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Anzia Yezierska (1880–1970)

Author of Bread Givers

Includes the names: Anna Yezierska, Anzia Yezierska

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Anzia Yezierska was born in the Russian-Polish village of Plinsk to an impoverished Jewish scholar and his wife who had nine children. From an early age, she was determined to obtain an education. The family emigrated to the USA in 1900. Anzia got jobs in sweatshops and went to night school in order to learn English. She won a scholarship that enabled her to attend Columbia University Teacher's College. She taught elementary school from 1908 to 1913, with a brief leave of absence to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then began to write fiction. In 1910, she married a lawyer, but applied for an annulment the next day, explaining that she was unprepared for the physical side of marriage. The following year, she married Arnold Levitas, a teacher and textbook writer, and the couple had a daughter; they divorced in 1916. Anzia became famous with the publication of her first story, The Fat of the Land, in 1919. Her work often focused on the problems experienced by immigrant Jewish women and their families in America. She was involved in a lengthy romantic liasion with educator John Dewey, who was more than 20 years her senior. She addressed the relationship fictionally in All I Could Never Be (1932) and the autobiographical Red Ribbon on a White Horse (1950); it also was fictionalized in Norma Rosen’s book John and Anzia: An American Romance (1989).
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