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The Lives of Jessie Sampter: Queer, Disabled, Zionist

by Sarah Imhoff

Duke University Press, 2022


eISBN: 978-1-4780-2267-1

OA eISBN: 978-1-4780-9265-0

Cloth: 978-1-4780-1543-7

Paper: 978-1-4780-1806-3

About the Book
In The Lives of Jessie Sampter, Sarah Imhoff tells the story of an individual full of contradictions. Jessie Sampter (1883–1938) was best known for her Course in Zionism (1915), an American primer for understanding support of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1919, Sampter packed a trousseau, declared herself “married to Palestine,” and immigrated there. Yet Sampter’s own life and body hardly matched typical Zionist ideals. Although she identified with Judaism, Sampter took up and experimented with spiritual practices from various religions. While Zionism celebrated the strong and healthy body, she spoke of herself as “crippled” from polio and plagued by sickness her whole life. While Zionism applauded reproductive women’s bodies, Sampter never married or bore children; in fact, she wrote of homoerotic longings and had same-sex relationships. By charting how Sampter’s life did not neatly line up with her own religious and political ideals, Imhoff highlights the complicated and at times conflicting connections between the body, queerness, disability, religion, and nationalism.
About the Author
Sarah Imhoff is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and author of Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism.
“Sarah Imhoff presents the remarkable story of Jessie Sampter, whose life breaks with all the conventional associations of a Zionist pioneer. Disabled due to polio, living with a woman in mandate-era Palestine, and a pacifist and internationalist with right-wing Zionist politics, Sampter violated expectations and flouted conventions. Using feminist theory and crip theory, Imhoff reconstructs Sampter’s life and the vital challenges she presented in her day and in our own.”

-- Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

"Sarah Imhoff’s The Lives of Jessie Sampter is a thought-provoking exploration ... [Imhoff's] attention to method and multifaceted storytelling succeed in getting us closer to understanding all of Sampter’s complex queer, disabled, and Zionist lives."

-- Sarah Imhoff Material Religion

Lesbian authors, Authors with disabilities, People with Disabilities, Authors American, Judaism, Gender Studies, Biography, Religion, 20th century, United States, Social Science
Open Access Information

Label: Indiana University

License: CC BY-NC 4.0