Anzia Yezierska turned the frustrations and indignities she suffered in New York’s tenements into novels and short stories that depicted the lives of Jewish immigrants. Yezierska left home for the Clara De Hirsch Home for Working Girls to pursue her education, invented a high school degree to apply to Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1901, and taught elementary school from 1908–1913. In 1915, she published her first short story, “Free Vacation House,” about the humiliations charitable organizations unwittingly perpetrate on the women they claim to help. In 1920, her collection Hungry Hearts briefly brought her to Hollywood, but she found she couldn’t work as a screenwriter and returned her $100,000 advance. Her first novel, Salome of the Tenements, published in 1923, drew on the experiences of her friend Rose Pastor Stokes, a famed labor organizer, although she is best known for her 1925 Bread Givers. She also wrote book reviews for the New York Times. Her short stories and novels reused various tropes—the hapless immigrant man, the patronizing social worker, and the gentile savior who rescues the bright immigrant woman—and her work fell into obscurity until the 1975 reissue of Bread Givers.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Anzia Yezierska." (Viewed on February 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/yezierska-anzia>.