Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation

A History of Argentine Jewish Women, 1880–1955

Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation

Book Pages: 396 Illustrations: 20 photographs, 10 tables, 4 maps Published: July 2010

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone, Religious Studies

In Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation, Sandra McGee Deutsch brings to light the powerful presence and influence of Jewish women in Argentina. The country has the largest Jewish community in Latin America and the third largest in the Western Hemisphere as a result of large-scale migration of Jewish people from European and Mediterranean countries from the 1880s through the Second World War. During this period, Argentina experienced multiple waves of political and cultural change, including liberalism, nacionalismo, and Peronism. Although Argentine liberalism stressed universal secular education, immigration, and individual mobility and freedom, women were denied basic citizenship rights, and sometimes Jews were cast as outsiders, especially during the era of right-wing nacionalismo. Deutsch’s research fills a gap by revealing the ways that Argentine Jewish women negotiated their own plural identities and in the process participated in and contributed to Argentina’s liberal project to create a more just society.

Drawing on extensive archival research and original oral histories, Deutsch tells the stories of individual women, relating their sentiments and experiences as both insiders and outsiders to state formation, transnationalism, and cultural, political, ethnic, and gender borders in Argentine history. As agricultural pioneers and film stars, human rights activists and teachers, mothers and doctors, Argentine Jewish women led wide-ranging and multifaceted lives. Their community involvement—including building libraries and secular schools, and opposing global fascism in the 1930s and 1940s—directly contributed to the cultural and political lifeblood of a changing Argentina. Despite their marginalization as members of an ethnic minority and as women, Argentine Jewish women formed communal bonds, carved out their own place in society, and ultimately shaped Argentina’s changing pluralistic culture through their creativity and work.


“McGee Deutsch’s study is an important contribution to the historiography of women in Latin America. Although the field has expanded tremendously over the past several decades, this volume continues to remind us of just how much remains to be recovered, particularly regarding ethnically marginal groups. In fact, this book is the first major publication on women in an immigrant community in Latin America.” — Patricia Harms, Canadian Journal of History

“This pioneering volume traces the history of Argentine Jewish women from the beginnings of Jewish immigration in 1880 through the presidency of Juan Perón. . . . Highly recommended.” — J. D. Sarna, Choice

“Well-researched and well-told, this work is worth reading, particularly in conjunction with other histories of international migration.”
— Mark D. Szuchman, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Based on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, written documents and oral history, this book is highly recommended to anyone interested in Latin American ethnic studies or in the history of women in this region. It will be particularly helpful to students and scholars of Jewish Latin America.” — Raanan Rein, Hispanic American Historical Review

“I found this book almost impossible to put down. It is written in clear and elegant language, with a balance of historical archival research and personal oral histories… Her book is a magnificent historical meditation that explores a variety of topics in nation-building narratives, ranging from the roles of Jewish women in rural areas and their participation in establishing farms and communities to the roles of urban women in education, politics, and the arts… I am certain that this exemplary book will be a model for future historians interested in gender studies of immigration and Judaism, as well as the specific experience of Jewish women in Argentina… It is the work of a passionate and brilliant historian who is at the same time objective, accurate, deeply personal, and deeply human.” — Marjorie Agosin, Outlook

“Sandra McGee Deutsch’s book is a pioneering contribution to Latin American histories of immigration and state formation; it represents the first scholarly monograph to tell the story of immigrant women of any background in the region…. This is a fascinating and highly readable book that should inspire new research to determine just how exceptional Jewish Argentine women really were, and how their stories of national belonging compare to those of other immigrant and women’s groups in Latin America.”
— Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, American Historical Review

“The publication of Sandra McGee Deutsch’s Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation marks a major contribution to the history of Jews in Argentina as well as to women’s history. Her nuanced and engaging stories of women from the right, the left, and the center of the Argentine Jewish community and their efforts to distinguish themselves beyond the realm of hearth and home represents the first major monograph on Jewish women in the Southern Hemisphere.” — Donna Guy H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews

Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation is a pioneering work, providing historical analysis of the multidimensional experiences of Jewish women in Argentina. It is a valuable and original piece of scholarship.” — Mariano Plotkin, author of Mañana es San Perón: A Cultural History of Perón’s Argentina

“Sandra McGee Deutsch has written a remarkable book, filled with compelling details and prodigious analysis, rich oral histories and archival research. The stories she tells come alive in ways no other scholar has achieved. Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation is poised to become a classic.” — Temma Kaplan, author of Taking Back the Streets: Women, Youth, and Direct Democracy


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sandra McGee Deutsch is Professor of History at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of Las Derechas: The Extreme Right in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, 1890–1939 and Counterrevolution in Argentina, 1900-1932: The Argentine Patriotic League.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations and Tables vii

Acknowledgments ix

List of Women xi

Introduction 1

1. "If Water Is Sweet": Jewish Women in the Countryside 13

2. "I Worked, I Struggled": Jewish Women in Buenos Aires 42

3. "A Point of Connection": Pathways into the Professions 73

4. "Not a Novice": Prostitutes 105

5. "A Bad Reputation": Family and Sexuality 123

6. "What Surrounds Us Dissatisfies Us": Leftists and Union Members through the 1930s 148

7. "A Dike Against Reaction": Contesting Anti-Semitism, Fascism, and Peronism 172

8. "We the Women Have to Do Something": Philanthropies and Zionism 205

Conclusion 236

Appendix 249

Notes 257

Bibliography 319

Index 363
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2011 Latin American Jewish Studies Association Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4649-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4657-9
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