A descendent of prominent families whose American roots traced back before the Revolutionary War, Alice Davis Menken devoted her career to helping immigrant women and children get a fresh start. Menken co-founded the sisterhood at her synagogue, Shearith Israel, in 1896 and served as its president from 1900–1929. But her main work was with immigrant juvenile delinquents, first through the sisterhood’s Neighborhood House, then, in 1907, by founding the Jewish Board of Guardians to oversee parole for juvenile offenders. Over time, she chaired the board’s Department of Court, Probation, and Parole and eventually became their vice president. In 1911 she helped found the Jewish Big Sister movement. Menken also helped women in trouble—she chaired a committee of the National Council of Jewish Women working with women parolees, served as board secretary of the New York State Reformatory for Women from 1922–1932, and even housed delinquent young women in her home, showing them she had faith that they could make something better of their lives. She wrote extensively on the effectiveness of reform and rehabilitation over punishment and lectured across the country on the power of social work to transform lives.
More on Alice Davis Menken
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Alice Davis Menken." (Viewed on August 15, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/menken-alice>.