In 1996, a young woman in Tucson researched the lives of ten pioneer Jewish women as part of her Bat Mitvah preparation. A set of ten dolls honoring these pioneer Jewish women were commissioned for the occasion. The dolls were originally displayed at the Bat Mitvah celebration as a way of linking Jewish women from one generation to the next.
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.