In Her Hands: The Edu­ca­tion of Jew­ish Girls in Tsarist Russia

Eliyana R. Adler

  • From the Publisher
May 16, 2012

Though over one hun­dred pri­vate schools for Jew­ish girls thrived in the areas of Jew­ish set­tle­ment in the Russ­ian empire between 1831 and 1881, their sto­ry has been large­ly over­looked in the schol­ar­ship of Jew­ish edu­ca­tion­al his­to­ry. In Her Hands: The Edu­ca­tion of Girls in Tsarist Rus­sia restores these schools to their right­ful place of promi­nence in train­ing thou­sands of Jew­ish girls in sec­u­lar and Juda­ic sub­jects and also paving the way for the mod­ern schools that fol­lowed them. Through exten­sive archival research, author Eliyana R. Adler exam­ines the schools’ cur­ricu­lum, teach­ers, financ­ing, stu­dents, and edu­ca­tion­al inno­va­tion and demon­strates how each of these aspects evolved over time.

The first sec­tion of this vol­ume fol­lows the emer­gence and devel­op­ment of the new pri­vate schools for Jew­ish girls in the mid-1800s, begin­ning with the his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances that enabled their cre­ation, and detail­ing the staffing, financ­ing, and aca­d­e­mics in the schools. Adler dis­pels the myth that all edu­ca­tion in Rus­sia was reserved for boys by show­ing that a ded­i­cat­ed group of edu­ca­tors and admin­is­tra­tors worked to pro­vide new oppor­tu­ni­ties for a diverse group of Jew­ish girls. In the sec­ond sec­tion, Adler looks at the inter­ac­tions between these new edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions and their com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing how the schools respond­ed to changes tak­ing place around them and how they in turn influ­enced their envi­ron­ment. Adler con­sults sev­er­al major archives, includ­ing those of the for­mer Russ­ian Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, along with con­tem­po­rary peri­od­i­cals, edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als, and per­son­al mem­oirs to pro­vide a remark­ably com­plete pic­ture of edu­ca­tion for Jew­ish girls in Rus­sia in the mid- to late nine­teenth century.

In telling the sto­ry of Rus­si­a’s pri­vate schools for Jew­ish girls, Adler argues that these schools were cru­cibles of edu­ca­tion­al exper­i­men­ta­tion that mer­it seri­ous exam­i­na­tion. Schol­ars of Jew­ish his­to­ry, edu­ca­tion­al his­to­ry, and wom­ens’ stud­ies will enjoy this path­break­ing study.

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