Cover image for Her works praise her : a history of Jewish women in America from colonial times to the present
Her works praise her : a history of Jewish women in America from colonial times to the present
Diner, Hasia R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvii, 462 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1450 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.36.W64 D56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From salons in Federal Philadelphia to Frontier homesteads to settlement houses in city slums to 1970s consciousness-raising sessions, American Jewish women have brought a distinctive sense of self and community to bear on the economic, social, and family life around them. Hasia R. Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly draw upon long-neglected public records, private diaries, memoirs and letters to overturn the widespread notion that Jewish life began at Ellis Island and happened only in New York. They offer a complex portrait of flesh-and-blood characters such as Emma Lazarus, Mrs. Wyatt Earp, Ethel Rosenberg, Betty Friedan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The result is a comprehensive account of how America transformed generations of Jewish women--and how these women transformed America.

Author Notes

Hasia R. Diner is the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judiac Studies at New York University. She has taught American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and at Johns Hopkins.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jewish tradition defines the ideal Jewish woman as strong, industrious, virtuous, wise, and generous, an active partner in marriage and an invaluable member of the community. Historian Diner and journalist Benderly use this vision as a gold standard for the women, both unknown and famous, they so insightfully profile in this cascading history of American Jewish women, from the first female Jewish immigrants to land here, in 1654, to the present. As the authors chart the diverse fortunes of Jewish women in America, they also chronicle the cataclysmic events that brought millions of European Jews to the U.S., the admirable evolution of Judaism in the New World, and changing mores regarding marriage, education, and careers. Dramatic stories of isolated Jewish frontier households give way to intense tales of poor urban Jewish working women as the authors introduce intrepid women entrepreneurs, activists, teachers, rabbis, feminists, philanthropists, actors, and countless women devoted to their families, an ennobling litany of accomplished American Jewish women who helped improve every aspect of Jewish and American life. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

New York University historian Diner (Lower East Side Memories) and award-winning journalist Benderly (Dancing without Music) present a well-researched and consistently absorbing chronicle, the first social history of American Jewish women, according to the publisher. From the moment they arrived in New Amsterdam (to the displeasure of Peter Stuyvesant, who referred to them as "enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ"), Jewish women have (like other women, and men for that matter) struggled to pave their way in American society and to improve the lot of others. That this country is home to the "largest, richest, freest Jewish community in the world," the authors contend, "is largely the work of women doing the sacred tasks of Jewish womanhood." By the late 1700s, they were initiating charity projects and realizing the Jewish concept of tzedakah, and while their primary loyalty was to other Jewish immigrants, they became involved with the wider community as well. When Christian interest in proselytizing increased, Jewish women took the lead in resisting it. Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869), for example, hired a tutor to teach her Hebrew and arranged for family members to attend lessons. The 20th century witnessed the ascendance of Jewish women to the forefront of just about every social justice movement: they were involved in organizing labor unions, building hospitals and settlement houses, running vocational programs and establishing job-referral agencies. But while the authors give considerable attention to Jewish women's passionate involvement in the feminist movement, they ignore their significant contributions to the gay and lesbian movement. This is a minor point, however, in a fundamental contribution to women's and Jewish studies that is certain to inform and engage. 16 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

With a title rooted in a traditional biblical metaphor rhapsodizing Jewish womanhood, this romanticized, breezy, and often-superficial book purports to highlight the cultural impact, major achievements, and singular experience of Jewish women in US Jewish life. Although its subtitle suggests a comprehensive history of Jewish women in the US, regrettably, it is misleading. The work comprises mostly derivative scholarship, spiced liberally with citations of primary sources taken from other secondary publications. Highlighting both obscure Jewish women of the distant past as well as the more well-known figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, the book often uses the former as paradigms of larger historical forces, while glorying in greater detail in the feminist successes of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Ruth Bader Ginzburg, among others. The authors' premise about Jewish women having a distinctive history from men, with unique and differentiated options and expectations, is unassailable; yet it is fascinating to observe how frequently they resort to interweaving male and female narratives to tell their tale, suggesting that any mono-gendered focus just never gets the full story straight. General collections. B. Kraut CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xiii
Part I "You Cannot Know What A Wonderful Country" The Atlantic World: 1654-1820
1 "A Great Many of That Lot": America's First Jewish Women Arrivep. 3
2 "Our Young and Rising Congregation": Learning to Be Jewish in Americap. 15
3 "I Make Exceedingly Well": Making a Living and a Lifep. 43
Part II "The Length and Breadth of The Union" The Central European Migration: 1820-1880
4 "Little Short of Impossible": Leaving Central Europep. 63
5 "To the End of the World": Jewish Women All Across the Nationp. 79
6 "The Budding Branch": Inventing an American Judaismp. 103
Part III "The Golden Door" The Eastern European Migration: 1881-1924
7 "America in Everybody's Mouth": Fleeing the Palep. 135
8 "Everything Possible": Immigrant Women at Workp. 159
9 "Of Their Own Making": Building American Familiesp. 193
10 "Full of the Troubles of Our Neighbors": Responding to the Great Migrationp. 224
11 "To Do and To Dare": Club Women Make a Revolutionp. 247
Part IV "My Home Sweet Home" American-Born East Europeans Remake Jewish Life, 1925-1963
12 "Always a Step in the Right Direction": The Great Migration's Children Join the Middle Classp. 271
13 "So Good You Would Not Know": Finding a Career by "Helping Out"p. 302
14 "Something of the Artist": Reinventing Tradition--East European Stylep. 337