(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
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.