Media Files
Interview with Edith Phillips and Eileen Cohen, August 1, 2003, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Jewish Archives Oral Histories
Wisconsin Historical Society
summary Andy Muchin interviews Edith Phillips and Eileen Cohen on August 1, 2003 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Mrs. Phillips discusses growing up in Minneapolis, marrying and moving to Eau Claire, and her husband's businesses. She also talks about antisemitism, the Eau Claire Jewish community, and Israel.
accession number WSA0172
summary Andy Muchin interviews Edith Phillips and Eileen Cohen on August 1, 2003 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Mrs. Phillips discusses growing up in Minneapolis, marrying and moving to Eau Claire, and her husband's businesses. She also talks about antisemitism, the Eau Claire Jewish community, and Israel.
created 2003-08-01
Interviewee Edith Phillips and Eileen Cohen
Interviewer Andy Muchin
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Partial Transcript: Edith grew up in the Twin Cities and her father was a cattle buyer.
Partial Transcript: Edith observed all the Jewish holidays during her childhood. She cannot recall the name of the orthodox shul that she attended during her childhood.
Partial Transcript: Edith's parents came to New York and got married. Edith was born in Brooklyn. She thinks she came to Minneapolis when she was three or four years old. Every few years, the family would go to New York to visit relatives.
Partial Transcript: Edith talks about the tenement where her grandmother lived in New York City.
Partial Transcript: Edith finished high school, attended university for a year, and then got married.
Partial Transcript: Edith met her husband on a date in Minneapolis, but he was living in Eau Claire at the time.
Partial Transcript: She met her husband in September or October and the couple married the following May.
Partial Transcript: Edith husband was in the cigar distributing business in Eau Claire when they married. The business was called Ed Phillips and Sons. Her husband's parents lived in Manitowoc for a time.
Partial Transcript: Edith and her Husband went to Manitowoc on their honeymoon. She discusses the Jewish families that she met and visited. Edith liked the Jewish community of Manitowoc.
Partial Transcript: Edith thinks her husband moved to Eau Claire in 1924, because the family bought a business.
Partial Transcript: Edith says her life during the 1920s was very family oriented. Her sister who lived in Virginia visited in the summer and stayed for a few months.
Partial Transcript: Edith just has one daughter, Eileen. Eileen discusses her childhood in Eau Claire. She attended public school and socialized with everyone. She says that during the Christmas season, she would not sing Christmas carols. Her family celebrated all of the Jewish holidays and attended orthodox services.
Partial Transcript: Eileen was close to her cousin, but otherwise did not often come into contact with other Jewish children.
Partial Transcript: The school that Eileen went to had religious Christian day school, which she did not attend. This meant that Eileen was alone for an hour.
Partial Transcript: Eau Claire did not have any regular services for Jews. Edith estimates that there were about ten Jewish families in Eau Claire in the 1920s. They knew some of the Jewish families in the areas surrounding Eau Claire.
Partial Transcript: Edith talks about how her husband's business expanded to Minneapolis, but the family stayed in Eau Claire. The business was able to survive the depression.
Partial Transcript: Edith and her family her comfortable in Eau Claire. She liked that Minneapolis was close by. The drive to Minneapolis was somewhat difficult before the roads were paved due to the mud. Edith estimates that the road was paved around 1925.
Partial Transcript: Edith's husband worked for the family company until he died in 1978. In 1942, her husband bought the National Pressure Cooker Company, which later became Presto Manufacturing. The name of the company was changed in either 1947 or 1948.
Partial Transcript: Edith's husband hired many Jews from Minneapolis to work for Presto Manufacturing. Many Eau Claire natives also worked for the company.
Partial Transcript: Edith did not have time to be involved in many activities outside of the home. The family was gone during the winter and Edith always had housework.
Partial Transcript: The family moved into a larger home in 1939.
Partial Transcript: For a long time, the Eau Claire Jewish community only gathered on Jewish holidays. A building was purchased for a shul in Eau Claire around 1960. The community also had Sunday school for Jewish children.
Partial Transcript: Eileen did not have the opportunity for a Jewish education in Eau Claire because there were not enough children for a Sunday school. The family rarely went to Minneapolis for Jewish events.
Partial Transcript: The interviewer and Edith discuss Jewish fundraisers who would go door to door to Jewish families and businesses to raise money.
Partial Transcript: Edith kept kosher when she was first married and obtained her meat from Minneapolis. She stopped keeping kosher because it was too difficult to obtain meat.
Partial Transcript: Edith's husband was in B'nai B'rith, but he did not have much time to be deeply involved in the organization.
Partial Transcript: The Eau Claire Jewish community had ties with the Jewish community in the Twin Cities. Edith's husband was involved in boy scouts.
Partial Transcript: Both Edith and Eileen were members of Hadassah.
Partial Transcript: Edith says that both her and her husband had a traditional Jewish upbringing.
Partial Transcript: The Eau Claire country club and golf clubs did not allow Jews. The country club eventually changed the policy and Edith's husband became a member. Edith talks about how being Jewish automatically made you an outcast.
Partial Transcript: Edith's husband was never involved in politics. She talks about how her husband valued community participation. Eileen and Edith discusses Eau Claire's current part-time, traditional rabbi.
Partial Transcript: Edith's husband had a strong allegiance to Israel. Edith has visited Israel a number of times. Eileen has never been to Israel.
Partial Transcript: They discuss how the Phillips Foundation was crucial in creating a Jewish studies position at UW-Eau Claire. Edith and Eileen talk about the activities of the Phillips Foundation.
No transcript.