Bessie Bloom Wessel
1889 – 1969
Bessie Bloom Wessel was unique in her contributions to life in New England, both as an active citizen and as a scholar. A charter member of Temple Beth-el of New London, Connecticut, Wessel served on many important committees and published numerous studies of ethnic issues in the region.
She was born on April 22, 1889, in Ukraine to Max and Celia (Sergei) Bloom. The Bloom family came to the United States in 1891. Bessie Wessel earned a B.A. from Brown University in 1911, and an M.A. (1924) and a Ph.D. (1935) from Columbia University. From 1911 to 1915, she served as director of the Immigrant Educational Bureau of Providence, Rhode Island. In 1918, she began as an instructor in economics and sociology at Connecticut College in New London; twenty years later, she became a professor and the chair of the department of social science. While on a leave of absence from Connecticut College between 1925 and 1928, she lectured and directed a study of ethnic issues in community life at Brown University’s graduate school, and continued that study until 1930. In 1945, she became a professor in and chair of the department of social anthropology, a position she held until her retirement in 1953. Wessel also taught classes for immigrants at the Doyle Avenue School.
She served on many committees, including the Committee of Public Welfare (an advisory committee to the city manager of New London) from 1932 to 1935; on the New London Community Forum, as a member of the National Conference on Jewish Relations and on the National Conference of Christians and Jews; and the American Association of Social Workers (sitting on the National Housing Committee from 1934 to 1936). Wessel was a member of the American Sociological Society and a member of the executive committee of the Eastern Sociological Society, and served a term as president of the Connecticut State Conference of Social Work in 1934. In 1938, she was a member of the advisory committee of the Red Cross Disaster Program.
Bessie Bloom Wessel was married to Morris J. Wessel, and had one child, a son, Morris Arthur, who was born November 1, 1917. Wessel died on April 11, 1969. Among her many ethnic studies, the best known is An Ethnic Survey of Woonsocket, R.I., published in 1931 by the University of Chicago Press.
BEOAJ; Rhode Island Herald, April 25, 1969; Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association, Providence, R.I.; UJE; WWIAJ (1938).