Blanche Wolf Knopf
(1894 - 1966)
Blanche Wolf Knopf was the president of Alfred A. Knopf
Inc., one of the most prestigious publishing houses in
the country. Her publishing business acumen established
her as one of the leaders in the industry.
She was born on July 30, 1894, in New York City,
and she was the youngest of two children of Bertha and Julius W. Wolf.
Her father was a wealthy jeweler, who was born in Vienna.
Her family spent the summers at Lawrence, Long Island, and in
1911, she met Alfred Knopf, Jr., whose family were neighbors. They
were married on April 14, 1916.
She encouraged Alfred to follow through with his ambitions to be a
publisher. In 1915, he launched his publishing company with Blanche
as his all-around assistant. Knopf started to gain stature when they
published Gogol's Taras Bulba, Kropotkin's Ideals and Realities in
Russian Literature, and a book of short stories by Guy de Maupassant.
They were also financially successful when they published W.M.
Hudson's Green Mansions.
Blanche Knopf acquired the technical knowledge of the mechanics
of printing. By hiring a nurse to care for her son, she was able to work
full-time. She was responsible for the famous Borsoi imprint on Knopf
books. By 1921, she became vice president.
She made many trips to Europe to look for good authors. Her
knowledge of French and German helped her meet and talk to many authors
and European publishers. She arranged to publish in the United States
the works of Andre Gide, Ilva Ehrenberg, Mikhail Sholokhov and Thomas Mann.
She persuaded Sigmund Freud to have Knopf publish his
latest book, Moses and Monotheism.
In 1936, she visited Germany and was appalled at what she had
seen. In an interview with the New York Times (July 14, 1936) she
said "There is not a German writer left in Germany who is worth thinking about. The gifted writers and enterprising publishers who had any
independence had left Germany. Only the Nazi writers and publishers
remain so as to please the Nazi government."
She made several trips to Latin America during World War II
looking for authors. She signed Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre and
other writers. After WW II, she returned to Europe to look for authors.
She became president of the publishing house when her husband
became the chairman. They had a home in Purchase, New York, but
she had an apartment on fifty-fifth street in New York City for her
social life. Most of her friends were from the publishing world.
She was responsible for shaping and advancing the careers of many
authors. She was their mentor and advisor in their time of crisis. She
helped many of them financially.
Blanche Knopf was an enthusiastic concert-goer whose friends in
the music world were Mr. and Mrs. Artur Rubinstein and Mr. and Mrs.
Jascha Heifetz. Her clothing was high fashioned and one of her
favorite designers was Christian Dior.
In her later years, she was plagued by illness. She died in her sleep
on June 4, 1966. Blanche Wolf Knopf was one of the few women to
reach her position in publishing. Her achievements in the industry
paved the way for other women to follow her to help dismantle an exclusive male
world in publishing.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.