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Daughters of the book: A study of gender and ethnicity in the lives of three American Jewish women

Harriet Marla Sigerman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is a study of the religious and ethical influences on the lives of three American Jewish women: Anzia Yezierska (ca. 1880-1970), immigrant-born author from the Lower East Side who gave poignant voice in her fiction to immigrant Jewish women's lives; Rose Pastor Stokes (1879-1933), immigrant-born political activist and an early member of the American Communist party; and Maud Nathan (1862-1946), an upper-class, American-born Jew who fought for female enfranchisement and better working conditions for store clerks and sweatshop women. In a thematic approach drawing comparisons among the three women, this study explores the role and impact of Jewish religion and values on their personal and professional life choices. Related to this main question are the following secondary questions: As deviant women--women who did not fulfill traditional gender and religious prescriptions for home-bound domesticity--how did these women negotiate their deviance within the Jewish and larger American communities? In their autobiographies, how did they present their lives, and to what extent did they reveal any awareness of the impact of their Jewish birthright upon their life choices? And how did their relations with the significant people in their lives--friends, families, and mentors--influence both their gender and Jewish consciousness? Through close reading of their writings, especially their autobiographies, augmented by selected theoretical work in the presentation of self, I examine how they each defined their Jewishness in ways consonant with their personal and professional aspirations, and how they all drew on their cultural, religious, and class values to play an active public role in their time.

Subject Area

American history|American literature|Womens studies|Biographies|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Sigerman, Harriet Marla, "Daughters of the book: A study of gender and ethnicity in the lives of three American Jewish women" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9305897.