Illustration by Ed Supovitz
Ariel Durant

Jewish Heroes and

Heroines of America

from World War II to the Present:


Ariel Durant: Writer
by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Ariel Durant broke the mold of a woman being a mother and a housewife in the early 1900s. As she grew older, she became a writer, controversial, independent, an intellect and a fighter for women’s rights.

Ariel Durant was the daughter, named Chaya, of Ethel and Joseph Kaufman and was born in Proskurov, Russia, on May 10, 1989. With the pogroms against Jews and poverty, her parents emigrated to the United States with her three sisters and her older brother.

Her parents struggled to make a living by selling newspapers. Ariel, as a young girl, had to fend and fight for herself on the streets of the Lower Eastside of New York City.

Her mother became involved in the anarchists’ movement and left her family. Ariel, was fourteen years old when she transferred from public school to the progressive Ferrer Modern School. One of her teachers was Will Durant.

Ariel was thirteen when she met her teacher, Will Durant, who was 28. A strong bond developed between them, which became love. He resigned as a teacher and they were married.

In 1912, Will Durant conceived the idea of writing a history of civilization. Over the years, Ariel helped him with his research and writing of this monumental task. When it was done, there were eleven volumes published between 1935 and 1975. Ariel was credited as a coauthor with the seventh and the additional volumes that were printed.

Ariel and Will Durant received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1968 for their tenth volume, “Rousseau and Revolution.”

Ariel was listed as one of the five women of the year by the Los Angeles Times in 1965. This was the same year that they were elected to the Institute of Arts and Science.

In 1977, they received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford and they published “A Dual Autobiography.”

Ariel Durant died on October 25, 1981, and Will Durant, at 95, died two weeks later following surgery. They are both buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles, California

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