Women of Valor


Immigrant Roots

Beatrice Alexander, 1895 - 1990

The woman who would become known as "Madame Alexander" was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 9, 1895. She was named Bertha but later adopted the more sophisticated "Beatrice."

Alexander's mother, Hannah Pepper, was born in Austria but arrived in the United States from Russia, where she had escaped vicious pogroms. Shortly thereafter, she met and married Maurice Alexander, who had left his native Odessa as a young man and spent several years as an apprentice in Germany before coming to America.

According to some of Alexander's descendents, Hannah was already pregnant with Beatrice when she came to the United States, after her first husband and older children died in a pogrom in Russia. Others believe that the couple came together to New York and that the husband died when Beatrice was about a year and a half old. Regardless, Beatrice adored her step-father Maurice and always considered him her real father.

Beatrice and her sisters Rose, Florence, and Jean grew up on Grand Street on the Lower East Side, in the heart of New York's teeming immigrant community. Poverty was often extreme in this neighborhood, where a myriad of different languages and different cultures existed side by side. Like most of their neighbors, Hannah and Maurice had come to the United States filled with expectations, and they had even higher hopes for their children's future than they did for their own. The Alexander girls were encouraged to work hard, do well in school, and aim high.

  1. Stephanie Finnegan, et. al., Madame Alexander Dolls: An American Legend (Portfolio Press, 1999).

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Beatrice Alexander - Immigrant Roots." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/alexander/immigrant-roots>.