Bonnie J. Morris is Adjunct Professor of Women’s Studies at both George Washington University and Georgetown University. She is the author of several books, including Eden Built by Eves: The Culture of Women’s Music Festivals and Lubavitcher Women in America: Identity and Activism in the Postwar Era, also published by SUNY Press.
Through interviews of adults attending primarily Jewish public schools, the author examines the school-mandated segregation of Jews and Gentiles in social clubs and the defiance of those students who tested the barriers. Reconstructing their former adolescent pecking order through informal narrative, both male and female, Jewish and Gentile school alumnae recall the Americanization process of their teenage years in the 1950s, and the often painful social hierarchies intended to direct them to their adult place. For women in particular, challenging the status quo by dating across accepted lines brought real risks. The accounts offer a fresh framework for understanding the American experience of gender and ethnic segregation--and the possibility of change, proven by young students who themselves pushed beyond conformity in the McCarthy years.