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

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

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

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


"Jeanne Abrams knows more than almost anybody else about Jewish women in the American west, and in this well-researched volume she shares that knowledge with her readers. This pioneering study pushes the frontier of Jewish women's history and broadens our understanding of the American Jewish experience as a whole." - Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and author of American Judaism: A History

"Jeanne Abrams' remarkable scholarly contribution stands at the intersection of American Jewish history, women's history, Western history and migration history. While others have written of women's lives in steamy urban tenements, no other volume conveys the variety of important roles that Jewish women played in the development of the American West and especially its Jewish communities. Abrams' thoughtful, clear analysis and eye for rich anecdote make her book at once a great read as well an essential addition to historians' bookshelves." - Alan M. Kraut, Professor of History, American University, and author of Goldberger's War: The Life and Work of a Public Health Crusader

"This engaging and enlightening volume brings together two often neglected topics in the study of American Jews-the roles of women and of Jewish communities outside the Northeast. [Historian Jeanne] Abrams illuminates the experiences of these women and the ways in which they differed from those of Jewish women in other parts of the country. In so doing, she fills a significant gap in our understanding of the development of American Jewry."- Frederick Greenspahn, Gimelstob Eminent Scholar in Judaic Studies, Florida Atlantic University 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 Trailrectifies 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.


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 that was the forerunner of the Community Chest, which, in turn, evolved into the modern, national United Way. Especially concerned with the plight of tuberculosis victims, Frances was also the primary impetus behind the founding of the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives, which opened in Denver in 1899.

Born in a small shtetl in the Polish province of Posen and arriving in America in 1872, Anna Freudenthal Solomon journeyed first by train and then by stagecoach to Las Cruces, New Mexico, from Pennsylvania with her husband and three small children in 1876. After a short time they set out once again, this time in a four-wheeled buckboard open wagon bound for the primitive village of Pueblo Viejo in the Arizona Territory. While Anna's husband, Isadore Elkan, built a successful charcoal supply business, Anna not only ran the family dry goods store and raised their six children, but also later operated a thriving hotel in the town that was eventually renamed Solomonville in honor of the family.

Mary Goldsmith Prag arrived in San Francisco from Poland in 1852 at the age of five, traveling by steamer with her family by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Her father was a shochet, or ritual slaughterer of kosher meat. He became active in Sherith Israel congregation, first . . .

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