Anna Jacobson Schwartz is “a leading authority on economic history, monetary economics, international monetary systems, and monetary statistics,” according to the citation honoring her as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association (AEA) in 1993. Her voluminous publications in these areas have so far spanned a period of more than fifty years.
Anna Jacobson Schwartz was born on November 11, 1915, in New York City to Pauline (Shainmark) Jacobson and Hillel Jacobson, both of whom had immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe during the first decade of the century. Hillel Jacobson was a manager and responsible for rabbinical supervision of the Term used for ritually untainted food according to the laws of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws).kosher meat department of Swift and Co. Anna was the third of five children, including an older sister and brother and two younger brothers. At Camp Achvah, a Hebrew camp associated with a Hebrew afternoon high school, which she attended from 1930 to 1936, she met Isaac Schwartz, whom she married in 1936. Isaac Schwartz was, until his retirement, controller for an importing firm. The Schwartzes had four children—Jonathan, Paula, Naomi, and Joel.
After graduation from Barnard College and beginning graduate study at the Graduate Faculties of Columbia University, from which she received her M.A. in 1935 and her Ph.D. in 1964, Schwartz worked briefly at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1936 and then at the Columbia University Social Science Research Council, from 1936 to 1941. She then joined the National Bureau of Economic Research, where she has done most of her research and writing and where she remains a research associate. She has had a number of part-time academic associations, including Baruch, Brooklyn, and Hunter College of the City University of New York and New York University, and has been adjunct professor of economics at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York since 1986. One unusual interlude in her career occurred in 1981–1982, when she was staff director of the U.S. Gold Commission, a group of mostly political appointees charged with making recommendations on the future role of gold in the American monetary system.
Schwartz initially made her reputation in the field of quantitative economic history. That was the subject of her first journal article, in 1940, of a two-volume work coauthored with Arthur D. Gayer and Walt W. Rostow, published in 1953, and many papers since then. She is most widely known for three monumental books on American and British monetary history, coauthored with Milton Friedman. These books were described in the AEA citation as “the major force in reorienting the profession’s thinking … about the importance of the stock of money in cyclical fluctuations,” to the point where she was described by a critic as “the high priestess of monetarism.” A book consisting of appraisals of her work, edited by Michael D. Bordo, was published in 1989.
Schwartz has received many honors during her career. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1934 and received the Murray Fellowship awarded by Barnard College in 1934–1935. She was elected president of the Western Economic Association in 1987–1988, and has received honorary degrees from the University of Florida (1987), Stonehill College (1989), Iona College (1992), Rutgers University (1998), Emory University (2000), and the City University of New York (2000). The American Enterprise Institute and the Journal of Financial Services Research held a conference in her honor in April 2000.
Throughout her career, Anna Schwartz’s work has been distinguished by meticulous attention to detail and unsurpassed knowledge of data and sources of information on monetary and financial matters. She is always helpful to scholars needing help with such questions and exceptionally generous in reading manuscripts sent to her for advice and criticism.
American Economic Review 84, no. 4 (September 1994);
Bordo, Michael D., ed. Money, History, and International Finance: Essays in Honor of Anna J. Schwartz (1989);
Crittendon, Ann. “Baptism of Fire at Gold Panel.” NYTimes, January 20, 1982;
Schwartz, Anna. Conversations with author, and Curriculum Vitae. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass.
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Lipsey, Robert. "Anna Jacobson Schwartz." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 19, 2020) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/schwartz-anna-jacobson>.