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Jessica Blanche Peixotto

PEIXOTTO, JESSICA BLANCHE (1864–1941), U.S. professor of economics. Granddaughter of Dr. Daniel Levy Maduro *Peixotto and daughter of Raphael Peixotto and Myrtilla Jessica Davis Peixotto, Jessica Peixotto was born in New York City but educated in San Francisco. After graduating from Girls' High School in 1880, she studied privately at home for a decade but in 1891 decided to enroll as a special student at the University of California, Berkeley against her father's wishes. After received her B.A. in 1894, she continued graduate studies in political science and in 1900 became the second woman to receive a Ph.D. from Berkeley. Her dissertation, The French Revolution and Modern French Socialism, was published in 1901.

In 1904, Jessica Peixotto was invited to teach at Berkeley as a lecturer in sociology, although her field was social economics. In 1907, she became assistant professor of economics, and in 1918, she was promoted to full professor of social economics; she was the first woman to achieve that rank at the University of California and also the first woman to head a department. She established and chaired the Heller Committee for Research in Social Economics and initiated a special program within the economics department that eventually resulted in the creation of a professional school of social work at Berkeley.

In addition to her thesis, Peixotto published several books and numerous reports, articles, and course syllabi in periodicals. Among her most important works are Getting and Spending at the Professional Standard of Living: A Study of the Costs of Living on Academic Life (1927) and Cost of Living Studies, II: How Workers Spend a Living Wage (1929). A festschrift, Essays in Social Economics in Honor of Jessica Blanche Peixotto (1935), published at the time of her retirement from Berkeley, pays tribute to her life and work.

Jessica Peixotto was also actively involved in public service. She was a member of the Berkeley Commission of Public Charities (1910–13) and then the California State Board of Charities and Corrections (1912–24), chairing the Committee on Children and the Committee on Research. During World War I, she worked in Washington as the executive officer of the child welfare department of the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense and then as head of the council's child conservation section. In 1928, she was elected vice president of the American Economic Association. She later served on the Consumers' Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration (1933). Peixotto received honorary law doctorates from Mills College (1935) and the University of California (1926).


J.R. Baskin, "Peixotto, Jessica Blanche," in: Jewish Women in America, 2:1040–41; H.R. Hatfield. "Jessica Blanche Peixotto," in: Essays in Social Economics in Honor of Jessica Blanche Peixotto (1935), 5–14, 361–63; "Economics at Cal: At the Cutting Edge for 100 Years," in: The Econ Exchange, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 2002), 1–5.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.