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Dame Harriet Cohen

Lawrence Bush
November 13, 2017

Harriet Cohen, a British pianist who played a 1934 concert with Albert Einstein to raise funds for the rescue of Jewish scientists from Nazi Germany, died on this date in 1967. Cohen was one of the best-known and most-photographed classical musicians of her day and had active friendships with Eleanor Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, D.H. Lawrence, H.G. Walls, Vaughan Williams, Chaim Weizmann, and numerous other artists, entrepreneurs and political leaders of her day. Vice-president of the Women’s Freedom League, she was an advocate of a Jewish state in Palestine (and of justice for Palestinian Arabs) and evaded two assassination attempts during her trip there in 1939. The British monarchy made her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1938. Cohen entranced many men, had numerous musical compositions dedicated to her, and had a forty-year affair with Sir Arnold Bax, a poet and composer.

“She was very high-spirited and naturally charming. And once Harriet was aware of the power of all of these things, she absolutely milked it.” —Helen Fry, biographer

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.