Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains

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Indiana University Press, Jan 1, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 158 pages
43 Reviews

"Calof's [story] has the 'electricity' one occasionally finds in primary sources. It is powerful, shocking, and primitive, with the kind of appeal primary sources often attain without effort.... it is a strong addition to the literature of women's experience on the frontier." —Lillian Schlissel [asking for approval to use quote]

In 1894, eighteen-year-old Rachel Bella Kahn travelled from Russia to the United States for an arranged marriage to Abraham Calof, an immigrant homesteader in North Dakota. Rachel Calof's Story combines her memoir of a hard pioneering life on the prairie with scholarly essays that provide historical and cultural background and show her narrative to be both unique and a representative western tale. Her narrative is riveting and candid, laced with humor and irony.

The memoir, written by Rachel Bella Calof in 1936, recounts aspects of her childhood and teenage years in a Jewish community, (shtetl) in Russia, but focuses largely on her life between 1894 and 1904, when she and her husband carved out a life as homesteaders. She recalls her horror at the hardships of pioneer life—especially the crowding of many family members into the 12 x 14' dirt-floored shanties that were their first dewllings. "Of all the privations I knew as a homesteader," says Calof, "the lack of privacy was the hardest to bear." Money, food, and fuel were scarce, and during bitter winters, three Calof households—Abraham and Rachel with their growing children, along with his parents and a brother's family—would pool resources and live together (with livestock) in one shanty.

Under harsh and primitive conditions, Rachel Bella Calof bore and raised nine children. The family withstood many dangers, including hailstorms that hammered wheat to the ground and flooded their home; droughts that reduced crops to dust; blinding snowstorms of plains winters. Through it all, however, Calof drew on a humor and resolve that is everywhere apparent in her narrative. Always striving to improve her living conditions, she made lamps from dried mud, scraps of rag, and butter; plastered the cracked wood walls of her home with clay; supplemented meagre supplies with prairie forage—wild mushrooms and garlic for a special supper, dry grass for a hot fire to bake bread. Never sentimental, Caolf's memoir is a vital historical and personal record.

J. Sanford Rikoon elaborates on the history of Jewish settlement in the rural heartland and the great tide of immigration from the Russian Pale of Settlement and Eastern Europe from 1880–1910. Elizabeth Jameson examines how Calof "writes from the interior spaces of private life, and from that vantage point, reconfigures more familiar versions of the American West." Jameson also discusses how the Calofs adapted Jewish practices to the new contingencies of North Dakota, maintaining customs that represented the core of their Jewish identity, reconstructing their "Jewishness" in new circumstances.


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Review: Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains

User Review  - Sarah - Goodreads

The book was surprisingly short. The actual diary was only 90 pages in the version I read - with large font and wide margins. There is a preface and two scholarly articles at the end. I found an ... Read full review

Review: Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains

User Review  - Nicole - Goodreads

I really enjoyed the authors view, narrative tone, and getting to know her and her hardships. She is an example of the strength and perseverance that founded this country. Read full review

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URJ - Rachel Calof's Story
Departments, Jewish Family Concerns, Education, Marketing, MUM, Outreach, Membership, RJ Magazine, Small Congregations, Social Action, Synagogue Management ...
urj.org/ Articles/ index.cfm?id=1402

JSTOR: Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains
Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains. Edited by J. Sanford Rikoon. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. xiii + 158 pp. ...
links.jstor.org/ sici?sici=0043-3810(199622)27%3A2%3C247%3ARCSJHO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-U

Rachel Calof's Story | Montana: The Magazine of Western History ...
RACHEL CALOF'S STORY Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains. J. Sanford Rikoon, Editor. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1995. ...
findarticles.com/ p/ articles/ mi_qa3951/ is_199904/ ai_n8841623

This webpage is designed for students in HIST 222. It includes links to websites that may be of interest, study tips for HIST 222, information about ...
userpages.wittenberg.edu/ mwood/ hist222.html

Reading Series: A Place in History Rachel Calof
Copyright 2003 Jewish Women’s Archive. Reading Series: A Place in History. Rachel Calof. Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the. Northern Plains ...
jwa.org/ discover/ inthepast/ readingseries/ pdf/ calof.pdf

Rachel Calof's Story
Rachel Bella Kahn, an 18-year-old Jewish girl living in Russia, immigrated to the United States in 1894. Her mother had died when she was four, ...
www.radessays.com/ viewpaper/ 16976/ Rachel_Calof's_Story.html

Kristine Peleg - The Original Text of Rachel Calof's Memoir ...
Written in Yiddish in the 1930s, Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains was published in an English translation by Indiana ...
muse.jhu.edu/ journals/ american_jewish_history/ v092/ 92.1peleg.html

wbtpl's Online Library: Read ~ Book Group to Go Kit
... Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America · SF Book.com · The Mystery Reader · The Romance Reader · Want more? Click here. Search the Catalog ...
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Rachel Calof's Story / Indiana University Press
Rachel Bella Calof defies the nostalgia of the cheerful
www.iupress.indiana.edu/ catalog/ product_info.php?products_id=20945

Rachel Bella Calof Yiddish Autobiographer, Homesteader 1876 -1952 ...
Rachel Bella Calof. Yiddish Autobiographer, Homesteader. 1876 -1952. Devils Lake, North Dakota. Rachel Bella Kahn was born in Russia in 1876. ...
www.nps.gov/ home/ historyculture/ upload/ MW,pdf,CalofBio,b.pdf

About the author (1995)

J. SANFORD RIKOON is Research Associate Professor in the Department of Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is the author of Threshing in the Midwest, 1820–1940. ELIZABETH JAMESON, Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico, is co-editor of The Women's West.

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