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Madeline Brandeis

1897 – 1937

by Suzanne Oshinsky

In her dedication to her 1929 book, The Little Swiss Wood-Carver, Madeline Brandeis, children’s author and producer and director of travel films, sounded her unique multicultural note: “To every child of every land,/Little Sister, Little Brother,/As in this book your lives unfold,/May you learn to love each other.” Until her untimely death, Brandeis traveled the world in search of stories to tell, aiming the lens of her camera at the lives of her characters.

Madeline (Frank) Brandeis was born on December 18, 1897, in San Francisco, to Albert and Mattie (Ehrman) Frank and attended Miss Burke’s School there. She married E. John Brandeis on January 28, 1918, and had a daughter, Marie Madeline. Brandeis married a second time, to Dr. Joseph A. Sampson, on October 5, 1933. They lived in New York City.

Brandeis began her writing career at a time when children’s literature was just coming into its own. The publication of dozens of her titles for children and adolescents, including the Children of All Lands series (1933) and the novel Six Face the World (1938), reflected the explosion in the quantity and quality of books for children that began in the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to illustrating her books with photographs from her travels, Brandeis took up the movie camera in her role as producer of eight motion pictures for children. Her work does not deal overtly with her own Jewish identity, although the themes of respect for different cultural and national heritages and of passing down family traditions and values resound in her books. In The Little Swiss Wood-Carver, the poor mountain boy of Switzerland keeps the memory of his artist father alive in his own work; and in The Little Spanish Dancer (1931), the young dancer is reminded of how her Spanish foremothers, despite persecution, secretly took their daughters into the dim light of caves in order to teach them the art of the dance.

Madeline Brandeis died on June 28, 1937, at age thirty-nine in Gallup, New Mexico, of injuries suffered in an automobile accident.


Adventures in Hollywood (1937); Carmen of the Golden Coast (1935); Jack of the Circus (1931); Little Anne of Canada (1931); The Little Dutch Tulip Girl (1929); Little Farmer of the Middle West (1937); The Little Indian Weaver (1928); Little Jeanne of France (1929); Little John of New England (1936); The Little Mexican Donkey Boy (1931); Little Pepito of Central America (1941); Little Phillipe of Belgium (1930); Little Rose of the Mesa (1935); The Little Spanish Dancer (1931); The Little Swiss Wood-Carver (1929); Little Tom of England (1935); Little Tony of Italy (1934); Mitz and Fritz of Germany (1933); Shaun O’Day of Ireland (1929); The Wee Scotch Piper (1929).


Obituary. NYTimes, June 29, 1937, 21:2; WWIAJ (1938).

More on: Film, Fiction
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How to cite this page

Oshinsky, Suzanne. "Madeline Brandeis." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 20, 2017) <>.


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