Guide to the Papers of Gertrude Wolf (d. 1966), undated, 1899-1944


Processed by Felicia Herman

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160



© 2019  American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Felicia Herman as MS Word document, August 1995. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on September 25, 2009. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:Gertrude Wolf (d. 1966)
Title:Gertrude Wolf, papers
Dates:undated, 1899-1944
Abstract:Primarly correspondence and material relating to Stephen S. Wise, including photographs, miscellaneous items and sermons preached at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland, Oregon. Also contains letters from Lawrence Gilman, John Haynes Holmes, Leo Katz, Charles A. Sherrill, Michael Banner, Fiske Kimball, and Philip James, a manuscript play "Everyday" by Rachel Crothers, and a autobiography in shorthand.
Languages:The collection is in English.
Quantity: .75 linear feet (1 manuscript box, 1 half manuscript box, 1 oversized folder)
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Scope and Content Note

The papers of Gertrude Wolf, the longtime secretary of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, contain materials from her tenure with him (including correspondence between Wise and herself, published and unpublished sermons and lectures by Wise, letters to Wise from others [through her], and photographs and miscellaneous materials relating to him) and from her work with other individuals and with the Fine Arts Program at New York University, of which she was the secretary (and unofficial director) for many years. Also included is an autobiography written in shorthand.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying Stephen S. Wise, Lawrence Gilman, Leo Katz, Fiske Kimball, John Hayes Holmes, Charles A. Sherrill, Michael Banner, Philip James, and the Fine Arts Program at New York University.

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, published and unpublished manuscripts, flyers, notebooks, booklets, and programs.

The documents are in English.

The collection contains 470 items in 2 boxes; the first box contains materials pertaining to Stephen S. Wise.

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The collection is organized into a single series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Gertrude Wolf, papers; P-27; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY.

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Acquisition Note


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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Papers of Gertrude Wolf, undated, 1899-1944

Boxes 1 and 2.
Scope and Content:

See Scope and Content Note.

1 1 Correspondence with Stephen Wise 1899-1929 request_box

- She's his secretary, and he writes her from Europe and places around the U.S. to ask her to do various things for him

- His tone is very congenial, teasing and even sarcastic at times

- In a letter to him, she calls him "Chief"

- He keeps joking about replacing her

- He often refers to her as "little Wolf"

- September 1923
- "My dear Dr. Wise, I herewith beg to offer my resignation as Secretary to the Rabbi of the Free Synagogue, such resignation to take effect immediately. I regret this, but have no alternative. I do no need to go into details. Anyone with any self-respect could not submit to the indignity which has been imposed upon one who has, she hopes, faithfully and competently served as secretary to you for so many years.
"With all good wishes, and asking that you do not make it necessary for me to discuss this matter any further, Sincerely yours,"

- His reply:

  • - "Dear Miss Wolf,
    I cannot understand your note, but I can and do regret it, the misunderstanding which dictated it, the pain which prompted it. No indignity has been offered to you or will be, unless you conceive it to be an indignity to have my daughter who is an intelligent and efficient young person, come into my office and relieve me, not you, of some part of my work. She cannot master the art of office or administrative supervision, unless she be given the opportunity to do so. As a family friend you should welcome not resent her coming.
  • "You must be very tired and nervous, or you would to have written as you did. There is no occasion for it, any more than there is question of your competence or faithfulness. I expect you to return to your post without delay, so that we may calmly ___ the matter which you have absurdly exaggerated and misunderstood."

- She replies:

  • - " . . . I simply could not work under present conditions and therefore beg you to permit my resignation to stand..."

- Letter from Bella Straus, Chairman of the Religious School Committee, expressing her and the Committee's regret over Wolf's resignation

- Then further correspondence from him over the next few years. They remained friends, and she even helped him (with work?) from time to time.

1 2 Correspondence with Stephen Wise 1930-1942 request_box

- Friendly correspondence, largely personal

- Letter from Wolf to Fannie Hurst, July 10, 1934

- Wise is not going to his camp in Lake Placid for the summer, so she asks if Hurst wants to stay there instead - "I bring this to your attention because I should think that one who writes as you do would find it most attractive."

  • - Handwritten note from Hurst on the back saying no (nicely)

- The same letter to a Mr. Cohen

1 3 Miscellaneous letters to Stephen Wise undated, 1915-1916, 1919-1921 request_box

1. From Jascha Heifetz, April 23, 1919, refusing invitation to play at Zionist fundraiser

2. From Richard Gottheil, March 7, 1921

- And a few others

1 4 Manuscripts and Articles by Stephen Wise undated request_box

1. "On the Way to Palestine, or Jewish Conditions in Western and Central Europe"
- Handwritten speech (in Wise's handwriting), 9 pp.

2. "The Undefeatable: a sermon by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise on Ludwig Lewisohn's novel "The Island Within"
- 6 page printed pamphlet put out by Harper and Brothers, who published Lewisohn's book
- Includes endorsements by other rabbis and by newspapers and Carl Van Doren

3. 3 page speech, untitled, written in Wise's handwriting

4. "The Dollar"
- Handwritten speech (in Wise's handwriting), 8 pp.

1 5 Published Addresses by Stephen Wise 1905-1906 request_box

- Speeches by Stephen S. Wise, published by Beth Israel congregation, Portland, OR

- "Liberty and Democracy" September 1905

- "William Lloyd Garrison, A Centenary Address" January 1906

- "The Crapsey Heresy-Trial" June 1906

- "Minister and Congregation: A Farewell Sermon" September and October 1906

1 6 Photographs of Stephen Wise undated, 1932, 1934, 1944 request_box

- Photographs and clippings of Wise

- Booklet: "Luncheon in celebration of the Sixtieth Birthday of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise arranged by Members and Friends of the Free Synagogue and Jewish Institute of Religion, Sunday March 18th, 1934"

- Booklet: "Dinner tendered by The Citizens Committee in celebration of the 60th Birthday of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Monday March 19, 1934"

- Seating arrangements for above two events

- Misc. pamphlets

1 7 Correspondence with Lawrence Gilman 1923-1939 request_box

She did part-time secretarial work for him

  • - He writes articles on music for newspapers

- Includes some Christmas cards and a couple of postcards

- And letters from Elizabeth Gilman, his wife

1 8 Correspondence with Leo Katz 1933-1935 request_box

- He is an artist, paints murals

- He writes to her because she's in charge of lectures he was supposed to give at NYU

- Includes a great deal of information about a mural he painted partially through the WPA, to go on the walls of a trade school, that depicted the good and evil possibilities of tools: the school board wanted to destroy it once it was completed because of the scenes of war and destruction and because it shows a bare-breasted woman. He protested such censorship.

1 9 Correspondence with Fiske Kimball 1924-1941 request_box

- February 24, 1924: "I believe you might like the post of secretary to the head of the Fine Arts Department of New York University, with responsibility for editing its publications.

  • - She takes the job

- He's the founder of the Fine Arts Program; goes on to direct the Pennsylvania Museum of Arts

- She asks him to help her get another job (at Rockefeller Center) because the new Dean is terrible

1 10 Correspondence with John Hayes Holmes 1920 request_box

[good friend of Stephen Wise]

- Two letters, and a handwritten review of Mr. Emmanuel by Louis Golding

1 11 Correspondence with Charles A. Sherrill 1927-1934 request_box

- Includes correspondence regarding her difficulties with Dean Bossange (about whom she complained to Kimball)

- Letter of recommendation from a professor of art that includes:

  • - "Miss Wolf is no secretary in the ordinary sense of the term. Her present title is that of 'Executive Secretary,' and if she were a man she would long ago have been Director. For years she has fulfilled this function and her services are so invaluable that no one could replace her."

1 12 Correspondence with Michael Banner 189?-1922 request_box

- He's a musician.

1 13 Correspondence with Philip James 1932-1940 request_box

- He's a composer and conductor

- He worked at the College of Fine Arts at NYU

1 14 Miscellaneous Correspondence 1917-1941 request_box

- Includes a whole series of letters from a woman named Edith.

2 1 Stenographers notepads undated, 1923 request_box

- Three stenography notebooks, filled with stenography marks.

2 2 Typescript of "Everyday" by Rachel Crothers undated request_box

- Typewritten copy, in three folders.

OS1F1Photograph of luncheon in celebration of Stephen Wise's 60th birthday1934request_box
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