Between the 1880s and 1920s, Yiddish-language newspapers rose from obscurity to become successful institutions integral to American Jewish life. During this period, Yiddish-speaking immigrants came to view newspapers as indispensable parts of their daily lives. For many Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, acclimating to America became inextricably intertwined with becoming a devoted reader of the Yiddish periodical press, as the newspapers and their staffs became a fusion of friends, religious and political authorities, tour guides, matchmakers, and social welfare agencies.
In A Revolution in Type, Ayelet Brinn argues that women were central to the emergence of the Yiddish press as a powerful, influential force in American Jewish culture. Through rhetorical debates about women readers and writers, the producers of the Yiddish press explored how to transform their newspapers to reach a large, diverse audience. The seemingly peripheral status of women’s columns and other newspaper features supposedly aimed at a female audience―but in reality, read with great interest by male and female readers alike―meant that editors and publishers often used these articles as testing grounds for the types of content their newspapers should encompass. The book explores the discovery of previously unknown work by female writers in the Yiddish press, whose contributions most often appeared without attribution; it also examines the work of men who wrote under women’s names in order to break into the press. Brinn shows that instead of framing issues of gender as marginal, we must view them as central to understanding how the American Yiddish press developed into the influential, complex, and diverse publication field it eventually became.
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