Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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ANNE LAPIDUS LERNER
The Making of a Person
The Vision o f Two American Jewish
Women Writers
T
h e
im age
o f
women in American Jewish literature has, like views
o f women in o the r disciplines, been frequently exam ined in the
past decade. Most o f the studies have, predictably, concentrated
on women in the writings o f the best known American Jewish
writers: Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Bernard Malamud. O thers
have turned to I.B. Singer. Few indeed have explored the subject
o f women as portrayed by women. Although fictional women
have been successfully portrayed by male authors, many such
depictions are marked neither by empathy no r by well-rounded
characterization. Studying portraits o f women by women affords
one the opportun ity to focus on works in which women are
empathetically po r tray ed charac ters whose cha rac teriza tion
benefits from the insights the au tho r brings from he r own life.
In choosing for scrutiny the works o f Anzia Yezierska and E.M.
Broner, an effo rt has been made to select authors who share,
across the years which separate them, a commitment to the cause
o f women. T h e works o f each writer parade before the read e r a
series o f female characters, some clearly conceived as positive;
others, as negative. It is from the positive, role-model characters
that one can learn most about the images o f women p romo ted by
the author.
Anzia Yezierska was born in Russia in about 1880 and , along
with her parents and a large num ber o f siblings, imm igrated to
the United States abou t ten years later. Although she had little
formal education she managed to get accepted to Teachers Col­
lege in 1900 and received a teacher’s diploma in domestic science,
a field she hated, in 1904. A fter a few years o f teaching, two brief,
unhappy marriages, and the birth o f a daughter, she began to
write. Her first published story was “T he Free Vacation House” in