Matters of Education

Learning Happens Everywhere

The Power of the Purse

Original Publication Date: January 2010


A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes that many contemporary philanthropists are “dissatisfied with how much social change they have been able to create.”[i] Those interviewed for this compelling piece may or may not take comfort in the knowledge that the ability to effect change has long eluded the most passionate and persistent benefactors. Over a century ago, the rapid changes wrought by urbanization, immigration and industrialization led to enormous dislocation and hardship. Compassionate and concerned individuals and groups in the United States responded with time, money, and energy. Yet they too found that they not could not control the results of their efforts as much as they would have liked.

This article explores the philanthropy of American Jewish women in the United States from 1890 to 1917, the time of mass migration of over 2 million Jews into this country. Much of this assistance was provided by the quarter million Jews who had been in the United States for a generation or more. The newcomers created their own support networks but my focus will be on the efforts of the established community. While primarily a response to genuine hardship, there was also a pervasive concern with “how would it look?” How would it make all Jews look? For as much as the Jews in the United States understood their own divisions by class, religion, culture and politics, they were aware that those in the mainstream society did not make such distinctions.

The link between image and behavior was clear in the minds of many of those providing support. These philanthropic efforts were designed to make a virtue out of the necessity of helping immigrant and indigent Jews. Both providers and recipients needed to behave in a virtuous manner. Differences arose over what was proper and worthy. Which image should they pursue on behalf of their co-religionists and for themselves? Whose version should and would prevail? Members of the established community pursued those activities which indicated that they accepted the prevailing negative images of their co-religionists. It would be best to change their behavior. And this is where they limited their ability to effect change.

History is about choices—what options were available and who got to make them. When it comes to philanthropy, funding matters. Money played an important role in conferring power within the Jewish world. Given limited financial resources, what disagreements existed over spending priorities and who was in a position to resolve these differences? To what extent did the control over funds affect the ability to control both behavior and public image? Often those providing money were not those who implemented these social services. What impact did this gulf, and the even wider chasm with the recipients, have on the ability to control group image and alter behavior?

At this point in history, men held the strings of the largest purses and frequently decided on which charitable efforts these finite financial resources would be spent. For the purposes of our understanding then, American Jewish women were often both providers and recipients of philanthropy. The Baron de Hirsch Fund (the Fund) can serve as an illustration of American Jewish men at this time. The endowed trust of $2.4 million was led by the elite of the community, such as Jacob Schiff and Oscar Straus. The Fund spent the income from the trust, approximately $150,000 each year, on a variety of projects. Its pet activities promoted two great founding images of America for immigrant Jewish men—that of the yeoman farmer and artisan craftsman. The Fund spent disproportionate amounts of money on agricultural and industrial training. Half of its annual budget went to the Baron de Hirsch Trade School and the Agricultural School at the Woodbine Colony.[ii]

American Jewish women held different sensibilities about that which they deemed to be worthy, both in terms of their own actions and those of the women they assisted. Many women of all faiths were involved in philanthropic activity during this time. Early efforts reflected the “cult of domesticity” which pervaded the latter decades of the nineteenth century and allowed for volunteerism among middle class women. Seen as being morally superior to men, women were charged with inculcating the proper values in their own families, and by extension, to be the caretakers of society. This ideal provided justification for women’s charitable activities outside the home, and for Jewish women this led to the formation of female benevolent societies and synagogue auxiliaries. Women participated in fundraising activities although they allowed men to allocate funds and serve in advisory capacities on their boards. After 1900, the work of many women’s organizations began to include the Progressive approach as professionals replaced volunteers and more centralized efforts prevailed, emphasizing prevention and efficiency.[iii]

Jewish women provided lectures, concerts, civics lessons, classes in hygiene, and reading rooms. They created gender specific educational opportunities in domestic and industrial training. The Young Ladies’ Charitable Union founded an Industrial School for Girls in 1881. In Philadelphia in 1885, the Young Women’s Union started a kindergarten to care for children so their mothers could work. In 1897, the Baroness de Hirsch founded a home for domestic training. These Jewish women tried to create what they deemed wholesome recreational opportunities and sponsored dances and social outings. They arranged trips to the country and week-long stays at group vacation homes.[iv]

A primary goal of many of the Jewish women’s groups was to save or prevent female newcomers from succumbing to the evils of urban America, specifically entering the world of prostitution. Unlike most of the men of their strata, they acknowledged this problem and tried to remove those factors which contributed to Jewish involvement in the global trafficking of women. They believed that proper intervention could prevent the “falling” of Jewish females, hence the attitude toward new arrivals expressed by the Directress of the Recreation Rooms of the National Council of Jewish Women, that these girls were “neither absolutely virtuous or totally vicious.”[v]

Their philanthropy reflected a class based understanding of the problems their intended recipients faced. These American Jewish women urged what they deemed to be proper and decorous behavior, and their activities mandated a politics of respectability. They believed that the actions of these girls affected the entire Jewish community. Despite good intentions, the providers frequently failed to understand the values and aspirations of the immigrant women they assisted.[vi]

This article presents four types of philanthropic activities—at the port of arrival, efforts at urban removal, domestic training, and assistance in the immigrant neighborhood.   A single case study for each will allow for an exploration of the work done, image pursued, access to funds, and effectiveness of efforts. Conflicts over funding often reflected deeper concerns over the image associated with the efforts undertaken on behalf of the immigrants and indigent. These middle class Jewish women were often simultaneously in the roles of both recipient and provider.

The power of the recipient is essential to understanding the effectiveness of Jewish philanthropy during this era. Included in this category are many of the Jewish women’s organizations that received money from the Fund and other powerful donors controlled by the male elite. Individuals and associations ignored that which did not incorporate their own self-image or the one they desired for their intended recipients. Most importantly, the ability to finance these activities was no guarantor of their effectiveness. Perhaps there will be a lesson for today’s philanthropists, the past illuminating the path ahead regarding the extent and limit to effect social change.


The National Council for Jewish Women (the Council) was founded in 1893 to promote study and religious learning for Jewish women in the United States. A group of women convened the Jewish Women’s Committee in the Parliament of Religion at the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. Sadie American, an educator and social welfare worker from Chicago, presented the final paper of the session which called for the formation of a national religious Jewish organization. Its members would promote their own religious observance inside the group and extol their Americanism outside of it. They would address the two biggest challenges that American Jews faced, prejudice from without and assimilation from within. Miss American promised that they would respond to contemporary anti-Semitism not as Jews but in the language of universal humanism.[vii]

The majority of the women who joined the National Council were like its first president, Hannah Solomon, who typified the married clubwoman. Sadie American represented the professional social welfare worker and was one of the few single women in the Council. In many ways, Sadie American was a unique individual, although her activities were similar to many others involved in Jewish and Progressive causes. In 1901, Miss American moved to New York City, and the Council’s emphasis shifted from Chicago and religious education to New York and immigrant aid work. Because so many of the immigrants came through Ellis Island, it made sense for this chapter of the national organization to direct efforts to assist the newcomers. The New York Section, in number and persona, reflected the majority of the National Council.[viii]

The National Council did not gradually shift toward social welfare activities merely because of Sadie American’s interests or influence. Many of the women who joined this organization were also involved in a variety of philanthropic efforts. It became natural to use the Council’s extensive apparatus to address the many problems facing an industrializing American society. While some resources existed for those individuals already in trouble, the leaders of the Council believed that it was imperative to create a full chain of protection for these young women. To translate these concerns into action, the Council provided assistance from port of arrival, educational and employment opportunities, and safe and clean housing accommodations.

A primary goal became preventing immigrant girls from falling prey to the dangerous and evil influences which were prevalent in the urban environment. The premise that immigrant women and girls had a special set of needs which male organizations could not address permeated this activism. These Jewish newcomers needed more than guidance; they had to be protected from their harmful surroundings. Council members held somewhat contradictory views. They presumed that all of these new arrivals shared their definition of and desire for purity. However, these middle-class activists could not ignore what they deemed immoral, the recreational pursuits of many of these young women. Their solution was to monitor the behavior of the single, immigrant women, with a special focus on those prone to ‘waywardness’. As then head of the New York Section, Rebecca Kohut, noted in 1900, the good girls were already on a positive path; they took classes at the Educational Alliance. The Council needed to address “the pleasure loving, the frivolous girl–the girl who after working all day, wants fun at night and must have it.”[ix]

It became important that the Council provide assistance rather than have Jewish females come under the sway of the various Protestant forces addressing similar problems in the city. Council women felt that the only way to prevent what they perceived as negative behavior was to let these ‘girls’ develop the best in themselves. A positive image of these newcomers could be put forth only if they were provided with the chance to develop genuinely moral and pure characters. Despite the concern that Council members showed for these young women, they also expressed the sentiment that if their organization did not address these issues, the immigrant girls might pass on their weaknesses to the next generation. Their current behavior would certainly confirm the opinions of anti-Semites and support the claims of those calling for restricted immigration.[x]

Many Progressive institutions placed their faith in classes to enable the poor and immigrants to improve their situation. The New York Section opened a recreation room in 1898 at 79 Orchard Street and established reading rooms there three years later. These institutions offered classes in shirt-waist making, millinery, embroidery, cooking, physical culture, elocution, and literature.   On Friday nights there were lectures on Jewish history and literature, and on Saturday evenings, dances. The immigrant girls also formed their own clubs within these recreational facilities.[xi]

The New York Section, under the leadership of Sadie American from 1904 to 1916, was always trying to expand its efforts and eager to hire additional staff to handle the increased volume of work. They tried to help those already in trouble and stationed women at the courts and reformatories. Section members also helped maintain a Jewish home for wayward girls on Staten Island. By 1904, it became clear that the New York Section needed to extend the chain of protection outside of the immigrant community and provide assistance from the moment of arrival. Council leaders felt that the male agents from the United Hebrew Charities and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society were not able to tend to the needs of those Jewish females who arrived alone.[xii]

The Section stationed Bertha Meirowitz at Ellis Island to help with officials, provide information about available resources, supply clothes, assist with transportation, and make sure friends or relatives meeting unaccompanied females were of a reputable character. She investigated each Jewish woman who arrived alone at Ellis Island and kept detailed records. Each week Mrs. Meirowitz submitted a report to the Section President that included data on the nationality, occupation, marital status, literacy, and destination of each Jewish woman. She also listed all of those detained by immigration officials, their current status, and if applicable, reasons for deportation. Section members even tried to help the immigrant girls prior to their departure for this country. The Council printed a leaflet that was distributed in Russian and European ports. The circular provided information on obtaining assistance from the Council for employment, health care, and lodging and warned the European emigrants of potential dangers and restrictions they might face in the United States.[xiii]

For those who were not intending to stay in New York, the Section used the other branches of the National Council to implement and guarantee their safe arrival to destinations throughout the United States. In February 1911, the National Council decided to station representatives at other ports as well and formed a national Committee on Immigrant Aid, headed by Sadie American. The New York Section also wanted to have professional investigators conduct subsequent checks on the well being of those who had traveled beyond its jurisdiction.[xiv]

Council members preferred to confront smaller problems early rather than massive ones later. The headworkers at the Section’s Reading and Recreation Rooms proposed building lodging houses now which “are cheaper in the end than hospitals and rescue homes and agents to route stray girls out of improper surroundings.” The prevention of impurity was not the only issue. These social welfare advocates understood the larger impact of improper behavior by poor Jewish women, that it “would feed the zeal of restrictionists.”[xv]

This project was just one of many that Section members proposed. Although the ambitions of the New York Section were unlimited, its access to financial resources was. The national organization charged annual dues of one dollar and despite increasing membership, this sum was not enough to cover its various activities. Initially, the New York Section relied on methods women’s organizations traditionally used–teas, raffles, donations, etc. The scope of its activities necessitated direct solicitation of funds. The Section turned most frequently to the wealthy endowed trust, the Baron de Hirsch Fund. In 1902 the Executive Committee of the Fund pledged an annual sum to maintain the reading rooms and in 1904, agreed to pay Mrs. Meirowitz’s salary. The Fund gave the Section an annual subsidy for its immigrant aid work.[xvi]

The relationship between the New York Section and the Fund was complex, and certainly affected by the strident personality of Sadie American. The male elite objected to much more than her specific attitude and actions. One concern reflected contemporary understandings of the poor. The Fund’s leaders insisted that recipients prove their worthiness. Donations should not be based on emotional appeal but a systematic assessment of the effect the support would have. Members of the Fund’s Executive Committee did not apply these standards consistently and often preferred to provide money rather than have these organizations solicit for them publicly. Such fund raising activities might draw attention to problems within the Jewish community and suggest a group whose members were not able to survive independently in America. Those soliciting funds understood these goals and shaped their requests accordingly.   In her frequent requests, Sadie American claimed that additional money from the Fund would help them be more efficient in their operations and also prevent Jewish girls from falling into wayward lives and bringing disgrace to the Jewish community.[xvii]

She did not always behave in such a solicitous manner and her abrasive style frequently challenged the authority of the Fund’s leadership.   When the Fund refused to help support the Section’s Home for Wayward Girls on Staten Island in 1909 on the grounds that this endeavor was beyond the scope of their trust, she responded with examples of similar efforts that the Fund had endorsed. Two years later, Fund President Eugene Benjamin was wary of denying her another request for a loan and explained to the Fund’s Committee on Immigration “that in view of the importunate character of this lady, I do not care to take it upon myself the responsibility of acting alone” and requested that the other three be present to communicate the rejection. Max Kohler, the Fund’s Honorary Secretary and Chair of its Committee on Immigration, joined him to impart the negative response to American.[xviii]

The Fund sent contradictory messages to the organizations it subsidized. It wanted them to use their own money but discouraged them from the various methods necessary to acquire it. Membership dues, subscriptions, and donations were acceptable to the Executive Committee, but public solicitation would reflect badly on the entire Jewish community. Association with the Fund also hurt the fund raising efforts of these organizations. American explained to the Executive Committee that the public was unwilling to make contributions to the New York Section for these activities because of the prevailing impression that the Fund paid for all Ellis Island work.[xix]

The biggest concern of the male leadership of the Fund was on the actual work of the New York Section. They genuinely questioned the wisdom of the work Miss American and her sister activists pursued on behalf of the immigrants. In 1911, the Fund would not endorse a request to the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), a London based trust that was also the recipient of the Baron de Hirsch’s largess. At that time, the New York Section requested $2,500. from the JCA to help establish a national committee on immigration to organize and supervise the protection of these young women. The Fund objected to the Section’s monitoring of the “sheet system” (name contemporaries used for the systematic way in which poor working girls were lured into prostitution) as “no other race has deemed it advisable or necessary to establish this check up system.”[xx]

Fund leaders believed the Section’s work reflected badly on the entire Jewish community. The official minutes of the Executive Committee merely stated that the request had been denied, but a handwritten note that accompanied the Fund’s Committee on Immigration’s report on this matter to the Executive Committee explained: “The immigration work of the National Council of Jewish Women is of a police character. It is not the best policy to keep tabs on Jewish girls, as it conveys the impression that Jewish girls need more watching than girls of other nationalities and that it is not the province of the Fund to encourage this kind of work.”[xxi]

The limited amount the Fund allocated for work at the port brought women’s groups into tension with one another, with the male elite frequently serving in the role as arbiter. In 1915, a series of problems resulted in both the New York Section and the now estranged Immigrant Aid Committee of the National Council petitioning for the annual subsidy. The two sides submitted their cases to the Fund’s Committee on Immigration which made final decisions on all finances in these matters. In June, 1915, this Committee, comprised of Max Kohler, Nathan Bijur, and Abraham Elkus, issued its opinion and informed both the National Council and New York Section that the Fund’s primary goal was harmony among the societies it subsidized. The New York Section, as long as it cooperated with the National Council, would continue to receive the subsidy from the Fund.[xxii]

This split between the national organization and local section was caused by many factors, including American’s style and substance, all of which culminated in a hastily called meeting of the Section on September 20, 1915. Although Miss American had not announced it in advance, she planned to have the members vote on a motion to secede from the National Council. Only 60 of the Section’s 1700 members were in attendance, but American took the vote. By a margin of 33 to 27, the New York Section seceded from the National Council. After this action, the Fund reconsidered and within a month withdrew its subsidy from the Section, citing the organization’s refusal to meet the conditions specified by the Fund’s Committee on Immigrant Aid or cooperate with the National Council. The Council’s Department of Immigrant Aid, no longer headed by Sadie American, would now receive this annual sum.[xxiii]

Again, conflict arose and women chose to have men resolve their disputes. A week after the secession vote, the membership of the New York Section held a protest meeting. Those for and against secession agreed to submit their case to a board of three arbitrators, Simon Rosedale, Samson Lachman, and Edgar Nathan. In March, 1916, this tribunal handed down a verdict against secession based on the breech of protocol at the September 20th meeting. In response, Sadie American resigned from the New York Section.[xxiv]

Within two months, the Section had rejoined the National Council. The Council would handle the operation at Ellis Island and the Section would tend to immigrant females who remained in New York. The Section elected Constance Sporberg as its President and Sarah Straus as the chair of its Department of Immigrant Aid. Mrs. Straus, whose husband Oscar had been instrumental in the founding of the Baron de Hirsch Fund and served as an informal advisor to the trust until his death in 1926, promised close cooperation between the National Council and the New York Section. She would personally represent the New York Section to the Baron de Hirsch Fund. Sarah Straus, nee Lavanburg, was born into a prominent and wealthy New York family, whose status far surpassed that of her husband’s. In her various roles as wife, hostess, and philanthropist she represents the highest echelon of the established Jewish community in the United States at this time.[xxv]

The resolution of this conflict is significant in three ways. These women submitted their disputes to the men who funded these philanthropic activities. By doing so, the women acknowledged one aspect of the authority men had over their activism. This awareness legitimized the women’s efforts and contextualizes it within the prevailing norms of middle class gender relations during this time. The Jewish women had definite goals for their immigrant sisters and believed that they were best able to achieve these objectives within the gendered norms of their class. Their activism did not signal a desire for social upheaval but an awareness and acceptance of the structural forces which created stability in their own environment.

The selection of Sarah Straus as Sadie American’s replacement trumpeted the majority’s will. Activism yes, but in the person of a genteel and refined woman, not a brazen and caustic warrior. The pursuit of their own image was central in their efforts to achieve the purity they pursued on behalf of the immigrant girls. By selecting Sarah Straus over Sadie American, these American Jewish women chose the persona they wished to show to the public.

Finally, the way in which the New York Section chose to balance its activism and image is significant. There were tensions among these women over their own public identity and they selected Sarah Straus as their standard bearer. But there were also conflicts with the male elite over the behavior and image of their immigrant sisters as revealed by the work of the New York Section and the entire National Council of Jewish Women. They would combat prostitution by creating a chain of protection, beginning at the port of arrival. On this point, the women of the group were in accord. The choices these women made allowed them to continue that battle, to remain active participants in the fight to help new arrivals. For this group of women, it was the accommodations they made as recipients that enabled them to continue to be providers.


The Baroness Clara de Hirsch was unique among women of this era. The influence she was able to wield is important when considering the power women were capable of achieving. The American Jewish male elite treated her with respect and deference, not because of her husband, but due to her access to resources and willingness to assist the Jewish poor in the United States. The financial successes of these powerful men did not make them the social equal of a titled, European woman. Her public image, however, was that of a selfless woman rather than as a member of the nobility or a person with shrewd business acumen.

The Baroness de Hirsch was born Clara Bischoffsheim in Brussels, June 1833. Her lineage made her among the most privileged women in Europe. In 1855, she married Maurice de Hirsch, who built his father-in-law’s firm into the most powerful financial institution in Europe after the Rothschilds’. She brought a dowry of 30 million francs (approximately $5 million) and helped her husband build his vast financial empire.[xxvi]

She was an active participant in the Baron’s financial and philanthropic endeavors. After her husband’s death in 1896, she was the sole executor of his estate and continued his projects and created her own. Her interest in the United States followed the current mass migration of her co-religionists from Eastern Europe. The Baroness was a woman of independent ideas and definite opinions but she relied on her close relationship with Oscar and Sarah Straus to implement her wishes. She had met the couple when Mr. Straus served as US Ambassador to Turkey in the 1880s. Their perceptions and concerns influenced her understanding of what was necessary to alleviate the plight of the Jewish poor in America. Oscar Straus served as an advisor to both the de Hirsches, and his wife Sarah had a close association with the Baroness.

One of her initiatives was the Suburban Homes Plan. She had hoped this endeavor would relieve the congestion of the urban ghetto by providing affordable housing away from the New York City’s Lower East Side. The squalor of this area created a negative environment for the newcomers and perpetuated unpalatable perceptions of Jewish immigrants. To the Baroness and her associates, the tenements reflected poorly on the entire Jewish community. After consulting with Oscar Straus in April 1897, she proposed to give one million dollars to create suburban homes in Orange, New Jersey.[xxvii]

This proposal presented a dilemma for the Fund’s Executive Committee. As Fund President Julius Goldman explained at a trustees meeting: “The committee was not at all sanguine as to the success of the suburban enterprise but the committee had felt that it was due to the wishes of the Baroness to make an effort upon a limited scale in that direction and that whilst the committee feels that it is to a certain extent taking a leap in the dark, it necessary to try.” Members of the Executive Committee did not want to offend the Baroness or lose access to this vast sum, but their experiences thus far had demonstrated the reluctance of the immigrants to leave their urban neighborhoods once they had settled there.[xxviii]

The Executive Committee held several meetings and drew on the expertise of prominent Jewish social welfare workers, such as Lillian Wald. At these sessions, they explored the possibility of using only a portion of the money to build new homes in the suburbs. They could use the remainder to improve housing conditions within the urban ghetto. By the summer, Jacob Schiff insisted that a formal survey be conducted, and commissioned Milton Reizenstein to study living and working conditions of the Jewish immigrant neighborhoods of the Lower East Side. Reizenstein’s report concluded that better housing within the community would not greatly alter the circumstances of the immigrants. The residents’ overall lifestyle could be improved if they were able to move outside the city but the Fund would not be able to achieve this goal merely by providing affordable housing in the suburbs; industry must precede their arrival to guarantee a source of employment and connection to the area.[xxix]

This report convinced the Baroness that there were some problems and she entrusted the implementation of the Suburban Homes project to the Fund, but stipulated that several plans be tried simultaneously. She agreed that her donation could be divided and used to improve some housing within the Lower East Side and also to build some new homes near Orange, New Jersey. The Suburban Homes Plan did not prove to be an effective source of urban removal and by 1905, the Fund still had not found occupants for all of the units. The United Hebrew Charities agreed to lease some of the houses to place families that they were supporting. By 1908, all of the homes had been sold to non-Jews. Failure was again due to a lack of regard for immigrant values, but this result was not surprising to the leadership of the Fund. That the members of the Executive Committee pursued this plan at all reflects the influence of the Baroness and the respect these men accorded her.[xxx]

Unlike the New York Section, the Baroness had complete control over her money but the image she sought and the behaviors she hoped to change were not in accord with the immigrants’ own values and actions. At times, even the powerful Baron de Hirsch Fund was a recipient, and in an interesting historical irony, accepted money for a project which it knew would not work.


Another effort of the Baroness’ was the Home for Working Girls, whose primary purpose was to train Jewish immigrant females for domestic service. The Baroness explored the feasibility of the Home for a year. Oscar and Sarah Straus and their sister-in-law, Mrs. Lina Straus, investigated the situation on behalf of the Baroness. They contacted various Progressive experts, many of whom supported the creation of an institution which could train and place domestic workers, and provide temporary lodging for unaccompanied Jewish female immigrants. Grace Dodge, a prominent philanthropist and educator reassured Mr. Straus that a facility of this nature was imperative as strangers to this country “need protection and advice.” The Jewish component was important because many other institutions in the immigrant neighborhood displayed a Protestant missionary zeal. In his overview of the situation to the Baroness, Straus emphasized this problem as well as the wretched existence many of these women endured.[xxxi]

In April 1897, the Baroness formally expressed her desire to create a home for working girls to members of the Fund’s Executive Committee. The overall goal was to “provide them with opportunities for industrial, social and moral improvement.” She would commit $200,000 for initial costs and then $12,000 annually for operating expenses. The Strauses and the Baroness decided that it would be best to locate the Home far away from the dangerous influences of New York’s Lower East Side. They chose a site on East 63rd Street, abutting the Baron de Hirsch Trade School on East 64th Street. Mr. Straus felt that the key would be to have the Home under the care of “large hearted, benevolent and capable women who take an interest in such work and have had experience with this class of our co-religionists.” The women whom the Strauses invited to form the Home’s first Board of Directors were closely linked to the men who served as the first nine trustees of the Baron de Hirsch Fund. Among this group was Frieda Warburg, the daughter of Jacob Schiff, Rose Abraham, whose husband was on the Fund Executive Committee, Emma Wasserman, whose father Jesse Seligman was the Fund Treasurer, and Sarah Goldman whose husband Julius served as the Fund’s President until 1906.[xxxii]

The Baroness, despite her residence in Paris, kept close watch on each phase of the establishment of the Home. As historian Linda Kerber has suggested, for women involved in creating settlement houses and similar institutions, control over physical aspects of the building was crucial to their sense that they would be able to achieve their goals. In the Home for Working Girls, each woman was to have her own room because the founders believed there was causal relationship between privacy and morality.[xxxiii]

The Home for Working Girls had several goals. The Baroness wanted to create a path for immigrant girls to labor outside of the sweatshop and the factory. Just as the institutions the Fund ran pursued the American ideal of manly behavior through the yeoman farmer and skilled artisan, the Home for Working Girls promoted domestic virtues for women. To enable the women to retain self-respect, they would charge a nominal fee for board and training. Those who could not afford the fee would be able to perform tasks needed at the Home and simultaneously hone their domestic skills. On a practical and self-serving level, the Home for Working Girls might also ease the servant shortage in New York’s wealthy Jewish community. A bourgeois bias pervaded this entire effort. In addition to training for domestic service, the Baroness and her allies in the United States intended for the Home to provide a refuge from the harsh realities of the urban ghetto. The biggest problem for these girls, they surmised, was that they did not have access to proper values or models for appropriate behavior. The Home would provide these resources to the newly arriving Jewish females.[xxxiv]

The founders believed that newcomers could not find these positive influences in the tenements and factories of the ghetto. To encourage proper behavior, the Home for Working Girls provided many of the same services that settlement houses did. In addition to classes in domestic training, the Home provided lectures on hygiene and thrift, and supervised outings and dances. The Directress screened applicants for respectability. First at the Home and later in domestic service, under the watchful eye of virtuous mentors, these Jewish working girls might become genteel.

The Home for Working Girls and the Baroness received praise for their efforts. The popular press extolled Jews for providing a valuable service for their own people by creating an alternative to the tedium and despair of the sweatshop and factory. Within Jewish circles the Home also found support. Despite the general acclaim for the institution and utilization by some newcomers, domestic service in general and the Home for Working Girls in particular was not popular among Jewish immigrant women.   From the beginning, Oscar Straus acknowledged that they would have to overcome the obstacle of disinterest on the part of most Jewish immigrant girls for domestic service.[xxxv]

As historian Nancy Sinkhoff has explained, it seemed unnecessary to prepare for a job that they could get without special training. In her seminal work on the home, she continues that most preferred the independence which factory work accorded them. The immigrant women resented the condescension of the middle class women involved in running the Home. They too were interesting in building homes and raising families but preferred to do so within the norms of their own environment. While still single, they hoped to enjoy what liberty the demands of urban survival permitted. Yet what historians can decipher from afar, may not have been the impression of many contemporaries.[xxxvi]

The Baroness de Hirsch was essentially a private person in a public arena. Her status made her a public figure, to whom all deferred. From her perspective and experience, there were no restrictions upon the ability of a woman to achieve goals on behalf of her co-religionists, certainly not from the men of the group. Her limitations stemmed from her vision of the needs of the immigrant community and the power of recipients to reject assistance which did not incorporate their aspirations and values. Her intention to change immigrants’ behavior in terms of work and residence failed. She was limited in her ability to affect the image which this behavior had created.

Unlike the New York Section, she did not have to defend her choices because she had complete control over finances. Akin to modern philanthropists, however, she was still unable to effect the change she sought.


Many of the same women who had been involved in the formation of the Home for Working Girls started another institution which also bore the name of the Baroness. The Clara de Hirsch Home for Immigrant Girls was a settlement house and employment bureau located on New York’s Lower East Side. Akin to similar ventures, its purposes included Americanizing the immigrants, inculcating working girls with middle class values and behavior, providing an alternative to the harsh realities of the street, and preventing the “fall” of these young women into prostitution. The Home conveyed a gendered view of a positive image for the Jewish community, one in which young women would be safe and pure.

This settlement house varied from similar institutions in two major respects. Most of the staff did not reside there and those involved in running the Home had a personal interest in countering the negative stereotypes which ensued from the undecorous and/or illegal behavior of these young women. Cases of Jewish prostitution hurt the image of the entire community. Members of the established Jewish community praised the Home for Immigrant Girls because the institution framed its public activism within the context of domestic caretaking, and presented the girls it assisted as helpless victims. These images resulted in monetary support from the Jewish male elite. The women who ran the Home did not have full autonomy of action until the institution became financially independent in 1915.

The formation of the Home was the result of a March 1904 article in Jewish Charity by Frances Kellor, “The Menace of Intelligence Offices”. This investigative piece reflected two prominent themes of the Progressive era — immigrants as victims and the power of prevention. It also conveyed a gendered focus with its concern about the purity of these young women. The article described the wretched and dangerous conditions which young, innocent immigrant girls faced as they arrived and how easy it was to lure them into an illicit life. One distressing component of this system was that other Jews, “runners,” set traps for these girls: “Usually a smooth young Jew familiar with their lifestyles, wins confidence of these girls, eventually takes them to his office, assuring them of opportunities for work and easy money.” The article described the common practice of soliciting these girls in Europe, so that once they arrived at the office in New York and realized their predicament, they had no friends or family to help them. These girls faced a choice “between hell and starvation.” Prevention was difficult because these runners far outnumbered friendly visitors and the overburdened agents at Ellis Island.[xxxviii]

Kellor’s article represented a new understanding which cited environmental rather than hereditary causes of prostitution. Her findings did reinforce the view of most contemporaries that women were weak, immoral, and/or easily victimized. They also confirmed anti-Semitic assertions of Jewish monopolization of the traffic in women. Kellor’s investigation was not inaccurate. Jews were involved in the global increase of prostitution which occurred between 1880 and 1920. This period of rapid industrialization, migration, and urbanization led to economic dislocation, discrimination, and destitution for many throughout the world. The weakening of traditional social, religious, and parental controls which accompanied these changes provided further impetus for Jewish involvement in the traffic of women. Jews procured and sold women in Eastern Europe, Argentina, the United States, and Turkey.[xxxix]

Contemporaries used these facts to substantiate anti-Semitic claims as they blamed Jews for dominating the global market in women and selling Christians into “white slavery”. As Edward Bristow has suggested, this accusation was the sexualization of the “blood libel” which made the Jews responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ and served as the catalyst for attacks on them for centuries. Stereotypes about all prostitutes abounded during this period. Contemporary images in the press, literature, and art focused on the degradation of these women, whose illicit existences were sure to result in death. As Timothy Gilfoyle asserts, prostitution served as a metaphor for the squalor of urban life, with the hordes of foreigners sullying the purity that was once America. The label, white slavery, connotes the nature of the negative images associated with this profession.[xl]

These stories were true just often enough to perpetuate these attitudes about prostitution, yet the reality was often quite different. Studies revealed that the majority of prostitutes in the United States were American born, although immigrants were visibly involved. Similarly, while some Jewish women were indeed lured from abroad by promises of marriage, many chose prostitution. Compared to other forms of unskilled labor, such as domestic service and factory work, prostitution paid well. Women who sold sex for money varied from working girls who exchanged intimacies for entertainment and recreation to full time professionals. Entering “the life” rarely culminated in independence although examples of successful madams and brothel owners exist. Usually these young women were linked to a pimp, parent, proprietor, or policeman who provided protection in exchange for a percentage of their earnings.[xli]

Finally, Kellor’s piece and other similar findings which provided an environmental explanation for the source of prostitution, allowed for an environmental solution. As distressing as this article was to members of the Jewish community, it gave them with a way to alleviate the problem. Jewish social welfare workers would frame all of their efforts with the presumption that any Jewish woman involved in prostitution must be a victim. The New York Section of the National Council of Jewish Women immediately stationed a representative at Ellis Island. Two months later, Jewish Charity published a follow-up article by Kellor: “The Intelligence Office Menace: The Cure”. The ‘cure’ was that Sarah Straus and others involved in the Home for Working Girls founded an experimental institution which would provide lodging and function as an employment bureau on East 6th Street in the Lower East Side.[xlii]

At first the uptown home provided the sole financial support for the Home for Immigrant Girls. Within a year, the downtown settlement house had stationed its own representative at Ellis Island to provide guidance and a protective eye at the port. This agent would send unaccompanied immigrant women directly to the Home if no suitable relatives were there to meet them. Once they arrived at the Home, workers at the employment bureau tried to secure positions for these newcomers as domestic servants. In addition to lodging, the Home provided entertainment, classes, and clubs.[xliii]

The Home promoted the impression that young Jewish women were housed in a safe and respectable environment. The staff at the Home, headed by Carrie Wise, a niece of Oscar and Sarah Straus, was responsible to officials at Ellis Island and sent weekly reports to the Commissioner of Immigration about each girl who resided there. The Home charged fifty cents per night, but often waived the fee until the resident found “suitable employment.” The staff would not release any single female until they could investigate the relative with whom she would be living. In its first two years, the Home sheltered 1200 girls and provided recreational activities for hundreds more. Its program eventually included classes, lectures, dances, concerts, and week long visits to a summer vacation home. A variety of agencies referred single Jewish females to the Home for Immigrant Girls. By 1913, the Home was providing services for six hundred girls a month and contemporaries considered it a positive force in the urban ghetto. The staff claimed that immigrant officials did not deport Jewish girls because they felt confident that the Home would provide a safe and suitable environment for these newcomers. An alternative to the streets, the Home helped these young women in their adjustment to the United States. The staff often sung its own praises and Wise claimed that we are “loved by our charges for the very fact that so many re-enter and call upon us again for counsel and advice.”[xliv]

Despite some positive assessment in the contemporary Jewish press and among leaders of other agencies, funding these efforts was a challenge. By the end of 1905, its operations had become too extensive for the Home for Working Girls to support alone. Between clubs and lodging, the Home served two to three hundred young women a month. Rose Sommerfield, headworker at the uptown Home, wrote to Fund President Julius Goldman that although the downtown institution was making admirable progress, her facility needed its entire annual income for its own work. She expressed the hope that the Fund would supply the money and the trustees of the Home for Working Girls could continue to supervise the activities of the Home for Immigrant Girls.[xlv]

To reinforce this argument, Sarah Straus wrote to Nathan Bijur, a member of the Fund’s Executive Committee. She explained that the two organizations needed to be more independent of one another. The presence of the downtown institution did more than strain the financial resources of the Home for Working Girls. Mrs. Straus reminded Bijur that the Baroness had imposed certain limitations on the uptown home. Finally, she emphasized the importance of the work of the downtown institution and claimed that most of these girls “would be deported but for the knowledge that the immigration authorities have of our home and of our ability to afford such girls a shelter, and take care of them.”[xlvi]

The Fund initially declined to provide support for the Home for Immigrant Girls, claiming that its work was not within the endowed trust’s scope. Sarah Straus continued to press this cause and agreed that the Home for Working Girls would make an annual donation of one thousand dollars. At that point, the Executive Committee of the Fund pledged fifteen hundred dollars annually. This process established a pattern of persistent supplication by the Home and condescending frugality by the Fund’s leadership. This private behavior belied the Fund’s active and public endorsement of the activities of the Home for Immigrant Girls.[xlvii]

Bijur’s comments reflected the Fund’s concerns that the Home might exploit its generosity or fail to monitor expenditures. The endowed trust should not be the sole support for the settlement house. Members of the Fund’s Executive Committee certainly believed that its annual contribution entitled them to judge the activities of the Home. These attitudes pervaded the interaction between the two organizations. Criticisms remained between the Fund and the Home. Publicly members of the Executive Committee praised the Home’s efforts as a fine example of what Jewish immigrant girls could become. Likewise they supported the activities of the Home when a conflict arose with the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Organization (HIAS) in 1913. Both received subsidies from the Fund and the women believed that the immigrant community was better served by its efforts that those of their Eastern European allies. Leaders of the Fund agreed and chastised HIAS for overlap when the women doing better work.[xlviii]

The Fund’s leaders understood that the image of the Home reflected on the entire Jewish community. The Home had been housed in a series of temporary dwellings, but by 1911 it became apparent that the institution needed permanent and decent headquarters. As Fund Honorary Secretary Max Kohler explained to the other members of the Executive Committee, “The home is in an embarrassing condition.” Although the Fund could not spend the $35,000 required, the Executive Committee supported the Home’s financial request to the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA). Unlike its scorn for the work of the New York Section, noted above, the officers of the Fund praised the efforts of the Home for Immigrant girls, explaining that the Home’s “work is crucial, even more so as government restrictions against entrance become tougher.” Fund President Benjamin concurred and wrote to the JCA that the Home for Immigrant Girls is the very best one in New York. It prevents girls from falling prey to white slavers and “those who seek to preserve the good name of Jewish women” should be eager to assist this organization. [xlix]

Carrie Wise understood this concern with public appearance and phrased her own solicitation to the JCA in these terms. She expressed the Home’s desire to keep Jewish girls from being deported and falling into prostitution. She explained that the Home provided a “harbor of safety and security” to keep their “proteges from falling into evil hands” or being deported.[l]

The Home for Immigrant Girls provided many services and reflects the ongoing debate about settlement houses in general and the imposition of middle class values on a working class population. Americanization activities, recreation, classes, and opportunities to form clubs were all mixed benefits for the immigrant population. In the case of the Home for Immigrant Girls, no documentation remains from those it served, only by those who provided the service. Carrie Wise and the others clearly felt that they had succeeded as the Home offered an alternative to the dance halls and streets, helped facilitate the Americanization of these young girls, and gave them the means to become respectable women. Wise maintained that their efforts not only safeguarded the individual but helped “the community in seeing that our Jewish immigrant girls are respectably housed in decent surroundings.”[li]

Even if estimates of the staff at the Home for Immigrant Girls were accurate and their activities did provide constructive influences for hundreds of young Jewish women, their efforts conveyed a class bias and a sense of superiority about their values. General historic literature on the Settlement House Movement conveys the notion that relationships across class lines were an amalgam of compassion, friendship, condescension, and frustration. As Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham has suggested about middle and working class African-American Baptist women during this same time, the politics of respectability promoted was based on the idea that individual behavior affected the collective image of the entire group.[lii]

This conclusion applies to the middle class Jewish women involved in the Home for Immigrant Girls as well. The purity of these young women was the paramount concern of those assisting them. An awareness of this public image, and the behaviors which generated it, led to financial support and praise for the Home’s activities among the established Jewish community. The majority of the Jewish immigrant female population did not avail themselves of this institution and preferred creating their own organizations or enjoying the entertainment opportunities available in their neighborhoods, such as dance halls and movies.[liii]

Despite some private tensions over funding, when the image promoted was consistent with the donor’s vision, the Fund provided financial support and advocacy for its efforts. True autonomy could only come with financial independence which occurred with a donation of $150,000 from Sarah Straus and her brother Fred Lavanburg. Sarah Straus copied the behavior of the Baroness de Hirsch. Access to financial resources gave her and the Home autonomy. Even though it was no longer beholden to the Fund, subsequent decisions by this group of elite American Jewish women frequently resembled those of the men who had supervised their efforts and neither changed the behavior of immigrant women fully or extensively.[liv]


The Harvard Business Review article suggests that modern day philanthropists should incorporate what they know and what they value in their efforts.[lv] The lessons from the past would also advise them to listen to the intended recipients, whether they would be benefiting from the programs or implementing them. The further a recipient is from the source of largess, the more difficult it becomes for a benefactor to sway behavior. The donor‘s own biases further impede his or her ability to effect change.

Then, as now, there are powerful links between actions, image and funding decisions. For the men and women of the American Jewish community of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their efforts had a limited effectiveness in shaping the public persona or behaviors of the immigrant population. As part of the larger Jewish community, American Jewish women were affected by an image not fully of their own design and their actions were affected by the biases of donors. The vision of purity and domesticity they promoted for the immigrant women confirms their values. Far too often, however, their choices did not coincide with those of the women they were trying to help.

NB: When I conducted my original research, all of the Baron de Hirsch Fund and Max Kohler papers were located at the American Jewish Historical Society in Waltham, MA and archival references reflect the placement of documents while they were housed at that institution.


[i] Susan Wolf Ditkoff and Susan J. Colby, “Galvanizing Philanthropy,” in Harvard Business Review, November 2009, p.2.

[ii] See Debra Block, “Virtue Out of Necessity: A Study of Jewish Philanthropy in the United States, 1890-1918” (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1997), pp. 74-79 and 81-83.

[iii] See Linda Kerber, “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman’s Place: The Rhetoric of Women’s History,” Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 9-39, for a general overview and critique of the theory of the Cult of Domesticity. For Jewish women and philanthropy during this time, see Charlotte Baum, Paula Hyman, and Sonya Michel, The Jewish Woman in America (New York: Dial Press, 1975), Chapter 2; Beth Wenger, “Jewish Women and Voluntarism: Beyond the Myth of Enablers,” American Jewish History 79 (September, 1989): 16-39; June Sochen, Consecrate Every Day (Albany: SUNY Press, 1981); Murray Friedman ed., Jewish Life in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983), Chapter 8; Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1992), Chapter 4; and William Toll, “A Quiet Revolution: Jewish Women’s Clubs and the Widening Female Sphere, 1870-1920,” American Jewish Archives 41 (1989): 7-26. For the changing role of women in the Progressive era, see Karen Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist (New York: Homes and Meier 1980); and Joan Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” American Historical Review 91 (December 1986): 1053-1075.

[iv] Baum, Michel, and Hyman, Chapter 6; articles in Jewish Charity, May and November, 1904; and the Home for Immigrant Girls 1912 report to the Baron de Hirsch Fund describes these outings, Papers of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, American Jewish Historical Society, (hereafter cited as BDHF Papers), Box 5. On the Young Woman’s Union, see Julian Griefer, “The Neighborhood Center,” (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1948). There has been little secondary work done on Jewish settlement houses. Griefer’s work describes the history of the Young Women’s Union, a kindergarten and settlement house for Eastern European Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia. Founded in 1885, it was one of the earliest institutions of this kind, although it is rarely acknowledged.

[v]Bertha Lubitz, Directress Recreation Rooms, National Council of Jewish Women, “Preventive Work for Girls,” Jewish Charity June, 1904. On the reluctance of the male elite to acknowledge the problem of prostitution, see Abe White to Oscar Straus, 12 June, 1896, BDHF Papers, Box 14. Arthur Moro to Solomons, 28 November, 1902, and Solomons’ response, 23 January, 1903, BDHF Papers, Box 37A. 1910 Report of the JIC, BDHF Papers, Box 37. Annual Report, 1912, Report of Ellis Island Station.

[vi]My thinking here has been influenced by Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham, Rigtheous Discontent (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993). Her subject matter is African-American women in the Baptist church during this time period. Despite the many differences between the two groups, both had a small middle class whose image was greatly affected by the behavior of the lower and working classes of their group and the inability (unwillingness) of the dominant white society to distinguish between them. Brooks-Higginbotham explains that middle class African-Americans understood this. The Jews of the established community frequently seemed determined to differentiate themselves from the immigrant Jews to white Protestant America and tried to use their philanthropy to achieve this goal.

[vii]On the founding of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), see Faith Rogow, Gone to Another Meeting (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabam Press, 1993), Chapter 1; and Deborah Golomb, “The 1893 Congress of Jewish Women,” American Jewish History 70 (September, 1980): 52-67. Rogow’s book is a history of the organization and it contains a great deal of useful information. She tends to credit the NCJW for work initiated by or at least shared with other organizations. Sadie American to Myer Isaacs, 30 March, 1904, BDHF Papers, Box 55. “Report of the President,” Yearbook of the New York Section, Council of Jewish Women, 1913-1914. Sadie American, History of the Council of Jewish Women and the New York Section, typewritten, 1917, cited in Lori Ginsburg, “The New York Section of the Council of Jewish Women, 1894-1917” (B.A. Thesis, Harvard University, 1982).

[viii]Rogow, Chapter 5; Baum, Hyman and Michel, pp. 165-177.

[ix]Kohut is cited in an untitled article about the New York Section’s (NYS) annual meeting which appeared in the American Hebrew, 18 May, 1900.

[x]American to BDHF, 10 December, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 55. Headworkers at the College Settlement, University Settlement, and Recreation Room and Reading Rooms, NCJW, to Eugene Benjamin, 13 February, 1913, BDHF Papers, Box 58.

[xi]American to Isaacs, 30 March, 1904, BDHF Papers, Box 55. Bertha Lubitz, Directress Recreation Room, NCJW, “Preventive Work for Girls,” Jewish Charity June, 1904. Mrs. Isidor (Rosalie Ida) Straus, “The Recreation Room for Girls,” Jewish Charity January, 1905.

[xii]American to Fund General Agent Sabsovich, 18 January, 1909, BDHF Papers, Box 55. See also Rogow, Chapter 5.

[xiii]American to Isaacs, 30 March, 1904, BDHF Papers, Box 55. American to Elias Margolis, Assistant General Agent, BDHF, 24 December, 1906, BDHF Papers, Box 55. Copies of these weekly reports for 1908 and 1909 are located in BDHF Papers, Box 55. Report by Louis Cohen to Executive Committee, BDHF, 19 May, 1908, BDHF Papers, Box 3.

[xiv]At times it is difficult to distinguish the specific functions of the NCJW and the NYS in the area of immigrant aid work. American’s dominant role in this area in both the national and local organizations often blurred any real separation. Rogow, Chapter 5.

[xv]Headworkers to Benjamin, 13 February, 1913, BDHF Papers, Box 58. American Hebrew, 18 May, 1900. Mrs. Isidor (Rosalie Ida) Straus, “The Recreation Room for Girls,” Jewish Charity January, 1905.

[xvi]For solicitation of funds and relationship with the BDHF, see, for example, Executive Committee Meetings, BDHF, 26 January, 1902, BDHF Papers, Box 63; and 5 April, 1904, BDHF Papers, Box 36. See also American to Isaacs 30 March, 1904, BDHF Papers, Box 55; and Trustees Meeting, BDHF, 29 January, 1905, BDHF Papers, Box 63. For an example of the nature of requests for aid and responses from the Fund, see the correspondence between American and Fund President Goldman, February 1905, Box 55, BDHF Papers. The NYS received an annual sum to pay for Ellis Island work directly from the Fund until the Jewish Immigration Committee (JIC) was formed in 1909. The stipend then came from the JIC but the BDHF controlled this coordinating body and final decisions reflected the opinions of its Executive Committee.

[xvii]For an overview of the BDHF’s attitudes toward recipients, see Elias Margolies’ investigation of UHC for BDHF, 21 May, 1907, BDHF Papers, Box 58.

American to BDHF, 1 December, 1910, BDHF Papers, Box 55.

[xviii]Correspondence between American and Sabsovich, 18, 22, and 29 January, 1909, BDHF Papers, Box 55. Benjamin to Ellis Island Committee, JIC, 2 March, 1911, BDHF Papers, Box 55.

[xix]Wise to BDHF, 8 December, 1911, BDHF Papers, Box 56. The Baroness de Hirsch had endowed the Home for Working Girls. The Home for Immigrant Girls was founded after her death in 1899 and received a small stipend from its sister institution but did not have access to the Baroness’s endowment.

[xx] American to BDHF, 1 December, 1910, BDHF Papers, Box 55. For a positive assessment of the Home for Immigrant Girls, see Benjamin, Schiff, and Kohler to Jewish Colonization Association, 28 May, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 56. On fund raising methods of New York Section, see Irving Lipsitch to Sabsovich, 6 November, 1913, BDHF Papers, Box 55.

[xxi]Meeting of the BDHF Committee on Immigration, 29 March, 1911, BDHF Papers, Box 4. At the bottom of the minutes was a handwritten note containing these sentiments. The official minutes of the Executive Committee, BDHF, 21 April, 1911, BDHF Papers, Box 63, merely stated that a request had been made and denied.

[xxii]Rogow touches on this specific controversy in Chapter 4 and provides useful background information. She does not include all aspects of the affair and ignores the role of the BDHF in Council affairs generally and the secession of the NYS specifically.   In her presentation of this event, she has the controversy submitted to an arbitration panel comprised of Jacob Schiff, Felix Levy, and Louis Posner (Rogow, p.124), but presents no citation for this information. The BDHF Papers and some documents found in the HIAS Papers, YIVO, help to paint a fuller picture of the events of 1915 and 1916. Abraham Elkus, Nathan Bijur, and Max Kohler, to Sadie American and Helen Winkler, 21 June, 1915, HIAS Papers, YIVO, Microfilm Roll 15.14, File 7-6.

[xxiii]Executive Committee, BDHF, 10 October, 1915, BDHF Papers, Box 3. Kohler to American, 14 November, 1915, BDHF Papers, Box 2. Statements and Counter Statements prepared by the NCJW and NYS respectively, 1915 [no specific date], HIAS Papers, YIVO, Microfilm Roll 15.14, File 7-6. Ginsburg, Chapter 3.

[xxiv]Rogow, Chapter 4; and Ginsburg, Chapter 3.

[xxv]Document on NCJW, Department of Immigrant Aid, letterhead, 1916 [no specific date], HIAS Papers, YIVO, Microfilm Roll 15.14, File 7-6. Kohler to Executive Committee, BDHF, 15 April, 1916; and Executive Committee, BDHF, May 1, 1916. Both in BDHF Papers, Box 63. Sarah Straus to Kohler, 4 May, 1916, BDHF Papers, Box 55. BDHF General Agent Palitz to Kohler, 16 November, 1916, BDHF Papers, Box 9.

On Sarah Straus, see Naomi Cohen, A Dual Heritage (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1969), p. 5; and Oscar Straus, Under Four Administrations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1922), Chapter 4.

[xxvi]Biographical data on the Baroness de Hirsch can be found in the Max Kohler Papers, American Jewish Historical Society (hereafter cited as MK Papers). Kohler had intended to write a biography of the de Hirsches and the material he gathered is located in Box 15 of his papers.

[xxvii]Baroness de Hirsch to Straus, 24 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14. For an historical overview of suburbia, see Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987).

Baroness de Hirsch to Oscar Straus, 24 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14; and Executive Committee Meeting, BDHF, 25 April, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 64.   Trustees Meeting, BDHF, 19 December, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 62.

[xxviii]Baroness de Hirsch to Oscar Straus, 24 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14; and Executive Committee Meeting, BDHF, 25 April, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 64.   Trustees Meeting, BDHF, 19 December, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 62.

[xxix]Executive Committee Meetings, BDHF, 3 May, 3 June, 11 June, and 9 August, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 64. Julius Goldman to Baroness de Hirsch, 4 May, 1897; and Baroness to Executive Committee, BDHF, 21 May, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 3.

Lillian Wald: Directress of the Henry Street Settlement and a pioneer in this and other social welfare work. She, with the financial support of Jacob Schiff, began a visiting nurses program on the Lower East Side of New York.

Milton Reizenstein: Ph.D. in Economics, Johns Hopkins University, 1897. He would eventually become superintendent of the Hebrew Education Society. Reizenstein made his report to Executive Committee, BDHF, 24 October, 1897, BDHF Papers, Box 62.

[xxx]Baroness de Hirsch to Executive Committee, BDHF, 7 December, 1897, MK Papers, Box 13. Baroness to BDHF, 16 January, 1899, BDHF Papers, Box 3.   Executive Committee, BDHF, 15 June, 1905, BDHF Papers, Box 63. There is very little primary information on the Suburban Homes Plan. Max Kohler reviewed the history of this plan many years later when he was explaining certain financial arrangements of the Baroness’s estate. Max Kohler to the BDHF, 30 March, 1930, BDHF Papers, Box 10.

[xxxi]Straus to Baroness de Hirsch, 3 November, 1896; and Baroness de Hirsch to Straus, 6 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14. Opposed to this undertaking was Abraham White, the United Hebrew Charities agent at Ellis Island, who stated that there was no genuine problem of unattended females and Jewish women would not use such an institution. White to Straus, 12 June, 1896. Those who supported the idea of the Home included Grace Dodge, who wrote to Straus, 15 June, 1896 and United States Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island to Straus, 27 June, 1897. All located in MK Papers, Box 14.

[xxxii]Straus to Baroness de Hirsch, 3 November, 1896, MK Papers, Box 14. See the Certificate of Incorporation, Clara De Hirsch Home for Working Girls, 27 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 13.

[xxxiii]Baroness de Hirsch to Straus, 14 May, 1897, and his response, 10 June, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14. For an overview of the Home for Working Girls, see Nancy Sinkhoff, “Educating for ‘Proper’ Jewish Womanhood: A Case Study in Domesticity and Volunteers,” American Jewish History 77 (June, 1988): 572-599. Kerber, 1988, pp. 34-36.

[xxxiv]Baroness de Hirsch to Straus, 6 April, 1897, MK Papers, Box 14. Baroness de Hirsch to Executive Committee, BDHF, 16 January, 1899, BDHF Papers, Box 3. Sinkhoff, 1988.

[xxxv]Straus to Baroness de Hirsch, 3 November, 1896, MK Papers, Box 14. On praise for the Home and the Baroness, New York Times, 23 May, 1897; Harper’s Bazaar Supplement 1897; and The Delineator June, 1901

[xxxvi]Straus to Baroness de Hirsch, 3 November, 1896, MK Papers, Box 14. On class differences with respect to work, see Sinkhoff, 573, 580-582. On class differences and recreational pursuits, see Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985), Introduction and Chapter 7.

[xxxvii]There is no mention of this institution in the major secondary literature of the period. The only records which seem to exist are located in the BDHF Papers. Because this Home received an annual subsidy from the Fund, its workers submitted monthly reports, usually in the form of handwritten notes from Carrie Wise, Headworker at the Home for Immigrant Girls. These records and other correspondence between the Fund and the Home are located in BDHF Papers, Box 56.

[xxxviii]Frances Kellor, “The Menace of Intelligence Offices,” Jewish Charity March, 1904. Kellor was a prominent social scientist and welfare worker of the Progressive Era.

[xxxix]For an overview of Jewish involvement in prostitution generally during this period, see Edward Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice (New York: Schocken Press, 1983). For conditions in New York City, see Timothy Gilfoyle, City of Eros (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), Chapter 13.

[xl]Bristow, p. 4 and 46; and Gilfoyle, Chapter 13.

[xli]Baum, Hyman, and Michel, pp. 115-116, and 170-175. See also Bristow; and Thomas Pitkin and Francesco Cordasco, The White Slave Trade and the Immigrants (Detroit: Blaine Ethridge Books, 1981).

[xlii]Frances Kellor, “The Intelligence Office Menace: The Cure,” Jewish Charity May 1904.   Carrie Wise, “The Trials of the Immigrant Girl,” Jewish Charity November, 1904.

[xliii] Rose Sommerfield, Superintendent, Home for Working Girls, to President, BDHF, 3 December, 1905, BDHF Papers, Box 56. It’s not exactly clear when the Home for Immigrant Girls included the Baroness’s name in its own. Sarah Straus and Carrie Wise were involved from its inception, but it was originally called the Cooperative Home Employment Bureau. By late 1905, there are references to the Clara de Hirsch Home for Immigrant Girls.

[xliv]Sarah Straus to Nathan Bijur, 23 January, 1906.   Report from Carrie Wise to BDHF, December, 1906; December, 1907; and December, 1913. All located in BDHF Papers, Box 56. 1912 Report from Home for Immigrant Girls to BDHF, Budget Committee, BDHF Papers, Box 2. There is no material from those whom the Home served.

[xlv] Sommerfield to Julius Goldman, 3 December, 1905. Located in BDHF Papers, Box 56. Data on services provided is located in Sommerfield’s request for aid.

[xlvi] Sarah Straus to Nathan Bijur, 23 January, 1906. Located in BDHF Papers, Box 56.

[xlvii]Nathan Bijur to Sarah Straus, 23 January, 1906 and her response, same date, BDHF Papers, Box 56. Trustees Meeting, BDHF, 18 December, 1906, BDHF Papers, Box 63.

[xlviii]Eugene Benjamin to Nathan Bijur, late 1907 [no date]. H.L. Sabsovich to Max Kohler, 19 February, 1908. For an example of requests from Home for Immigrant Girls to Fund, see Wise to Bijur, 24 February, 1908, and 8 December, 1911. Sabsovich to Executive Committee, BDHF, 26 June, 1911; Report to BDHF Executive Committee from Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls, 12 March, 1913; and Sabsovich to Executive Committee, BDHF, 6 November, 1914. All located in BDHF Papers, Box 56.

[xlix]Wise to Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), 23 May, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 50. Kohler to Executive Committee, BDHF, 24 May, 1912; and President, Vice President and Honorary Secretary, BDHF, to JCA, 28 May, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 56. Benjamin to JCA, 17 May, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 50.

[l]Wise to JCA, 23 May, 1912, BDHF Papers, Box 50.

[li]Carrie Wise, “Trials of the Immigrant Girl,” Jewish Charity November, 1904. Report from Wise to BDHF, December, 1906, and December, 1907, BDHF Papers, Box 56. For a recent discussion of the various motivations of settlement house workers, see Eileen Boris, “The Settlement Movement Revisited: Social Control With A Conscience,” Reviews in American History 20 (June, 1992): 216-221.

[lii]Brooks-Higginbotham, Chapter 7 and Boris, pp. 216-221.

[liii]Peiss, Chapter 7. There is an extensive literature on the landsmanshaftn, communal organizations based on European origins. See, for example, the special issue of American Jewish History 76 (September, 1986), devoted to this subject.

[liv]Walter Beer, Treasurer of Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls to BDHF, 9 August, 1915, BDHF Papers, Box 56. Sarah Straus’s wealth came from family resources. She was a member of the Lavanburg family, wealthy American Jews of German descent. See Oscar Straus, 1922, passim, for more biographical data.

[lv]Ditkoff and Colby, p 3.