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Sarah Smith Learned Yiddish to Become Newspaper Woman

December 2, 1934
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Can a woman be a good newspaperman? Ask Sarah B. Smith, who in twenty-two years of newspaper work has carved for herself not only a splendid career as journalist, novelist and playwright, but has also been an equally successful wife and mother and has acquired a vital and stimulating personality.

As quite a young girl, faced with the necessity of earning her living, she turned to Jewish journalism and obtained her first position with the Jewish Morning Journal. The tremendous difficulties, which would have daunted a weaker heart, faced her right at the beginning. The one was the prejudice entertained at that time against women journalists, the second was the language in which she had to express herself. For although European born—of Hungarian stock—and brought to America as a little child—Yiddish was almost unknown to her and she had to learn it in order to make it an effective medium for her literary talent. How well she succeeded not only her journalistic work but twenty-two widely read and much-translated novels testify. Sarah B. Smith is the most beloved Jewish newspaperwoman, the first who ever served as a reporter on a Jewish paper, and the one who has triumphantly overcome the misgivings of editors who mistrusted the abilities of a mere woman writer.


From the Morning Journal she went to The Day. In fact, she joined The Day in its very dawning, twenty-four hours before it was actually born. For twenty years now, she has been one of the most valuable staff members of this paper and her success—material as well as personal—has been great and well deserved. She covered all possible assignments during her long career, and specialized in criminal court news and divorce court proceedings. She had and has the gift to transform a mere news item into a column of deep, human interest, a column that brought her in intimate touch with thousands of readers, who wrote to her for help and service. When the honor system was installed in Ossining, she spent six days there under an assumed name, studying the psychological reactions of the prisoners to the new system and reporting on them in one of the most vivid, most remarkable news stories any journalist has ever written.

Seeing her and talking to her—she has retained the good looks of her girlhood and she simply radiates vitality and energy—one is delighted with the generous praise she gives to all who have been helpful and sympathetic to her. She warmly lauds The Day where the usual prejudice against women did not prevail and where she was able to do the work she loves to do and does so well; she insists that without her husband’s encouragement, sympathy and understanding, without his friendly yet strict criticism, she would never have been able to achieve her success; she is full of tender love for her charming, twenty-year-old married daughter and her son, a sturdy and clever lad of fourteen. The children in turn both adore their brilliant mother and are inordinately proud of her.


Mrs. Smith has dramatized one of her most successful books, “Charge It to Me,” in collaboration with Viola Brothers Shore and it is just now in rehearsal. It will open in Baltimore on December 10 and come to New York about Christime time. The title of the play is “Piper Paid.”

Another play, “Premier’s Wife,” is about to be produced in Stockholm. It deals searchingly with European politics.

Mrs. Smith is, of course, very pleased at having gained Broadway production, but she is not unduly excited. “After all,” she says smilingly, “human hearts, human destinies are the same on East Broadway or on Big Broadway. I have always tried to picture life and its problems just as I saw it, sincerely, and with real compassion. That’s why my public responded to me on East Broadway, and I hope and trust that I shall find an equal response in the more glittering but still human world of Big Broadway.”

For the woman journalist Mrs. Smith has as recipe for success the admonition: “When you work, forget you are a woman. Don’t ask or expect privileges, don’t try to make your way with the help of dress, makeup, feminine fripperies and flirtations. Do your work competently, loyally, carefully. Be reliable. Only on the ladder of merit can one mount to success.”

And that she speaks wisdom her own story has abundantly established.

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