Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940

Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940

Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940

Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940


Winner of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, Women's Studies

Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace explores the social and political activism of American Jewish women from approximately 1890 to the beginnings of World War II.

Written in an engaging style, the book demonstrates that no history of the birth control, suffrage, or peace movements in the United States is complete without analyzing the impact of Jewish women's presence. The volume is based on years of extensive primary source research in more than a dozen archives and among hundreds of primary sources, many of which have previously never been seen. Voluminous personal papers and institutional records paint a vivid picture of a world in which both middle-class and working-class American Jewish women were consistently and publicly engaged in all the major issues of their day and worked closely with their non-Jewish counterparts on behalf of activist causes.

This extraordinarily well researched volume makes a unique contribution to the study of modern women's history, modern Jewish history, and the history of American social movements.


Israel’s women, like women of other faiths, are interested in all
causes that tend to bring people closer together in every movement
affecting the welfare of mankind.

—Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1894

Sinai Temple, E. G. Hirsch Scholarship, Hadassah Home Club
for Working Women, Ruth Home for Working Girls, Scholarship
Association, Council of Jewish Women, United Jewish Drive, Lin
coln Center Camp, Chicago Heart Association, Service Council,
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Blind Ser
vice Committee, Civic Music Association, Jewish Consumptive
Relief Society, League of Religious Fellowship, Chicago Woman’s
Aid, Woman’s City Club, Red Cross, Mothers’ Aid to the Lying In
Hospital, Lincoln Center, Chicago Woman’s Club, Art Institute.

—List of Jennie Franklin Purvin’s charitable contributions, 1926

The summer of her seventeenth birthday found Jennie Franklin enjoying a merry whirlwind of social activities with her circle of friends in Chicago. But on August 23, 1890, Jennie marked the day itself by solemnly writing in her diary, “It is high time for me to definitely shape my career and awaken to the duties of a woman.” Some of the “duties of a woman” seemed obvious to a middle-class adolescent Jewish girl at the turn of the twentieth century, and Jennie dutifully fulfilled them. She graduated from high school, helped out in the faltering family business, frequented public lectures, read a great deal to keep up her education, and in 1899 married the businessman Moses L. Purvin and subsequently had two daughters. Even as an adolescent Jennie had been both a model young American woman and a model young Jewish woman, attending synagogue services, being confirmed, participating in Chicago’s Hebrew Literary Society, socializing with other young Jews like her future husband, and consulting with her congregational rabbi for advice on starting out on “the road I wish to travel.” Neither Jennie nor anyone else in her milieu saw any contradiction between Jewish and female identity. of all the Hebrew Literary Society events she wrote about . . .

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