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Pioneering Jewish Women of Colorado

Jewish women have made numerous contributions to the development of Colorado from its territorial days to the present, in large part due to the more fluid social structure of the American West.

According to Dr. Jeanne Abrams, a noted scholar in the field of American Jewish History, “Jews were able to integrate more fully into local communities than they had in the East. Jewish women in the West took advantage of the unsettled nature of the region to ‘open new doors’ for themselves in the public sphere in ways often not yet possible elsewhere in the country. Women were crucial to the survival of early communities, and made distinct contributions not only in shaping Jewish communal life but outside the Jewish community as well. Western Jewish women’s level of involvement at the vanguard of social welfare and progressive reform, commerce, politics, and higher education and the professions is striking given their relatively small numbers.” Introduction to Dr. Abram's book Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West (New York: New York University Press, 2006).

This exhibit showcases some of the Jewish women who raised families, founded communal organizations, sustained their Jewish heritage, and ultimately helped shape Colorado.  It features women who came to Colorado when it was still a territory, such as Frances Wisebart Jacobs, nicknamed “Denver’s Mother of Charities” and Ray David, “Little Mother to the Poor.” It also tells the story of Eastern European Jewish women who lived on Denver’s West side, such as Channah Milstein and Fannie Lorber, who came in the 1880s and initiated important philanthropic organizations. A number of collections in the Ira M. and Peryle Hayutin Beck Memorial Archives were used in the creation of the exhibit.

Descriptive text for this exhibit was based on Dr. Jeanne Abrams' book Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West (New York: New York University Press, 2006). Please read the book to learn more about Jewish women in Colorado and the West.

Credits

Thyria K. Wilson