Called the “grandmother of American puppetry“ for her definitive history of puppets and marionettes, Helen Haiman Joseph was also known for her own practice of the craft as a talented designer and director. Joseph earned degrees from both Vassar and what would become Case Western University in 1910 before joining the Cleveland Play House as a puppeteer. From 1914–1920 she directed Marionette Productions at the Play House. Married in 1918 and widowed the following year, Joseph published her Book of Marionettes in 1920 and took her two toddlers on a three-year European tour, studying with various marionette workshops. In 1924 she returned to Cleveland and created the Pinocchio Players, writing and producing plays for clubs, schools, and hospitals. She designed and created marionettes, trained puppeteers, and directed and promoted her own plays. She toured the country with her troupe, only stopping when too many of her puppeteers were drafted in WWII. She did odd jobs during the war from factory work to writing advertising copy, then resumed her puppeteering after the war. She also wrote several books of plays for puppets, accompanied by sets of marionettes, which were popular items in toy stores.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Helen Joseph." (Viewed on March 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/joseph-helen>.