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Oral Histories

Some Amazing Arizona Jewish Women of the Past

PLEASE NOTE: The dolls in this exhibit have been returned to the donor family, who hope to make them available to the public in the future. When that happens, we will post the information here. 12/16/97

In 1996, the Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives acquired a set of ten dolls honoring Jewish women who contributed in the development of Jewish life and culture. The dolls were anonymously donated with the intention that we share these remarkable images and stories with the public. These dolls were originally displayed at a Bat Mitvah celebration as a way of linking Jewish women from one generation to the next. The following stories were researched by the donor as she prepared for her Bat Mitzvah.

Tucson's afternoon newspaper, the Tucson Citizen carried a story about the dolls in the July 16, 1996 edition.


The life and histories of Jewish pioneer men have been well documented. However, the struggles and hardships that Jewish pioneer women faced were not less, but, much less documented and remembered. These women struggled to keep their families alive in conditions unimaginable today. Adobe (dirt) homes with dirt floors, no running water or any of the conveniences that we now have to make everyday life easier. Keeping a Jewish home only added to the difficulties that these women faced. Yet they did it with a great deal of strength and dignity.

Jewish women are today as they were then, the central figure in keeping our heritage alive in our homes and communities. They organized religious and secular schools and raised money to build the first synagogues on the frontier. These women are remembered by the achievements that they had in their lives and the legacies they left behind. They started the grass roots of a Jewish life in the Southwest and many other parts of the world.

Through this experience I have a better grasp on what the challenges have been and still are for Jewish women. I hope that this doll collection will give the recognition long due to these women. We should all be thankful that they lived and continue to live through all of us by remembering them and keeping their life work a part of ours.

Clara Ferrin-Bloom, July 26, 1881-April 17, 1973

Clara Ferrin was born in Tucson on July 26, 1881. Her parents were immigrants from Frankfort, Germany. Clara was born at her parents home on the corner of Meyer Avenue and Cushing Street. She had a sister and brother and they all attended the old Congress Street School, which later became the location of the David Bloom & Sons Clothing Store from 1931-1968. Clara enrolled in the University of Arizona in 1893 and graduated in 1901. Clara was a school teacher at Safford Elementary for eleven years and married a local merchant, David W. Bloom on June 9, 1912.

Together Clara and David had three sons and two daughters. It was their son David A. and his wife Leona whose gift established the Bloom Southwest Jewish Archivesat the University of Arizona.

Clara managed to be very involved in the community. She was the oldest member of Temple Emanu-El when she died. She was a life member of the University of Arizona Alumni Association and a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Tucson Women's Symphony Association. Clara was a charter member of the Phi-Kappa-Phi. She was also a member of the National Council of Jewish Women and the Tucson Festival Society.

The Clara Ferrin Bloom Elementary School was built (located on East Pima Street in Tucson) in her honor and was completed a few weeks before her death on April 17, 1973.

Dora Loon-Capin, November 1875-September 20, 1939

Dora Dobra Loon Capin was born to Morris Fischel Loon and Bluma Loon in November 1875 in Russia. They immigrated to America in 1894 when Dora was just nineteen years old. The family moved to Pennsylvania and there she met her husband Hyman Capin. The Capins had five children in Pennsylvania: Bessie, born on July 14, 1897; Philip Moses, born on November 9, 1898; Sadye Jennie, born on April 18, 1901; Samuel, born March 18, 1903 and Benjamin, born on March 8, 1905.

Soon they moved to Arizona where Hyman opened a small tailor shop. While they lived in Arizona they had three more children: Jacob who was born on September 16, 1908; Hillard, born on May 10, 1910; and the last child was Zellie who came into the world on August 10, 1914.

Hyman's business grew and soon they began to expand throughout the southwest. Dora was instrumental in the expansion of the family business along with her husband, Hyman. Starting off as a tailor, they began on the road to retail. Future generations continued the expansion into the retail business and eventually the hotel business. They built a family fortune which continues to this day to give philanthropically to the Jewish community throughout the southwest.

Jennie Migel-Drachman, 1859-June 13, 1927

Jennie Migel was born in 1859 in Russia. She was the daughter of a pioneer Jewish merchant who immigrated to San Bernadino, California. Jennie married Samuel Harris Drachman at the age of seventeen in California and immediately left for Tucson, Arizona. They lived in Tucson for thirty-seven years (from 1875-1916). Jennie and Sam had four children.

In Tucson, the Drachman name appears on a street and a school. The family was vital in the development of the territory and they were very observant Jews socially and religiously in the early days. They both held very strong religious feelings. Samuel was not a rabbi but acted as a lay rabbi in the early days performing wedding ceremonies and held services in their cigar shop. This couple did more in the territorial days than anyone else to keep Judaism alive in the desert southwest.

Sam was the first president of Temple Emanu-El and Jennie was active in the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society. The original papers to form the Jewish Cemetery Association were drawn on November 21, 1890 by Samuel Drachman.

There was an extensive article in the Tucson Citizen reporting on the first Purim Ball held in Tucson (1886). It was sponsored by the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society and Jennie participated in its planning. The article reported, "The most brilliant social event in the history of Tucson..." It was also reported that Jennie Migel Drachman was dressed in costume as a Tamale Girl Vendor and was the star of the ball.

Jennie died on June 13, 1927 at the age of sixty-eight. All of their struggles helped to preserve Jewish life in the early days is well recorded and the Drachman family is known still for their association with great philanthropic work throughout Arizona.

Rosa Katzenstein-Drachman, January 6, 1848-July 25, 1918

Rosa Katzenstein was born January 6, 1848 in Baltimore, Maryland. She married Philip Drachman on April 21, 1868 in New York City. On May 1, 1868, they started their journey to Arizona on the steamer "Arizona." They sailed to Panama, travelled overland to the Pacific, and sailed on to San Francisco, California. They stayed a few weeks and then preceeded on another steamer to Los Angeles, California. Here they changed their mode of transportation and boarded a stagecoach to San Bernardino, California, arriving on July 6, 1868. They finally departed for Tucson on the 21st of October 1868. They traveled in a four horse ambulance with their provisions and camped out along the way. They traveled approximately 25 miles per day, arriving in Tucson on November 15, 1868 after the six month journey to the vast southwest.

When Rosa arrived in Tucson there was only two other Anglo women living there. Rosa's first born child was Harry Arizona Drachman, who was the first child born in Tucson to both American parents, on February 1, 1869. Rosa and Philip preceeded to have nine more children named: Mose, Emanuel, Rebecca, Myra, Albert, Minnie, Lillian, Esther and Phylis. (The last seven children left Tucson in their adult years and resettled mostly in California). Philip died on November 9, 1889 leaving Rosa to raise all the children alone and continue to Philip's saloon and cigar store. The three older Drachman boys worked with their mother, Rosa, to continue the businesses. In later years, the remaining Tucson branch of Drachmans continued to be involved in community and business ventures and made a mark in the development of Tucson's life. On Rosa Drachman's tombstone it is marked "Mother Drachman," she was a great matriarch who helped to build Tucson's community.

Josephine Sarah Marcus-Earp, 1860-December 19, 1944

Also, read Harriet Rochlin's biography of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp

Josephine Sarah Marcus was born to German immigrant parents in San Francisco, California. She was a very independent child and eager for excitement. She became stage struck after seeing the performance of "H.M.S. Pinafore." Josephine knew she wanted to venture out and become a famous actress. She ran away from home with a friend and joined the Pinafore road troupe. Eventually, her partents located her whereabouts and convinced their little rebel to return home.

At nineteen years of age, Josephine had fallen in love with a man named Johnny Behan who convinced her parents to grant permission for an engagement. Johnny was to leave for Tombstone, Arizona ahead of Josephine to get settled and would send for her to join him. The plan was for Johnny and Josephine to marry at Tombstone. Eventually, Johnny did send for Josephine. She left with her good friend, Kitty Jones. Somewhere along the way, Josephine's trip took a different turn and so began her tales. It is said that Josephine was deliberately evasive and embellished on the truth whenever she felt the circumstances called for it. Josephine never married Johnny Behan but he did introduce her to Wyatt Earp, a young non-Jewish lawman working in Tombstone. [Wyatt would later gain fame for his participation in the O.K. Corral gunfight in Tombstone].

Josephine met Wyatt Earp and it is believed they were secretely married, while others said they were never married. "Sadie" as Wyatt called her was not a dainty little lady. She hiked up the Rocky Mountains in the middle of the winter with her husband to the astonishment of the local population. She traveled throughout Mexico, Colorado, Idaho and Texas with Wyatt. They eventually settled in Alaska and opened a saloon. During these years, Sadie became despondent and was unable to bear children. The artic winters did not give Sadie much relief. She adored her life of adventure and gambling, squandering away large amounts of money. Her family had left her an inheritance which helped to sustain the Earps through hard times. The couple returned to Los Angeles, California and built a home where they lived out their lives. Wyatt died in 1929 and his wife buried him in a Jewish cemetery, the Hills of Eternity, in Colma, California. Josephine died in 1944 and is buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Terese Marx-Ferrin, June 26, 1846-February 25,1911

Terese Marx was born in Frankfort, Germany on June 26, 1846 and immigrated to the United States with her family. Terese Marx was working as a milliner in San Francisco, California when she met her future husband, Joseph Ferrin. They were married at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph (possibly relatives of the Ferrins) by Rabbi Aaron J. Messing of Congregation Beth Israel, a pioneer orthodox synagogue in the San Francisco Bay area. The newlyweds soon relocated to Tucson.

The Ferrin's had three children within four years. (One of the children was named Clara -- see Clara Bloom). Terese raised her children while becoming involved in various Tucson activities. She became very prominent in philanthropic work and was well known for her many charities. In 1890, Terese was named president of the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Association, which was planning to build a synagogue. She was very active in the planning of Temple Emanu-El. In 1910, Terese was present for the laying of the cornerstone of the synagogue on South Stone Avenue, which was the first synagogue in the the Territory of Arizona.

Terese was known as "The Angel of Tucson." She often accompanied one of the town's doctors on emergency calls. She apparently was a self-trained holistic practitioner and herbologist. It was said that her remedies never failed.

Anna Freudenthal-Solomon, 1845-May 4, 1933

Anna Freudenthal was born in a small Polish town adjoining the Russian border. She met her husband, Isidor Solomon, in Krushwitz and was married two months after their engagement. They immigrated as a couple from Europe to Pennsylvania. They had three small children. Isidor was determined to seek new opportunities that he believed existed on the western frontier. They made the difficult journey to Las Cruces, New Mexico where they had family members living. Anna missed the green woods of the eastern U.S. and was shocked at first by the hardships they encountered in their new home. While Isidor went scouting for the right location to settle, he left Anna in a rental home in Las Cruces. Isidor found the perfect place in the eastern part of the Territory of Arizona in the Gila Valley. He went back to Las Cruces and retrieved his family. The Solomons set out to their locale in a wagon.

The Solomons rented a small place for $25.00 a month and began their business ventures in Arizona. They secured a contract to deliver charcoal to a mining company and opened a store front. Times were rough and lonely for Anna as she recalled, "Still we had some very dark and sad times. I could not get anyone to help me with my three babies." Anna was a very skilled woman but her first priority and the most important thing in her life, were her children. Isidor oversaw all of their business interests while Anna tended to the children and the family store.

The Solomon business thrived as they developed additional contracts for charcoal and other items to be delivered throughout Gila County. Their accomplishments played a major role in helping to develop Gila Valley.

The area the Solomons settled in was called Pueble Viejo (The Old Village). After 1879, it's name was changed to Solomonville because of the influence the Solomon's had in the development of the village and the area. The name change became official when mail delivery began a few years later. The post office was housed in the Solomon store. In later years, the name of the city was shortened to Solomon but old timers still call it Solomonville.

Bettina Donau-Steinfeld, June 2, 1861-September 1936

Bettina Donau married Albert Steinfeld in Denver, Colorado in 1883. She was described as "a beautiful Jewish woman." The couple settled in Tucson after their marriage. Albert had already established a small business in Tucson, [Albert Steinfeld was a cousin to the Zeckendorf family, who were very prominent in Tucson's business community]. The Steinfelds had two boys, Lester and Harold, and two girls, Irena and Viola.

The Steinfeld family at first lived in a two bedroom apartment. As their business grew, they built a mansion in the center of town. The couple became extremely popular and were sought after socially. Their home became the center of hospitality and gracious living. Bettina and Albert were quick to give their time in all aspects of community life. Nothing failed to receive their generous response whether it was cultural, charitable or otherwise. They helped to build the first Jewish congregation in Tucson as well as helped many other Jewish organizations.

From the earliest time of Albert's career, Bettina had great influnce over him. She was devoted to him and their children and offered constant encouragement to everyone.

The Steinfelds also had farms in the Safford Valley (Arizona) and went there sometimes to check up on things. Albert also was involved in cattle raising. He had one of the largest cattle operations south of Tucson. His lands stretched from the present day streets of Ajo and Sasabe roads all the way south to the Mexican border. Albert was also involved in the banking business and became president of Consolidated National Bank in 1910.

Albert and Bettina Steinfeld were a very innovative couple together and managed to be involved in so many things. They were one of the first families to own an automobile, (a big Pierce-Arrow), in Tucson. One day the Tucson Citizen newspaper ran a headline stating, "FIRST ARREST FOR SPEEDING IN THIS CITY." The Steinfeld's chauffeur was the first person arrested for speeding in the city and was fined $25.00 for exceeding the speed limit of 20 miles per hour.

The Steinfeld and Donau families helped to build all of Tucson's charitable organizations. Bettina's brother, Hugo, had moved to Tucson to work in the Steinfeld family business. Hugo Donau was the man that talked the Old El Paso and Southwestern Railway into donating $100,000 to build the Young Men's Christian Association Building in downtown Tucson. The diversity of both business and charity interests contributed to Tucson becoming a strong community.

Julia Kaufman-Strauss, July 14, 1850-1935(?)

Julia Kaufman was born on July 14, 1850 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her parents were Anna and David Kaufman. Julia married Charles Strauss on May 10, 1868. The Strauss' remained in Memphis for a few years and managed to have four children. Their children were Rosalie, who died from diphtheria at the age of six years; Gertrude; Mabel; and Charles Moses Junior. Charles Senior became politically active in Memphis and these experiences would later aid him in his adventures in Tucson.

The couple moved to Tucson in 1880 because of Charles Senior poor health. In Tucson, Charles and Julia had another child. The Strauss family became extremely active in the social activities of their new found community. Julia and Charles's home became a center for culture including literary and musical programs. It was said that Julia performed often on the piano at these events. The Lotus Club, which was made up mainly of Jews, had its first meeting hosted by Julia in the Strauss' home. Membership to The Lotus Club included many prominent Jewish women from Tucson.

Charles decided to seek the position of Mayor of Tucson in the 1880s. Despite an outburst of anti-semitism from his opponent, Julia encouraged Charles to continue in the political race. Charles won the election and became Tucson's first Jewish mayor.

On March 13, 1892 Charles died of tuberculosis in the family home. All of Tucson went into mourning over the death of this prominent politican. Julia and her children would leave Tucson and re-settle in Los Angeles, California. Julia died in Los Angeles at her daughter Gertrude Strauss-Reed's home. The death date has not been confirmed but is believed to be sometime in 1935.

Julia Frank-Zeckendorf, 1840-July 22, 1896

Julia Frank was born in Hanover, Germany in 1840. She immigrated to the United States as a young child with her family to New York. At the age of eighteen years, she married William Zeckendorf. He was also originally from Germany and arrived in the United States at the age of fourteen years old to work with his older brothers. The Zeckendorf family business started in New Mexico and then moved to Arizona.

The wedding of Julia and William took place in New York City and the young couple spent their honeymoon on the second transcontinental train trip of the Union Pacific. The train crossed the plains and mountains before arriving in Oakland, California. From Oakland, the couple sailed across the San Francisco Bay and then onward to San Diego, California. The morning they were departing San Diego, Julia had the shock of seeing her handsome new husband for the first time in his western outfit. He came to breakfast wearing a pistol on each hip, criss-crossed bandoleers of ammunition across his chest, and a rifle in hand.

Julia and William finally left for their new home in Tucson. The Zeckendorf's had four children in Tucson. They were: Hilda, Birdie, and Arthur William.

The Zeckendorf's were a very popular couple socially and attended the local Jewish festivities. Julia entertained elegantly in their home for the Jewish community. The Zeckendorfs moved back to New York City later in their lives. When word reached Tucson of their deaths, it shocked the community who remembered this pioneering family for not only merchandising, mining, cattle raising and farming. As the twentieth century arrived, the Zeckendorf name became a memory in the historical records of Arizona and New Mexico.

In New York City the next two generations of Zeckendorfs built a real estate empire. Julia and William's grandson, William II, made a lasting memory for the family name internationally. He was instrumental in putting together the land parcel that John D. Rockerfeller donated to the United Nations for its headquarters in New York City.

Anon 6/10/96

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