Sarah Fenster’s Neighborhood: Demography, Community, and One Child’s Life in 1900 Jewish Philadelphia
This paper blends quantitative and qualitative methods to tell the story of the Russian Fenster family, their daughter Sarah, and one block of Philadelphia’s Jewish Quarter in the summer of 1900. What sorts of people, places, and cultural forces shaped Jewish Philadelphia? How did children perceive the Quarter’s impoverished living conditions, vibrant culture, and diverse inhabitants? Using the 1900 census, death records, benevolent society archives, city atlases, and city directories, I recreate Sarah’s life cycle and show that her neighborhood was not a mere slum, but rather a vibrant refuge, reflecting the United States in miniature.
Respondent: Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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