Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail

Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West

Jeanne E. Abrams
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 279
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail
    Book Description:

    The image of the West looms large in the American imagination. Yet the history of American Jewry and particularly of American Jewish women - has been heavily weighted toward the East. Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail rectifies this omission as the first full book to trace the history and contributions of Jewish women in the American West.In many ways, the Jewish experience in the West was distinct. Given the still-forming social landscape, beginning with the 1848 Gold Rush, Jews were able to integrate more fully into local communities than they had in the East. Jewish women in the West took advantage of the unsettled nature of the region to open new doors for themselves in the public sphere in ways often not yet possible elsewhere in the country. Women were crucial to the survival of early communities, and made distinct contributions not only in shaping Jewish communal life but outside the Jewish community as well. Western Jewish women's level of involvement at the vanguard of social welfare and progressive reform, commerce, politics, and higher education and the professions is striking given their relatively small numbers.This engaging work - full of stories from the memoirs and records of Jewish pioneer women - illuminates the pivotal role these women played in settling America's Western frontier.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0773-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: A View from the West
    (pp. 1-20)

    Frances Wisebart Jacobs was a young bride of twenty in 1863 when she accompanied her new husband by covered wagon from Cincinnati to their first home in Central City, a burgeoning silver boom mining town about thirty miles west of Denver, in the Colorado Territory. In 1870, the Jacobs family relocated to nearby Denver, where Bavarianborn Abraham became active in business and politics and Frances soon became an icon in the area of philanthropy, becoming known as Denver’s “Mother of Charities.” In 1887, Mrs. Jacobs, along with Reverend Myron Reed and Father William O’Ryan, organized a federation of Denver charities...

  5. 1 From the Old Country to the New Land: “Going West”
    (pp. 21-37)

    Hanchen Meyer Hirschfelder and Fanny Brooks were two of the earliest Jewish women who made the often harrowing journey to the American West in the 1850s, and we are fortunate in that both left rare written records of their experiences. Both women were born in central Europe: Hanchen in Karlsruhe, Bavaria; and Fanny in a small Prussian village near Breslau. After marriage at a young age, they joined their husbands in immigrating to America. Within a short time after arriving in New York, both set out with their husbands for the West. Fanny traveled to Nebraska by train and then...

  6. 2 Building a Foundation
    (pp. 38-58)

    The remote mining community of Nevada City, located over 150 miles beyond San Francisco in the northern California goldfield district, may seem an unlikely site for an observant Jewish woman to have called home in the mid-nineteenth century. But Rosalie Wolfe Baruh and her husband, Aaron, resided there for over fifty years. When Aaron Baruh rode into the bustling mining camp in the early 1850s, the discovery of gold in the area in 1849 had swelled the local population to over six thousand. Many Jews had already arrived to take advantage of business opportunities in typical occupations as merchants and...

  7. 3 From Generation to Generation
    (pp. 59-85)

    “Let us put aside our differences and work together for that which is our common desire—the arousing of the Jewish consciousness and the developing of ideal Americanism.”¹ When Seraphine Pisko penned these words as part of an essay for Denver’sJewish Outlookin January 1906, as a prominent member of Denver’s influential, acculturated Jewish German Reform middle class, she was perhaps unconsciously reflecting the intersection of a number of major developments in the contemporary American Jewish community. Jonathan Sarna has described these trends, which began in the late nineteenth century, as having comprised a Jewish “Great Awakening,” “characterized by...

  8. 4 Religious Lives of Jewish Women in the West
    (pp. 86-109)

    When Mary Goldsmith Prag arrived in San Francisco from Poland as a child with her family in July 1852, two Jewish congregations already functioned in the infant town. Both of them followed traditional practices, but one adhered to Polish customs and the other to German ones. Just two months after their arrival, the Goldsmith family joined with other Jews to celebrate the High Holidays at Sherith Israel, the Polish congregation. Mary Prag later recalled: “The firstRosh Hashanahafter our arrival, Mother not being able to go, Father took sister and me with him to the evening service of Sherith...

  9. 5 From “Women’s Work” to Working Women
    (pp. 110-134)

    To mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year in September 1912, “the last year [having] been an exciting year for us,” Anna Freudenthal Solomon composed a handwritten fragment of her memoirs on a sheet of stationery bearing the letterhead of the Solomon Hotel in Arizona, an establishment she oversaw for over twenty-five years. The sheet bore the inscription “Cuisine and Service Unsurpassed. Prices Reasonable, Special Attention to Commercial Men” and “Board by the Day, Week, or Month.” Indeed, the rates were very reasonable, as one dollar could buy three meals for a day.¹ In charge of the day-to-day operations...

  10. 6 Scaling the Ivy Walls and into the Professions
    (pp. 135-163)

    “This is woman’s golden era.” These are the words with which seventeen-year-old western Jewish female journalist Alice G. Friedlander concluded her speech on women’s rights before the Portland Press Club in Oregon in 1893. Asked to speak at the group’s banquet, the young woman not only maintained that “in the newspaper office woman finds a clear field,” but that “the time is near when women will vote and hold office,” and “the law, medicine, education—every walk in life requiring intellectual rather than manual force is wide open to the women of America.”¹ While many women in the country may...

  11. 7 Entering the Political World
    (pp. 164-183)

    “My mother was horrified” is the way Belle Fligelman Winestine recalled her stepmother’s reaction in 1914 on hearing that Belle had delivered a political speech on behalf of women’s suffrage in Montana on a busy Helena street. A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she had received a degree in philosophy and studied journalism, Belle Fligelman had returned to Helena after brief newspaper stints in New York and Milwaukee to work as a reporter on theHelena Independent. According to Belle, Ghetty Fligelman made her displeasure over her stepdaughter’s high-profile political involvement very clear. “While it was all...

  12. Conclusion: Opening New Doors
    (pp. 184-194)

    In 1912, the year after women’s suffrage was passed in California, Selina Solomons arrived at a San Francisco polling location and announced, “Good-day, fellow citizens. I’ve come to vote.”¹ Selina’s bold declaration revealed her confidence that as a Jewish woman she was entitled to be treated as a respected member of the western community. Unsurprisingly, in the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, Jewish women across America were highly visible in the vanguard of social welfare and progressive reform endeavors, commerce, higher education and the professions, and in the maintenance of Jewish life. However, considering their...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 195-234)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-258)
  15. Index
    (pp. 259-278)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 279-279)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 280-280)