Reforming Fictions: Native, African, and Jewish American Women's Literature and Journalism in the Progressive Era

By Carol J. Batker | Go to book overview

5
“Why Should You Ask for Ease?”
Jewish Women's Journalism in the
English-Language Press

I quite realize that life would be simpler for you if you were able, as you say, to be completely the Jew or completely the non-Jew. Or if you could, as a Jew, be completely the nationalist or completely the religionist. … The position of the intellectual Jew in a modern complex society is by no means an easy one to maintain. But why should you ask for ease?

—Florence Kiper Frank

Florence Kiper Frank prefers the plight of “the intellectual,” who is faced with a range of political allegiances, to any one singular or “complete” positioning. As Frank embraces a layered politics, she also suggests the pleasure and inventiveness of women's political writing. In the period from 1900 to 1930, Native Americans faced BIA corruption, allotment, and increasing congressional control over Native resources; African Americans experienced disenfranchisement and legal and de facto segregation; and Jewish Americans faced limitations on immigration and a new wave of anti-Semitism, social exclusion, and deportation. Borrowing from each other, women in these communities developed a subtle and multivalent politics of incorporation in their intertwining discourses.

At times Native and Jewish women writers rejected discourses of Americanism that demanded conformity. At other times they argued for inclusion and political rights by revising patriotic rhetoric as we've seen of Native and African Americans during World War I. Jewish women also claimed a rhetoric of democracy but in the context of immigration restriction as I suggest below. The integrationist focus of women's reform work sometimes exacerbated tensions among communities of women. As we've seen, Fauset situated African Americans in opposition to “foreigners”to argue for a central position in the

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