American Jewish women in the 1950s found ways to negotiate the domestic pressures of Postwar America, making their mark as social activists, intellectuals, artists, businesswomen, and religious leaders, a group of historians conclude in a new book, A Jewish Feminine Mystique? Jewish Women in Postwar America (Rutgers University Press, Oct.), edited by three New York University scholars. The volume offers a historical account that differs sharply from the cardboard image of the decade’s housewives portrayed by Betty Friedan in her groundbreaking 1963 book, The Feminist Mystique.
Other scholars have previously argued that Friedan’s thesis did not fit the experiences of working-class women and women of color, but still assumed that it applied to all white, middle-class women. A Jewish Feminine Mystique? is the first to counter Friedan’s conclusions about a white, middle-class group. By looking at Jewish women, this book challenges this classic work.
A Jewish Feminine Mystique? is co-edited by Hasia Diner, the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at NYU, and Shira Kohn and Rachel Kranson, both doctoral candidates in NYU’s joint Ph.D. program in history and Hebrew and Judaic studies.
The book includes more than a dozen articles, among them: “Some of Us Were There before Betty: Jewish Women and Political Activism in Postwar Miami”; “The Bad Girls of Jewish Comedy: Gender, Class, Assimilation, and Whiteness in Postwar America”; “Negotiating New Terrain: Egyptian Women at Home in America”; and “We Were Ready to Turn the World Upside Down: Radical Feminism and Jewish Women.”
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