New York’s Julia Richman: The Chalkboard Champion of European Jewish Immigrants

richman[1]Julia Richman was a truly remarkable educator of the late 1800s. The daughter of Jewish immigrant parents, Julia declared at a surprisingly early age that she would reject the traditional role of wife and mother and opt for a career in teaching instead.

At 15, Julia enrolled in college courses at New York City’s Female Normal College, the precursor to Hunter College, graduating fourth in her class in 1872. She then devoted the next forty years of her life to teaching and improving the lives of the Jewish immigrant students who were entrusted to her care, first as their teacher, later as a principal, and finally as a district superintendent.

During her tenure, Julia Richman pioneered innovative programs for handicapped students, English-language learners, and troubled youth, and she instituted vocational education programs and much-needed courses in health and hygiene. Many of her innovations are common practice in schools throughout the country today. In addition to her work in the schools, Julia worked indefatigably to better the lives of New York’s Eastern European immigrants through the Educational Alliance, the most important Jewish charitable organization located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

A wonderful book about Julia Richman was recently published by scholar Selma Cantor Berrol; the book is entitled Julia Richman: A Notable Woman. You can find this book on the web site for Barnes and Noble and also on I have also devoted a chapter of my book, Chalkboard Champions, to this most extraordinary educator. My book can be found at at the following link: