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``Unhampered child of liberty'': Modernity, representation and American Jewish women, 1890--1930

Deborah Fairman, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

In this dissertation I argue that Jewish women have served as cynosures of change in Jewish culture, and American Jewish culture in particular. The-turn-of-the-century representations of Jewish women in America that I have chosen to explore exemplify the paradox of the "unhampered child of liberty"--they were generally portrayed as having unconstrained equality but also described as children, thus implicitly reinforcing the child/parent power imbalance, including control over the discourse. The women that I write about, Rosa Sonneschein, Molly Picon, and Rose Pastor Stokes, had some access to the arenas in which the struggle for control over representation could take place. At the same time that these active women had some power to project their messages, however, because those messages advocated change, they were regularly put in the position of transgressing the status quo. They became the literal embodiment of change.^ The strategy that I have chosen to illustrate this concept highlights differences within the American Jewish community at the same time that it points out the particular commonalities of identity and change. The first chapter, an analysis of the 1895 magazine The American Jewess, attempts to understand the symbolic process of constructing and representing identity within the Jewish community, especially the liberal Jewish women's community and argues that the discourse moves toward containment. Other chapters, while also concerned with representation in popular texts such as newspapers, biography, and fiction, moves beyond an immediate audience of American Jews to European Jews as well as, in chapter three, American non-Jews.^ "Unhampered Child of Liberty" is an attempt to add to the growing scholarship about Jewish American women and representation by attempting to move toward a theory of identity and change in which Jewish American women carry the load of being the subjects around which important discussions of and decisions within both religious and secular Jewish culture turn. ^

Subject Area

American studies|American history|Women's studies|American literature

Recommended Citation

Fairman, Deborah, "``Unhampered child of liberty'': Modernity, representation and American Jewish women, 1890--1930" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9823733.
https://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9823733

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