The Times and other newspapers to integrate the Help Wanted Ads.
Mavra Stark reported that, the day before her death Paula was listening to opera and talking to friends and family on the phone. She leaves a son, Daniel. There will be no funeral service. A memorial, which she helped to plan, will be held in late September or early October.
* Portions from Kassel, Paula, "Taking Women in New Directions" , 2008, Hudson House ISBN 978-1-58776-895-8