Female, Jewish, and Educated presents a collective biography of Jewish women who attended universities in Germany or Austria before the Nazi era. To what extent could middle-class Jewish women in the early decades of the 20th century combine family and careers? What impact did anti-Semitism and gender discrimination have in shaping their personal and professional choices? Harriet Freidenreich analyzes the lives of 460 Central European Jewish university women, focusing on their family backgrounds, university experiences, professional careers, and decisions about marriage and children. She evaluates the role of discrimination and anti-Semitism in shaping the careers of academics, physicians, and lawyers in the four decades preceding World War II and assesses the effects of Nazism, the Holocaust, and emigration on the lives of a younger cohort of women. The life stories of the women profiled reveal the courage, character, and resourcefulness with which they confronted challenges still faced by women today.
Freidenreich (Temple Univ.) details the lives of 460 Jewish women who attended German or Austrian universities between 1900 and the Nazi Era. Predictably intelligent and assertive, these mostly middle-class women sought intellectually challenging, economically secure, and socially responsible lives. Also predictably, they encountered pervasive antisemitism and, after 1933, the Nazi dictatorship, impacting them publicly and privately-indeed, often cruelly shortening or warping their existence. Despite untold hardships, many persevered to become successful in exile, but at considerable costs to their families and themselves. Including both well-known and comparatively obscure women, this study focuses on specific stages in their experiences: childhood, university years, professional development, career and/or family, political involvement, Nazi persecution, and, for the fortunate, life after 1945. Learning about them is both frightening and inspiring. Freidenreich's meticulous combing of archival and secondary sources, her personal contacts with many of these women and their families, and her carefully constructed descriptions and analysis make this a powerful, moving account. Its persuasive argument, statistical tables, photographs, detailed scholarly citations, and comprehensive bibliography will stimulate general readers and scholars to further questions and research. Highly recommended for both public and university libraries with holdings in women's and/or European history.November 2002 -- D. R. Skopp * Plattsburgh SUNY *