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Non-Fiction

Ariel Durant

Ida Kaufman was a recalcitrant student, but after observing a Ferrer Modern School class meeting in Central Park, New York City, she immediately enrolled herself and promptly fell in love with her teacher, William Durant, thirteen years her senior. On October 31, 1913, at age fifteen, she roller-skated to her civil wedding ceremony at City Hall. Her new husband, a gentile, renamed her Ariel after the Shakespearean character.

Sophia Dubnow-Erlich

Although the Jewish academic community has typically cast her as either the daughter of the historian Simon Dubnow or the wife of the Bundist leader Henryk Erlich, Sophia Dubnow-Erlich was in fact a poet, political activist, critic, translator, and memoirist in her own right. Her literary corpus tells the remarkable story of one Eastern European Jewish woman’s entry into two very disparate spheres of activity. Over a lifetime spanning 101 years (forty-four years spent in the United States), Dubnow-Erlich engaged in Jewish socialist party politics, on the one hand, and Russian Silver Age poetry, on the other.

Lucie Domeier

As a young woman Lucie Domeier (born Esther Gad) probably led a traditional Jewish life. Born in Breslau circa 1767, she married a merchant, Bernard, and bore two children—a son, Jonas, in c. 1791, and a daughter, Jeanette, in 1795. However, we soon find signs of her in the world of educated women, writers and philosophers.

Esther Dischereit

Esther Dischereit’s childhood and indeed her entire life were marked by her mother’s survival in hiding together with a daughter, born in 1937, from her first marriage. After the war, her mother married a German physician and had two daughters, of whom Esther, born in 1952 in Heppenheim in southern Hesse, was the younger. Her parents divorced when Esther was seven and the children lived with their mother, who saw to it that they were instructed in Jewish religion and customs. They attended Hebrew School at the Jewish Community in Darmstadt, participating in the Purim plays, and on Friday evenings an Orthodox rabbi came to their home. When Esther was fourteen her mother died and the children lived with the father and his new family, including a half-brother and half-sister, in a small town in northern Hesse. Esther developed rapidly. She completed gymnasium (high school) in record time and attended university briefly, “fleeing” from it because there were “too many superfluous words” (Gelebte Zeit…, 144). After getting a degree in education she wanted to become a teacher since “children are all that counted for me” (Übungen jüdisch…, 199). Her first book was a children’s book. But she had come of age with the rebellious generation of 1968 and had been active in the “red cells.” This precluded a career in a public school. She apprenticed as a typesetter and worked for several years in print shops, playing an active role in the trade union. She lives in Berlin with her two daughters and holds a position with the German Trade Union Federation.

Helene Deutsch

In 1923, Helene Deutsch became the first psychoanalyst to write a book about female psychology, called Psychoanalysis of the Sexual Functions of Women in English. Her interest in the subject, along with that of Karen Horney, helped to push her mentor Sigmund Freud, who did not like being left behind, into writing articles about female psychology. When Deutsch was completing her manuscript, she wrote to her husband, Felix, “It brings something new to this terra incognita in analysis—I believe, the first ray of light on the unappreciated female libido.” For her to draw attention to the female libido in that era was implicitly to amend Freud’s own outlook. At the same time, Deutsch was pioneering the importance of motherhood. Other psychoanalysts of the period, such as Otto Rank, Sandor Ferenczi, and Georg Groddeck, were also intrigued by the neglected role of mothering, but Deutsch was the one to insist on its special significance for female psychology. Although she always remained loyal to Freud’s conceptual framework, her writings were an outgrowth of her own personal experiences and insight.

Midge Decter

“Nerve,” according to activist-writer Midge Decter, is “the one thing all writers need.” Her own career has demonstrated this principle several times over, as Decter’s controversial opinions have put her at the center of public debates over issues such as feminism and foreign policy. A neoconservative who enjoys debunking cherished liberal beliefs, Decter has inspired both fury and respect among readers. Even those who disagree violently with her insist that hers is “an opinion to be reckoned with.”

Maya Deren

For a woman who was to transform film, it is fitting that Maya Deren was born in Russia in 1917, during the birth of the Revolution.

Born Eleanora Derenkowsky in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 29, 1917, the only child of Marie (Fiedler) and Solomon David Derenkowsky, she was named after Eleanora Duse, the eminent Italian actor.

Babette Deutsch

“How to sustain the miracle/Of being, that like a muted bell,/Or like some ocean-breathing shell,/Quivers, intense and still?” asked Babette Deutsch in her poem “Quandary.” Questions surrounding the miracle of life formed an important part of Babette Deutsch’s poetry. She also published many novels and works of literary criticism, but she is best known for her poetry, which was greatly influenced by Jewish themes and culture.

Vera Dean

In the preface to her book Builders of Emerging Nations (1961), Vera Dean poses the question, “What makes a leader?” While the book goes on to discuss the important qualities necessary to be a leader in the political arena, the story of Vera Dean’s life is a testament to her own leadership abilities. She helped shape American foreign policy and opinion on international relations, as both an educator and a writer.

Natalie Zemon Davis

Natalie Zemon Davis is a leading European historian, a pioneer in feminist studies, and one of the first women to assume a senior position in academic life. In 1987, when she served as president of the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization of historians in the United States, she became only the second woman ever to hold that post. Davis’s work has enriched historical understanding by challenging the boundaries of scholarly inquiry and broadening the scope of the historical profession.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Non-Fiction." (Viewed on August 3, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/non-fiction>.

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