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Alice Davis Menken Papers

Identifier: P-23

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Alice Davis Menken contain correspondence, reports, published and unpublished articles notebooks, travel diaries, ephemera, programs, photographs, post cards, book reviews, and pamphlets relating to Menken's work with a number of agencies, including: the Society of New York State Women, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Women's Motor Corps of America, the Jewish Protectory and Aid Society (later renamed the Jewish Board of Guardians), the New York City Women's Night Court, the Hudson State Training School, the New York State Reformatory for Women, the Society for Political Study, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Progressive Party, the Mayor's Committee of Women on National Defense, Congregation Shearith Israel, the Florence Crittendon League, the New York Training School for Community Center Workers, the Committee of Fourteen, and Inwood House. Also included is material pertaining to her personal life, copies of her published and unpublished writings, and other printed material relating to corrections and the penal system and photographs.

Menken's scrapbooks cover the years 1883-1936. They contain 2,200 items including newspaper clippings, manuscript, typescript and published essays, speeches, ribbons and badges, postcards, photographs, correspondence and ephemera. [Use of the scrapbooks may be restricted because of their ongoing conservation.]

The collection is valuable to researchers studying New York Jewry, the history of the New York (and U.S.) corrections system, women's history, any of the above-mentioned organizations, and women and Jews in (non-professional) social work.

Of special interest is correspondence between Menken and other influential Jews of the time such as H. Pereira Mendes, David de Sola Pool, and Jessica B. Peixotto on her work; also interesting is an illuminated book given to Menken by the Sisterhood of Shearith Israel in 1926


  • Creation: undated, 1882-1936

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Alice Davis Menken


Alice Davis was born on August 4, 1870, in New York City. She was the third of seven children born to Michael Marks and Miriam Maduro Peixotto Davis. She is descended from several prominent European Sephardic families, and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution on her mother's side.

Harold Davis Menken, was born in 1895. In 1896, she helped to establish the Sisterhood of Congregation Shearith Israel, and she served as its president from 1900 to 1929. She began her social relief work in the Sisterhood's settlement house on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the "Neighborhood House."

Through this settlement house work, Menken became involved in the problem of delinquency among Jewish women. Much of this delinquency was connected to the white slave trade, as traders preyed on the girls and young women who immigrated alone to the United States. In 1908, Menken founded a Sisterhood committee to work in cooperation with the New York City Probation Department in the Women's Night Court, assisting delinquent Jewish women involved in the criminal justice system.

Menken was also involved in the founding of the Jewish Board of Guardians, was the chair of the Department of Court, Probation and Parole of the Board of Guardians' Women's Division, and was its vice president at the time of her death. She also chaired a committee of the Council of Jewish Women which worked with women paroled from New York State prisons.

Menken helped to found the Jewish Big Sister movement in 1911, and in 1920 was appointed by New York Governor Alfred E. Smith to the Board of Managers of the New York State Reformatory for Women.

Menken died in New York on March 23, 1936.


The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 7.


8.30 Linear Feet (3 manuscript boxes, 4 oversized boxes)


An important figure in the social welfare movement, Menken devoted much of her life to working with women in the penal system. The collection contains publications regarding her social reform work; scrapbooks and travel notebooks; journals; diaries; correspondence and reports relating to her activities with the Society of New York State Women, Jewish Welfare Board, Jewish Protectory and Aid Society (later called Jewish Board of Guardians), New York City Woman's Night Court, Hudson State Training School, New York State Reformatory for Women, Society for Political Study, Daughters of American Revolution, Progressive Party, Mayor's Committee of Women on National Defense, New York, Congregation Shearith Israel, Florence Crittendon League, Committee of Fourteen and the Inwood House.

Aquisition Note

Alice Davis Menken donated her papers to the Society in 1932 and 1937.

Related Material

Material pertaining to Alice Davis Menken can be found in the collections of Rosalie Solomons Phillips materials in the Papers of the Phillips Family (P-17), Congregation Shearith Israel (I-4), and the Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations (I-208). Contact the Photo Archivist for access to the AJHS photo collection. The Library of the American Jewish Historical Society also owns several of Menken's published works; researchers should consult the library catalogue for more information.

Guide to the Papers of Alice Davis Menken (1870-1936), undated, 1882-1936 *P-23
Processed by Felicia Herman
© 2004
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Revision Statements

  • March, June 2020: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States