The Changing of Times, the Changes of Roles
After braving the hard travels and experiencing even worse, almost unbearable, living conditions of the pioneer life, the Jewish women gained a sense of a new freedom and a new reality that was only offered in the harsh, wild desert of the Southern Arizona territory. During these times of pioneers, many great histories and legacies of the small, scattered Jewish communities were established. Although these groups were small in numbers, there was a very large and dynamic impact. For example, of the Goldwaters of Phoenix, one of the more better known descendants, the late Senator Barry Goldwater impacted the federal as well as the state ...view middle of the document...
In this paper, I plan to introduce my theory that the changes that led to the trailblazing of America also led to the trailblazing of the Jewish women, and I am using specific examples of local Jewish women of Tucson and Nogales, Arizona to show that the destruction and reconstruction of the ideal Jewish woman occurred during this dramatic time of mass migration, pioneerism and growth of America herself.
The new times called for changes, and these changes were evident in the Jewish women's increasing involvement in their communities. Traditionally, these women were expected to marry, have as many children as possible, and be a good wife. Sandra Butler, a little known Jewish woman revolutionary of her time, reflects in her account that she contributed to a collection of essays and autobiographies (Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women: Patterns in a Feminist Sampler) her own experiences with the changing of times:
By the time I was thirteen, I knew that there were generic girl rules that had to be followed . . .
Let the boy take the lead . . . Be smart, get good report cards, but don’t be smarter than the boys . . .
I followed the rules carefully. Married well. I became the mother of two daughters . . .
I was divorced in 1963, the first in my family and in the lives of everyone we knew. It was a shanda [scandal] and my family was terribly angry and ashamed. I had failed in my attempts to be a successful adult woman.(4)
Pressures of maintaining the traditional rules of a Jewish woman was enforced in Butler's home, and when she realized later that there was something more than to her marriage and her children, all those rules shattered. The ideal "successful adult woman" at the time was a woman who took care of the domestic businesses and who was docile and loyal to her marriage and her family; however, Butler was a revolutionary of her era, who broke the traditional rules as a Jewish house wife. She became much more than a mother or wife, and with her sacrifices and rejection of the traditional roles of a Jewish woman, came the pain of her own rejection of her family and loved ones. Butler, however, knew that there was something more to the woman, something different that her maternal ancestors had never experienced, much less given the opportunity:
I was restless and eager to participate in the world exploding around me. It was a time of the civil rights struggles . . . I got a job . . . and I threw myself into the passions of American life.
I demonstrated. I attended meetings . . . I was faced with questions about what it meant to be a Jew.
No longer the Jewish wife and mother I had been trained to be, I was becoming another kind of Jew . . . I was becoming the Jew my parents feared.(5)
Butler was redefining herself, her life, her roles as a Jewish women, and she openly recognized this. Such a change could not be met without much opposition: imagine...