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Anzia Yezierska

Erens, Patricia Brett

There is a good deal of inaccuracy and mythologizing about the life of Anzia Yezierska. Some of this misinformation was generated by the public relations offices of Hollywood; other misrepresentations resulted from Yezierska’s own obfuscation, especially concerning her age. Yezierska may have been born in 1880 (although the date is disputed), in a Polish-Russian village, the youngest of nine children. She grew up in a poor, Jewish Orthodox family on New York’s Lower East Side. She left elementary school to help support her family, but evidently a burning passion for learning and a desire to make something of herself led her to Columbia University in 1901, where she lied about a high school diploma to gain admittance. She began writing short stories in 1913 about the Jewish ghetto. The success of her short story collection, Hungry Hearts, published in 1920, led to an offer from Samuel Goldwyn for the motion picture rights and a chance to work on the screenplay in Hollywood. She was offered $10,000 and dubbed “the sweatshop Cinderella,” a phrase created by Howard Dietz, a publicist at the Goldwyn studios.

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019
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