Jewish Women on the Map - Rockland County
The July 10, 1948, edition of the New Yorker magazine included as its fiction selection Hortense Calisher's short story "The Middle Drawer," her first published work. The daughter of a Southern Jewish perfume-maker and a German immigrant, Calisher was born on December 20, 1911, in New York City, and educated at Barnard College where she studied English and philosophy.
After working briefly for the New York Department of Public Welfare, Calisher married, moved to the suburbs of Rockland County, and occupied herself mainly with raising two sons. She later said that she had composed "The Middle Drawer" while walking her son to school. Like much of her later work, this O. Henry Award-winning story drew upon themes of Calisher's own life. Most of Calisher's fiction features Jewish characters, but their ethnic identity is usually part of the background rather than a dramatic element. She eventually wrote fifteen novels, seven volumes of short fiction, and two memoirs. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989.