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Article of the Day – Jewish Mail-Order Brides in the Old West

August 30, 2011

Pioneer Women, by Anna Solomon (Tablet Magazine)

“There are many stereotypes of Jewish women, and mail-order bride isn’t one of them. But in the 19th century, some left Eastern Europe for the American frontier, where they married men they’d never met.”

Anna Solomon’s first novel, The Little Bride, will be published this Thursday, and she certainly knows how to write well.  She combines exquisite storytelling with an historical lens and still manages to throw in sentences that reach out to the reader’s emotions and, perhaps, their sense of irony.  While not supporting the mail-order bride industry, Solomon asks us to question our biases about the women at the heart of the business. Are they victims? How did these pioneer women fit into the fabric of the nascent American Jewish community?

Oh, and yeah, I’m reading the book as soon as I can!

Lesson of the Day: Proper use of “to lay” and “to lie”

Kudos to Solomon for using the proper conjugation: “they belonged to Am Olam, the socialist agrarian movement that believed the answer to anti-Semitism lay in making Jews self-sufficient, productive, physically robust members of society.”

The trick is that “lay” is the past tense of “to lie,” while “laid” is the past tense of “to lay.”  (If you’ve lost me already, read up on the subject at http://web.ku.edu/~edit/lie.html.) The proper use of “to lay” is when the subject of the sentence is laying something somewhere. It’s a transitive verb. By contrast, you use “to lie” when the subject itself is “lying” (no other object needed).

In our case, the subject, “the answer to anti-Semitism,” is lying in “making Jews self-sufficient….”

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