1924 Diary of a Jewish Working Girl Dating and Coming-of-Age in the Bronx

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On offer is a delightful, well-written diary of a young single Jewish woman from the Bronx, dating and relating during the vibrant years of New York’s Roaring Twenties

The author of the diary is Sylvia Cohn (b. c1905). Cohn lived in the Bronx district of NYC. She was born to Solomon Cohn (1876-1950) and Carrie Cohn (b. 1877). She had one brother named Jack (1910-1950). Sylvia is a young Jewish woman, about 19 when she wrote this diary. At the time of her writing she is single by choice as she has many suitors from which to choose. When she writes this diary she is working as a stenographer at a legal firm, and living at home on 1343 Prospect Ave. There is no further biographical information available. 

Sylvia works a regular job, has a very active social life and a particular interest in music. She begins singing lessons in April of 1924 and makes her singing debut in public on July 9th. She discusses her singing regularly. She also discusses her innermost thoughts, her dating life, and her social escapades. Sylvia misses some days of writing in 1924, but her entries are all very long and very newsy. A true gem of a diary. She attends a lot of events and her diary doubles as something of a scrapbook as she pastes in programs and cards related to her outings. Some excerpts give the flavour of Sylvia’s writing: 

“The P.O.F Club afforded us some real enjoyment tonight with Judge Caffrey as its speaker. He gave us some snappy views on ‘Women’ (he’s a bachelor) and what he thought should be the ideal modern woman...He maintained that women should be 1. in home atmosphere as much as possible, 2. shouldn’t lose her womanly attributes in the struggle for equality with men, 3. that woman cannot be equal to man until she can stand up and take a licking from one” [May 1]. 

“Was spent hiking around and up a very steep hill. In afternoon we met the boys from the Northover Camp whom Miss Schechtman had been informed of and they came over in the evening to our camp fire at 10 o’clock. This party had disastrous results for them but had many memories for us. It was delightful - [] entertainment and I had to sing for them” [May 31].

“My debut tonight. I was very nervous and also the fact that I was singing out in the open air made my voice unable to carry very well. I sang “At Dawning” and “Oh My Beloved Daddy” for an encore. Everyone said it was fine but it didn’t suit my standard. F was my accompanist. The affair as a whole was very successful” [July 9].

“Uneventful day except that we had a terrible dinner out tonight. I must be getting foolish in my old age but I have romantic ideas about M.D.. But he seems a hard fish to land as he’s used to women’s wiles. (You’d think I really did some vamping to hear me talk) I’d like to but I don’t know how. I think, tho, that he’s a type I could grow to love. Maybe” [Aug 8]. 

“Freida and I were describing yesterday our yearning for the sort of good times some of the girls have in the night life of New York- not too tame and not too wild. We long to have it just to see what it's like and then we’d probably tire of it Oh but just to try it once ourselves without having to depend on hearsay. Wonder if we’ll ever do it legitimately!” [October 20].

“MD - I just love to dance with him. He took Sadie and me home too as I refused Jerry’s and Billie’s offers for various reasons. Billie was lost and wandered around the place, every now and then giving me a chance to refuse him a dance. F and Minna had a funk time. I think because they didn’t get in with any of the boys and left very early while Mae and Sylvia had a glorious evening of it. My two guests, the Livy Bros, were bored stiff as they were not in their rough element but I should worry it was a financial success my gosh - we made over $100. Oh! I mustn’t forget to tell about the Program” [Nov 6]. 

For a gender studies program, this diary is a fascinating look into the life of a smart young woman living in the heyday of the Roaring 20s when economic prosperity and cultural change swept across America.

This diary measures 6.75x4.0 inches and contains 365 pages. It is approximately 80% complete. The covers are leather and show definite signs of wear. The binding has separated at the spine and the front cover has separated from the binding. The pages are all intact and in good condition. The handwriting is legible. Overall Fair. 

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