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Finding aid for the Elisabeth Jastrow papers, 1870-1971
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Elisabeth Jastrow papers
    Date (inclusive): 1870-1971 (bulk 1916-1965)
    Number: 920062
    Creator/Collector: Jastrow, Elisabeth
    Physical Description: 37.4 linear feet (67 boxes, 3 flat file folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The Elisabeth Jastrow papers document the life and scholarship of this émigré archaeologist who left Germany due to the anti-Semitic policies of the Third Reich. The archive contains personal and professional correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, extensive research notes and photographic documentation on terracotta arulae from Magna Grecia, and teaching notes, as well as material related to her father, Ignaz Jastrow.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in German, English, Italian, French, and Greek.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Elisabeth Jastrow was born into an assimilated Jewish, academic family in Berlin on October 7, 1890. Her father, Ignaz Jastrow, was an economist, historian and professor of political science at the University of Berlin, as well as one of the founders, and later the Rector, of the Berliner Handelhochschule. Through her father's position, the family was part of the cosmopolitan world of intellectualism and salons that flourished in Berlin at this time, and the family moved within a circle of noted artists and scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
    Elisabeth's scholarly interests, however, focused on the ancient world. Beginning in 1909, she studied Greek and Roman archaeology, Classical philology, art history and philosophy at the University of Berlin. The death of her professor, George Loeschcke, in 1915 led her to shift her studies to the University of Heidelberg from which she received her doctorate in 1916 with a dissertation on arulae, or terracotta altars, from Magna Grecia. During this time she was part of a group of art historians and archaeologists centered around Margarete Bieber; a group which included Gerhart Rodenwaldt, Valentin Muller, Erwin Panofsky, Walther Amelung, and Bernhard Schweitzer, among others.
    In the years after completing her degree, Jastrow held several positions in archaeology and museum work. From 1916 to 1922 Jastrow first worked with the Archaeological Seminar of the University of Leipzig and then in the departments of Archaeology and the History of Art at the University of Giessen. From 1922 to 1924 Jastrow took an extended study trip to Athens, where she supported herself by working intermittently with the German Archaeological Institute and the German School of Athens. She then moved on to Rome, where from 1925 to the spring of 1929, Jastrow was one of the collaborators working on the Realkatalog, the massive catalog of the holdings of the library of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Rome. Returning to Berlin in 1929, Jastrow worked briefly with the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin and then moved on to the Archaeological Seminary at the University of Marburg until early 1933. Jastrow left Marburg, having accepted an appointment to catalog the collection of Greek vases at the Akademisches Kunst-Museum and Archaeological Seminary at the University of Bonn. This position was to begin in May 1933, but before she could start, the restrictive legislation of April 1933 barred her from this job, and essentially any other in her field in Germany.
    Fortunately for Jastrow, at just this time in the United States the American Association of University Women (AAUW), growing concerned with the situation in Germany, began devoting their resources to aiding displaced German scholars. Jastrow received an International Fellowship from the AAUW for the academic year 1934/1935. This funding allowed her to resume her research on terracottas and begin revising her dissertation for publication, and more importantly, it allowed her to leave Germany. Jastrow based herself in Italy, but also traveled to Greece and the United States. Further funding supplied by Hetty Goldman allowed Jastrow to continue her work after the AAUW fellowship ended. Her father's death in May 1937 brought Jastrow back to Germany, but she found, after spending time settling his affairs, that her return to Italy had become problematic. So leaving Germany again, Jastrow went first to Switzerland and then in October 1938 to the United States, where she officially immigrated in June 1939 with a non-quota visa.
    Jastrow arrived in the United States with limited economic resources but with the expectation that she could avail herself of a network of connections. The family had earlier established an academic beachhead in the United States through her cousins, Marcus, Morris and Joseph Jastrow. Indeed, calling on the help of family, German friends who had emigrated earlier, such as Margarete Bieber, and American friends of her father, such as Frank Taussig, Jastrow was able to settle first in New York and then in the Boston area. She initially supported herself with a variety of pick-up jobs: translating, teaching German, doing museum photography and selling sculptural casts. Her new visa status in 1939, however, opened the possiblity of better employment. She first held a one-year position as an instructor and lecturer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Then Jastrow was offered a contract position beginning January 1941 to teach art history at the Women's College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
    Jastrow's initial trial period in Greensboro was successful and in the Fall of 1941, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, where she taught the entire range of art history courses. Jastrow's feelings about her years in Greensboro appear to have been rather conflicted. On the one hand, she knew that she was very fortunate to have escaped Germany and to have received a faculty appointment in the United States. But on the other hand, she chafed at the heavy courseload, the low pay, the inadequacies of the library, the weather and what she saw as the social and intellectual isolation of Greensboro. Her research interests were subsumed by teaching duties. Jastrow was an archaeologist, not an art historian, and she spent enormous amounts of time preparing her courses, the majority of which were outside her normal scope, and trying to acquire the necessary visual materials for her classes. Jastrow also tried to supplement her low salary by moonlighting. She gave private German and Italian lessons and continued doing sculptural commissions. Jastrow also continued working on the expanded version of her dissertation as her teaching duties and finances allowed. Her correspondence makes clear her disappointment with her situation. She coped by leaving Greensboro during vacations, whenever she was able, for the research facilities and cosmopolitan offerings of New York, Boston and other cities. Yet, Jastrow would remain in Greensboro until her retirement from the Women's College in 1961 and beyond.
    At the same time Jastrow was settling into a new life in the United States, a great deal of her energy focused on getting her mother out of Germany. Jastrow and her sister, Lotte Beate Jastrow Hahn, who had already left Germany for England and then the United States, gradually convinced their mother that she must emigrate as well. Anna Seligmann Jastrow finally left Germany for Cuba in October 1941. After a long delay in Havana, Anna arrived in July 1942, and she lived in Greensboro with Elisabeth until her death in August 1943. In December 1944, Elisabeth Jastrow became an American citizen.
    When Jastrow retired from the Women's College in 1961, she turned to travel and research. She again devoted herself to the study of arulae and worked on her research and manuscript. By 1970, Jastrow had moved into the Maryfield Nursing Home outside Greensboro, where she remained until her death in September 1981.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Elisabeth Jastrow papers, 1870-1971. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 920062

    Acquisition Information

    The Elisabeth Jastrow papers were acquired in 1992.

    Processing History

    Ann Harrison rehoused the papers and created the series arrangement and finding aid in 2007.

    Separated Material

    Books and individual periodical issues from the collection were separated to the library. A search using the phrase "Elisabeth Jastrow" while selecting the index "Provenance" from the pull-down menu in the Getty online library catalog will retrieve a list of these separated items.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Elisabeth Jastrow papers document the life and scholarship of this émigré archaeologist who left Germany due to the anti-Semitic policies of the Third Reich. Jastrow's papers both preserve a rich source source of data from a lifetime's research in Greek archaeology and bear witness to her experiences as one of generation of German scholars who would see their lives altered in previously unimaginable ways by the events of the first half of the twentieth century. Indirectly documented here is the impact of larger events -- World War I, the changes in the status of Jews and women in German academia, the exclusionary and destructive policies of the Third Reich, the stress of exile, and the full disclosure of the Holocaust -- that played themselves out on the life and career of an individual scholar.
    Elisabeth Jastrow's correspondence, which documents both the personal and professional aspects of her life, comprises a significant portion of the archive. Professionally, Jastrow carried on a voluminous and substantive correspondence with the leading classical archaeologists of her day, relating both to her specific research on terracottas and to general news of the archaeological world. Equally significant, however, is the more personal aspect. Reaction to the policies of Nazi Germany resonates throughout the correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s, even within her professional exchanges, chronicling the shock of people who had believed themselves insulated from such catastrophe.
    Jastrow's professional life is further documented by her research and writings, her teaching materials from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and miscellaneous professional papers. Her research and writings, the largest portion of her papers, include a comprehensive study of terracotta altars (arulae) in the Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. Beginning with her unpublished dissertation and continuing through a lifetime of research on the topic, Jastrow amassed material for the publication of the definitive catalog and analysis of this object type. In the end, Jastrow was never able to publish her comprehensive work, and the topic has subsequently been treated by Hellebora van der Meijden in Terrakotta-Arulae aus Sizilien und Unteritalien (Amsterdam: Verlag Adolf Hakkert, 1993), yet Jastrow's manuscripts and notes still contain large quantities of raw data and photographic documentation important for the study of arulae.
    The final section of the archive comprises Elisabeth Jastrow's personal papers. Among the personal papers, two elements particularly stand out. The first of these are materials relating to her father, Ignaz Jastrow, a noted economist and historian. The second again returns to the role of Jastrow as a refugee from the Third Reich. Preserved here are the materials from Jastrow's twenty-four years of legal proceedings against Germany for restitution and compensation for the damages inflicted on her family by the Nazis.

    Arrangement note

    Organized in 5 series: ; ; ; ; Series I. Correspondence, 1911-1967, bulk 1934-1962 Series II. Research and writings, 1874-1966, bulk 1916-1960 Series III. Teaching materials, circa 1910-1964, bulk 1941-1961 Series IV. Miscellaneous professional papers, 1884-1967 Series V. Personal papers, 1870-1971

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Jastrow, Ignaz, 1856-1937

    Subjects - Topics

    Altars--Italy, Southern
    Refugees, Jewish--United States
    Terra–cotta sculpture--Italy, Southern
    Terra–cotta sculpture--Italy--Sicily
    Women archaeologists

    Subjects - Places

    Magna Grecia (Italy)--Antiquities
    Sicily (Italy)--Antiquities

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Clippings (information artifacts)
    Drawings (visual works)
    Lantern slides
    Manuscripts for publication
    Photographic prints


    Bieber, Margarete, b. 1876
    Brinckmann, Elsa
    Hahn, Beate
    Jacobsthal, Paul, 1880-1957
    Jastrow, Ignaz, 1856-1937
    Kohn, Hedwig
    Oberlander, Cornelia Hahn
    Zancani Montuori, Paola