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Edna Ferber

(1885 - 1968)

Edna Ferber was a very successful and well known writer of short stories, novels and plays. Her novels reflected the growth of many regions of the United States. In all of her writings, Ferber portrayed the heroine as being aggressive, assertive and successful.

She was born on August 15, 1885, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the second of two daughters of Julia and Jacob Charles Ferber. Her father was a Hungarian immigrant who had a family store. His sight and health caused the family to move a number of times to different cities until he died.

In her autobiography, Ferber describes some of the anti-Semitism she experienced when she was a young girl. Her father wouldn't come home for lunch from the store on Saturdays. She would bring him a full hot lunch and she had to be careful so as to not spill the soup. As she walked down the street, the other children would taunt her with remarks like "Here comes the sheeny!" or "The sheeny wets her bed!" On the next street, she encountered men in their twenties who would make anti-Semitic remarks as she nervously walked by them.

She was proud that she was Jewish. She recalls being one of eight to attend a dinner party of a society woman in New York. The woman didn't know that Ferber and two other guests were Jewish. She told them that she threw away a book when she learned that the author was Jewish. It was at this point that all three Jewish guests, including Ferber, told her that they were Jewish and walked out.

She worked on a number of newspapers, going from one to another to enhance her position and gain experience. It was during this time that she became sick and while convalescing she started to write fiction. After selling her first story, her work was in demand. In 1912, her short stories were collected in volumes. Many reviewers thought that a man had written them but was using a woman's name as a coverup. Ferber was proud of that charge because she believed that every writer should be judged by their writing and not their sex.

Ferber's career as a playwright wasn't successful until she collaborated with George S. Kaufman. Their plays resulted in hits: Minick in 1924; The Royal Family in 1927; Dinner at Eight in 1932; Stage Door in 1936; and Show Boat in 1937, which was based on her novel.

Ferber was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for her first big seller, So Big, which sold over 300,000 copies. Her published works included two autobiographies, thirteen novels, eight plays, and many collections of short stories. Eight of her novels and two collections of short stories were made into films.

Edna Ferber lost her battle with cancer and died on April 16, 1968. Ferber was never married because she didn't see it as part of her game plan for life. While she left her estate to her sister and nieces, Edna Ferber gave the United States her writings which encouraged women to become aggressive and assertive so that they enjoy success in their lives.

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.