Miriam Karpilove's "Diary of a Lonely Girl"

Resource Kit by
Jessica Kirzane

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Miriam Karpilove (1888-1956) was a prolific and popular writer for the Yiddish press in New York in the early twentieth century, publishing stories, essays, and serialized novels focusing on the lives and perspectives of women. 

Her novel, Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle against Free Love, serialized in the newspaper Di varhayt in 1916–1918 and published in book form in 1918, is a first-person account of a single Jewish woman living in New York at the turn of the century and the pressures she experiences in her dating life. (Jessica Kirzane's recent translation has made the novel available in English.) The narrator, who at times waxes lyrical and at times displays an acerbic wit, is deeply unsatisfied with the idea of “free love” advocated by the modern political, intellectual men with whom she has romantic relationships. She demonstrates that “free love” is not really free for women, who, unlike men, face enormous social consequences for such freedom.

This kit gathers together historical materials, images, and excerpts from related literary sources to give context to the novel.

Cover image: Cover illustration from the original printing of Miriam Karpilove's Tage-bukh fun a elende meydel (Diary of a Lonely Girl) in novel form, published by S. Kantrowitz, 1918.