JWA sponsored Andrea Kalinowski's Stories Untold: Jewish Pioneer Women 1850–1910 exhibition at the Boston Public Library (which ran April–May 2004) as part of our 350th anniversary program events.
Andrea Kalinowski brings together quotes from diaries and news stories, photographs, and quilt patterns to tell unique stories from these pioneer women's lives. In Western Pioneers, you will find excerpts from these diaries and memoirs, pictures of the women Kalinowski incorporated into her artwork, and additional pointers to online resources about Jewish women as pioneers of the American West.
Fanny Bruck was born in 1837, in the small village of Schweidnitz, Germany, one of six children. Fanny was well educated and graduated with high honors. She was only 16 years old when she met Julius Brooks, a young man who had been lured to America by stories of the Gold Rush in 1847 and who had returned after five years to visit his family. They married in Breslau, Germany, on August 18th, 1853, and journeyed to America.
Rachel first landed in New York. From there, she and Abraham journeyed to join his family already living on homesteads in North Dakota. They arrived in Devil's Lake in 1894. Rachel's memoir highlights her growing regard for her husband and her own struggle in adapting to the difficult conditions in which found herself. The early years were especially difficult—no privacy, extreme financial hardship, minimum fuel and food to get through the harsh winters.
Anna Rich Marks was born in Russian-occupied Poland in 1847. Raised in poverty and haunted by the constant threat of pogroms, she left Poland and traveled to England where she met and married Wolff Marks in 1862, at age fifteen. The couple ventured to America, eventually settling in Eureka City, a rich mining area sixty miles south of Salt Lake City. Anna Marks made her fortune in real estate. She owned controlling interests in two mines near Eureka and was known to have invested money in diamonds as well. Anna Marks died of a heart attack in Eureka City on April 19, 1912.
Fanny Sharlip was born in the small town of Borosna, Russia. In her memoirs written in 1947, she characterizes herself as a child "always hungry for knowledge. I asked too many questions. I was told over and over again that it was not healthy to know too much. I could not be harnessed by telling me that children don't have to know. That only made me more curious." Fanny loved school and was an excellent student. "I was very happy as only a child my age could be; I lived and breathed school.
Anna worked side by side with her husband. She ran Solomonville's store and the local hotel, all while raising their six children in a refined and cultured home in the midst of the desert southwest. Anna died in San Diego, California, in her late eighties on May 4, 1933.
Levi Spiegelberg followed his brother Solomon to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1848. Together they formed the partnership of Spiegelberg Brothers, an extremely successful merchant enterprise. Like many pioneer Jewish men, Levi wished to marry within his faith. Those who could afford the expense, often returned to Europe to find a Jewish bride. Betty married Levi in 1848. She arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1860's after taking the railroad to the end of the Missouri and then traveling up the steep Santa Fe Tail by ox train.
Willi along with his five other brothers had already established a thriving mercantile business in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Spiegelbergs were so financially successful that their wives and children were able to live luxuriously. For instance, by 1880, Willi and Flora, had the first house in Santa Fe with running water and gas appliances.
We know little about the Canadian pioneer woman known as Mrs. Zelickson. She came to Canada in 1891 and settled in Southern Saskatchewan in the Jewish pioneer colony of Hirsch. In the year 1925, she responded to an on-going discussion in the magazine Nor'-West Farmer on the topic of what a woman was worth. Her response combined a healthy dose of humor and self-assuredness.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Western Pioneers." (Viewed on October 9, 2015) <http://jwa.org/westernpioneers>.