A Generous Philanthropist
Beatrice Alexander, 1895 - 1990
In 1982, Alexander recalled that the Women's League for Palestine (now Women's League for Israel) had been a crucial factor in her entry into the business world. In the 1920s, she became involved with a group of women who, concerned about the fate of female immigrants to Palestine, founded the League to help provide the immigrants with homes and jobs. For several months, Alexander took money from the household budget to contribute to the League, but eventually her husband confronted her about the unpaid bills.
"I sat in the easy chair all night," Alexander remembered. "I said 'I am not going to stop doing this. I am not going to bed, I would have been asleep for Israel. What can I do where I can be left with fifty dollars a week...? ....That's all I spoke about, 'I must do something to earn money.' I had no trade, I had no profession.... All I knew was that I needed a few extra dollars to help those girls in Israel." She decided to start her own doll business to earn money to donate to the League.
As is often the case, the many years between event and recollection left their mark on Alexander's memory. Her decades of dedication to the Women's League—one of its homes in Jerusalem has named a rose garden in honor of her lifelong devotion—probably caused her to overstate its influence on her decision to start her own business; the Women's League was actually founded in 1928, five years after the Alexander Doll Company opened. Nonetheless, Alexander's philanthropic drive was an important motivation over her long business career.
Over the years, Alexander contributed to many Jewish and non-Jewish causes, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and the Einstein College of Medicine. A strong Zionist, she supported the American Technion Society, Women's American ORT, and the American Friends of Hebrew University as well as the Women's League. "I have gained more by my interest in Israel," she maintained, "than Israel has gained by the thousands of dollars I have given."
- Alexander discussed her memories of the Women's League in Madame Beatrice Alexander Oral History, 1982, in the American Jewish Committee Oral History Library of the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Women of Achievement series, at the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library. See also John Axe, "Exclusive Doll Reader Interview with Madame Alexander," Doll Reader, April 1984: 87.
- Quote beginning "I have gained more by..." cited in Dorey Finn Scott, "Madame Alexander A Living Doll," Palm Beach Daily News, March 7, 1982, A2