About The Book


The Salome Ensemble tells the true story of a group of story tellers. It recovers, recounts, and reinterprets the entangled lives of four remarkable women and a book and a movie they made. The women, a political activist, a novelist, a screenwriter, and a movie actress, collaborated in nineteen-twenties New York City. Together they created the shape-shifting, genre-crossing Salome of the Tenements, first a popular novel and then a Hollywood movie.

The title character was a combination Cinderella and Salome like the women who conceived her.

Rose Pastor Stokes was the role model. Anzia Yezierska wrote the novel. Sonya Levien wrote the screenplay. Jetta Goudal played her on the silver screen.

In books about Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Cecil B. DeMille, Sinclair Lewis, and other men of their time, the women of the Salome Ensemble might make cameo appearances. In this book the great men are deliberately cast in minor roles while the exemplary women strut and fret their hours upon the stage. The spotlight reveals these compelling European Jewish women immigrants individually and collectively, and how they shaped and reflected their cultural landscape. They pursued their own versions of the American dream, escaped the squalor of sweatshops, knew romance and heartache, and achieved prominence in politics, fashion, journalism, literature, and film.