In her brief career, Martha Wolfenstein was hailed as “the best Jewish sketch writer in America.” From the age of nine until her death, Wolfenstein lived in the Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum where her father, a rabbi, served as superintendent. She began not as a writer but a translator, bringing German writer Leopold Kompert’s stories of the Judengasse (Jewish street) to American audiences. In the 1890s she began publishing her own stories of “the Gass,” in both Jewish and mainstream literary journals, including Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The stories led to her 1901 novel, Idylls of the Gass, which featured strong female characters and a balance between portraying ghetto Jews in a positive light and recognizing the massive cultural shifts underway. The book earned positive reviews, as did her 1905 anthology, A Renegade and Other Tales. After Wolfenstein’s untimely death from tuberculosis, Cleveland’s Martha House for wayward girls was named in her memory.
More on Martha Wolfenstein
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Martha Wolfenstein." (Viewed on October 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/wolfenstein-martha>.