by Rebecca Honig Friedman and the Jewish Women's Archive Staff
Cross-posted on the Jewesses With Attitude Blog.
Today marks the 113th anniversary — centennial + bat mitzvah! — of the launch issue of The American Jewess, the first English-language publication directed to American Jewish women.
Published between April 1895 and August 1899, the magazine covered an evocative range of topics, from demands for synagogue membership for women, to Zionism, to health and fashion tips, to the propriety of women riding bicycles.
The phrase “American Jewess,” in the 1890s, described a new type of Jewish woman — one who could fully embrace the possibilities of both the religious and national aspects of her identity. The American Jewess set out to explore the challenges and possibilities inherent in this new identity, proclaiming that “never before, in the history of Judaism have its women more energetically devoted themselves to reviving the noblest elements of their ancestral faith.”
Thanks to the Jewish Women’s Archive—in partnership with Hebrew Union College, Brandeis University Libraries, and the Library of Congress—the archives of The American Jewess are available online — in search-able, browse-able form. We encourage you to peruse them at your leisure, but to make things easier, Jewess and the JWA have teamed up to present some of the most provocative and evocative highlights from the magazine’s 5+ years of publication.
Just as our blogs Jewesses With Attitude and Jewess encourage readers to think about Jewish women’s identities in a new light, so, too, did The American Jewess offer Jewish women of the 1890s fresh and sometimes radical ways of thinking about their own identities and their place in the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring some of the issues on the minds of American Jewesses of the 1890s … and consider how far we’ve come — or have not — since then.
As an introduction, here’s how one writer in the pages of TAJ, Rabbi L. Weiss (a man, it should be noted, since women could not be ordained at the time, and surely his observations are colored by his sex), described the position of Jewish women in America in 1895:
With what satisfaction do we then behold the condition of the Jewess in America! To her are accorded privileges which rightly belong to her. She is the active spirit in benevolent organizations, and the life and light in every movement that elevates the Jewish world. Side by side with the sterner sex the woman worships God in our temples, and in every particular she is the equal of man. We are proud of our women, and it is but meet that she who does not know the position of the Jewess in other countries, should be made conscious of the exalted position she occupies here, and proudly proclaim, “I am an American Jewess!”
- Volume 1, Issue: 3, June, 1895, pp. 114-115
Posted on April 1st, 2008 Filed under: The American Jewess |