Jewish Women in Travel - Joanna Eckstein
A travel scrapbook held by University of Washington's Jewish Archives Project contains a 1947 cartoon depicting Seattle Times travel writer Joanna Eckstein on an escapade. The itinerant author (looking like Lois Lane) rounds a London street corner and collides with William Shakespeare, attired in his Elizabethan best. Shakespeare greets her with a courtly bow and a surprisingly informal, "I'm Will!" Eckstein, exuding youthful exuberance and a keen sense of female independence, evidently expects the world to meet her on her terms. She responds with an enthusiastic "I'm Jo!" A Seattle native born in 1903, Eckstein claimed to have visited every continent in her lifetime, beginning with a four-month-long trip to China and Japan in 1936. Her meticulous scrapbooks and writings chronicle the opening of world travel to Americans, Jews, and above all women. The cartoon humorously illustrates four uneasy crossroads of her encounter with Shakespeare—time, place, gender, and vitality.
Eckstein offered her readers a fresh perspective on places and peoples. This was particularly true as she traveled through Europe, reporting on the progress of post-war recovery. "An afternoon spent walking through the Tuileries Gardens," she wrote, "showed many improvements since my last visit. The children no longer are thin and quiet and poorly dressed. They are fat and pink and noisy and dressed in the high style so long traditional with the French." In Munich, she reported, "the living accommodations are clean and comfortable but there are no elevators working, no telephones in the rooms, bathroom facilities of all kinds frequently break down or fall apart, push buttons do not work, and much of the building is under reconstruction to a continual din of hammering and pounding." Beyond her observations of fashion and domestic settings, Eckstein also offered reports on subjects ranging from opera's reemergence in Rome, to German resentment over the territorial division of their country, to her participation in the tenth conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations in England.
Joanna Eckstein's travels exposed her Seattle readers to a world that while still far removed from the Pacific Northwest was already moving closer to their lives. As this vibrant American Jewish woman traveled the globe, she was able to put a human face on an often confusing post-war world.
Sources and excerpts for this page were drawn from Joanna Eckstein's articles as printed in the Seattle Times ("Munich, Short of Housing Bears Many Scars of War" circa 1950; "Joanna Eckstein Finds Paris Outwardly Bright and Gay", Sunday, April 30, 1950) as well as Pamela Brown Lavitt's article "Women of Vision: A Fellow Reports from the Field," from the Jewish Women's Archive's Re://collections, Vo. III Issue I, Spring 2001.