“Life is a mirage and life is an effort—and the fullness of life for every individual depends on the strength and beauty of his vision and the strength and beauty of his effort.” These words are from the first paragraph of I Believe—Today, written by Rose Haas Alschuler in the 1920s. Alschuler was a prolific writer, lecturer, and educator, and in the later part of her life, she contributed to the development and growth of the State of Israel.
Rose was the third child of Mary (Greenebaum) and Charles Haas, born on December 17, 1887, and raised in Chicago. One of her aunts was Hannah Greenebaum Solomon. Rose was educated at Vassar College (1905–1906) and the University of Chicago (1904–1905, 1906–1907). In 1907, Rose Haas married Alfred Alschuler, a famous architect, who was the first to use reinforced concrete in Chicago and designed numerous synagogues and public buildings. They had five children: Marion (b. 1909), Frances (1910–1986), Alfred S., Jr. (b. 1911), Richard (1915–1989), and John (b. 1918).
When the children were young, Rose Alschuler became very interested in the education of preschool and kindergarten children. She initiated a kindergarten program in Chicago that included her two older children and a child study group for couples.
Alfred and Rose Alschuler moved to Winnetka, a suburb of Chicago, in 1915, at a time when there were very few Jewish people living in the suburbs. Alschuler was a founding member, the first secretary (1922–1928), and a teacher for the first Sabbath school of North Shore Congregation Israel, the first Reform synagogue in the northern suburbs.
In 1922, Alschuler and her cousin Charlotte Kuh started the Children’s Community School, the first nursery school in Chicago. It closed in 1926. From 1926 to 1931, Alschuler was the organizer and director of the Franklin Public School, the first nursery school to be affiliated with the Chicago Board of Education and the first public nursery school in the United States. The Elizabeth McCormick Fund provided health care and the Institute for Juvenile Research did case studies and provided psychological support for the school, which was under the auspices of the Chicago Woman’s Club. In 1931, the school moved to Chicago Normal College, and Rose Alschuler continued her involvement until she moved in 1941.
Alschuler organized and was director of the following nursery schools: Winnetka Public School Nursery and Junior Kindergarten (1928–1940); Garden Apartment Nursery School (1928–1933), a project endowed by Julius Rosenwald; and eighteen Work Projects Administration nurseries (1933–1940). In 1930, Alschuler was a member of the Committee of the Infant and Preschool Child of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection.
Alschuler was the chair for the Opportunity Through Education Round Table at the International Congress of Women held in Chicago in 1933. From 1938 to 1940, Alschuler was one of only two women who sat on the board of directors for the Federation of Jewish Charities of Chicago. While on the board, she focused on Jewish education. Alschuler was the first North Shore chair of the North Shore United Jewish Appeal in 1940–1941.
After her husband’s death, she relocated to Washington, D.C., where she became chair of the National Commission for Young Children from 1941 to 1943, and was also a consultant for the Federal Housing Authority from 1941 to 1944.
After World War II, Alschuler traveled numerous times to Israel and became active in soliciting for Israel Bonds. Alschuler was instrumental in developing the concept of parlor meetings, which became a successful means to solicit funds for Israel Bonds. Alschuler’s work helped to change the anti-Zionist attitude that was prevalent among many of the affluent Jews living in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
She published four books and numerous articles. An international guest speaker at early childhood education conferences, she appeared on radio broadcasts, and in 1955 she was highlighted on the Columbia Broadcasting Company radio and newspaper series This I Believe.
Rose Haas Alschuler lived a full and active life that combined the role of motherhood with a career in the pioneer field of early childhood education. Her high level of expertise enabled her to become a popular speaker and respected writer. In response to the Holocaust and her visits to Israel, Alschuler’s focus shifted to supporting the State of Israel through philanthropic work. Rose Haas Alschuler died on July 4, 1979.
SELECTED WORKS BY ROSE HAAS ALSCHULER
Bits and Pieces of Family Lore. Family history (1962); Children’s Centers: A Guide for Those Who Care For and About Children (1942); Painting and Personality: A Study of Young Children, with LaBerta Hattwick (1947); Play—the Child’s Response to Life (with Christine Heinig) (1937); Two to Six (1933).
Alschuler, Rose Haas. Papers. Special Collections Department, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago from Shtetl to Suburb (1966).
Lebeson, Anita Libman. Recall to Life—The Jewish Woman in America (1970).
Marcus, Jacob R. The American Jewish Woman (1981).
McCree, Mary Lynn. Oral History Interview with Rose Haas Alschuler (1973). Edited by Richard H. Alschuler (1985).
Obituary. Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1979.
Walton, Clyde C., ed. Illinois Lives: The Prairie State Biographical Record (1969).
Who’s Who in World Jewry (1972).
Who’s Who of American Women 1 (1958–1959).
WWIAJ (1926, 1928, 1938).
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Bornstein, Sandra K.. "Rose Haas Alschuler." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 1, 2020) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/alschuler-rose-haas>.