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 Trail rectifies 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.
“Jeanne E. Abrams enriches our understanding of Jewish women and the ways in which, through practical and spiritual commitments, they promoted Judadism, extended the reach of its rituals, spread knowledge of its tenets, and guaranteed their faith a permanent and vibrant presence in the American West.”
-American Jewish History
“Abrams has written a sweeping, challenging, and provocative history of Jewish women in the American West. . . . Overall, Jewish Women is a pathbreaking work. . . . It is a fast and engrossing read. As a piece of scholarly writing it should be required reading in any course on the American West that seeks to broaden the definition of what it means to be a Westerner.”
-Colorado Book Review Center
“Respected authority Abrams breaks new ground with this work broadly researched in newspapers, memoirs, correspondence, other archival materials, and a vast secondary literature.”
“[This book] is a landmark of scholarship in Western Women’s history.”
-Oregon Historical Quarterly
“Abram’s pathbreaking study is filled with remarkable stories, attesting to the fact that Jewish women played a prominent role in commerce, politics, education, the professions, and religious life.”