Edith Segal Papers

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Collection Data

The papers contain a wide variety of materials of potential interest to a scholar of Edith Segal's lifelong dance career or of leftist political activism in dance.
Segal, Edith, 1902-1997 (Creator)
Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre
Unity House
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1920 - 1997
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: (S) *MGZMD 122
Dance -- Political aspects -- New York (N.Y.)
Dance for children
Jewish dance
Manuscripts -- Collections
Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre
Unity House
Biographical/historical: Edith Segal was an American dancer, teacher and writer. Born in 1902 on the lower east side of New York City, her father was a cigar maker and an active union member. Her mother ran a small business out of the house as a hairdresser and maker of wigs for observant Jewish women. Her first recollection of dancing was in the streets to the music of organ grinders. Her formal training began at the Henry Street Settlement where she studied music and dance. At age 14 she auditioned to be a scholarship student at the Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street where she also performed in numerous productions. There, for the next twelve years, she immersed herself in all the theater arts including music, singing, costume and stagecraft as well as dance. Her work in dance was always closely allied to her political activism. In the 1920s and 30s, she directed the Nature Friends Dance Group, the Red Dancers and the Dance Group of the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union. She was also the Social Director at Unity House, the vacation resort of the ILGWU. For much of the 1930s through the 1970s Segal taught at Camp Kinderland. In the 1950s Segal gave her support to many friends who were persecuted for their political beliefs during this period of anti-communist sentiment. She herself was asked to appear before a New York Commission holding hearing on communist influence in summer camps. During this time she also began to publish her poetry. Eventually she published more than ten books of poetry, three of them for children. Throughout her career, she also wrote and lectured on dance. Segal remained active in the arts and political communities up until her death in 1997.
Content: The Edith Segal Papers document her professional life as a dancer, choreographer, writer and political activist. The collection contains a wide variety of materials of potential interest to a scholar of Segal's lifelong dance career or of leftist political activism in dance. The papers are organized into six series. Series I, A and B will be of interest to those looking for the raw material of her creative work. Subseries C contains both in process and completed lectures and essays including some 15 pages of personal memories and self-described highlights of her life. Series II contains a variety of dance related correspondence, some of a business nature as well as personal tributes from people whose lives were touched by Segal's artistry and commitment. Series III contains programs, announcements and press material that give a chronological sense of her work as well as two subject focused folders, one on the Neighborhood Playhouse and one on the National Dance Congress of 1936. The reviews and articles in Series IV also include a lengthy interview with Paul Sporn for a project on the federal patronage of the arts in Michigan during the depression. There is a folder of letters and corrections relating to this interview in the correspondence series. Series V contains programs and pamphlets Edith Segal collected. Series VI contains one scrapbook documenting the summer of 1924 at Unity House, the summer resort of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Separated from the collection were books and dance manuals added to the book holdings of the Dance Collection. They are described in the separation list.
Acquisition: Gift of Edith Segal estate.
Physical Description
Extent: 4 linear ft. (76 folders, 1 photographic scrapbook)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b14256966
MSS Unit ID: 19762
Archives collections id: archives_collections_19762
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 1f8e85a0-42fd-0139-43ba-0242ac110005
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