PhD, Queen's University, 1997
Telephone: 519-661-2111 ext. 84980
Office: Lawson Hall 2266
Office Hours via Zoom or phone: Wednesdays 10:00-11:30am or by appointment
- Affiliated with
- The Centre for American Studies
- The Jewish Studies Program
- The Collaborative Graduate Program in Migration and Ethnic Relations
Professor Halpern specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century Canadian and American Women's History and Jewish History. She welcomes inquiries from potential Master's and PhD students interested in pursuing work in these areas.
"At the start of every academic year, I make a bold promise to my undergraduate students - one which defines my teaching philosophy and goals. I inform them that my course will change their world view - that in eight months, they will see the world, and therefore themselves, in a new way. By the end of the year, they eagerly tell me of their personal evolution, and I respond that this is what learning should be - transformative."
Major Research Projects
Bessie Starkman (1889-1930) was one of the most notorious crime bosses in 1920s Canada. With the 1916 Ontario Temperance Act, and the advent of American prohibition after 1920, she and her common-law husband Rocco Perri exported liquor throughout the provinces and into the United States, establishing the Perri mob as preeminent in the world of Canadian organized crime. In the last several decades, true-crime writers and journalists have been attentive to Bessie Starkman, demonstrating particular interest in her criminal exploits alongside Perri and her brutal assassination. Not surprisingly, these writers have expressed less interest in Starkman prior to her chance 1912 encounter with Perri when she was the wife of a Toronto Jewish bakery driver and the mother of two daughters. Several of her biographers, including Robin Rowland in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, have simply summarized that when she ran off with Perri that year, “Bessie had abandoned her husband, children, and Jewish faith.” My work will explore the complex issues behind this assertion, including those related to the Jewish immigrant experience, poverty, desertion, divorce, the status of women, intermarriage, and crime in order to assess the extent to which Starkman defied female and Jewish social conventions. Her story will help shed light on the available ways that early twentieth-century Jewish women rebelled against oppressive social prescriptions, and will illuminate the sometimes devastating impact of their actions.
|(2015) Alice in Shandehland: Scandal and Scorn in the Edelson/Horwitz Murder Case. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press|
|(2001) And on that Farm He had a Wife: Ontario Farm Women and Feminism, 1900-1970. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press|
|(2011) "Foreword" (co-authored with Rev. Michael Bechard), pp. i-ii, and "Introduction" (co-authored with Sonia Halpern), pp. vii-x, in Esther Warmerdam as told to William Butt, Behind Our Doors (Holocaust memoir). London, Ontario: The Althouse Press (in cooperation with the Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning, King’s University College|
|(2010) "Baggage Claim." pp. 65-68. Living Legacies: A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women, Volume II. Edited by Liz Pearl. Toronto: PK Press|
|(2001) "'Such Outrageous Discrimination': Farm Women and Their Family Grievances in Early Twentieth-Century Ontario," pp.116-23. Framing Our Past: Canadian Women's History in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Sharon Anne Cook, et al. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press|
Refereed Journal Publications:
- (2019) “The 'Malestrom' at Christie Pits: Jewish Masculinity and the Toronto Riot of 1933.” Canadian Jewish Studies, 28 (2019): 12-33.
- (2017) "'A spectacular incident…had somehow eluded my attention': The Impact of Cyril Levitt and William Shaffir’s book, The Riot at Christie Pits (1987)." Histoire sociale/Social History, L, 102 (November 2017): 421-31.
- (2015) 'Are you people Jewish?': The Mistaken Identity of Mary Rosenblatt in the 1952 Harry Lee Murder Case." Canadian Jewish Studies, 23 (2015): 68-91.
- (2011) "'Art Should Always Ennoble': Emma Griesbach and Art Appreciation in the Women’s Page of The Farmers’ Sun, 1917-1922” (co-authored with Sonia Halpern). Ontario History, CCII, 1 (Spring 2011): 42-59.
- (2008) "JAP – Jewish And Passed-over: The Invisibility of Single Jewish Women in Issues of Intermarriage and Conversion” (co-authored with Sonia Halpern). Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal (Spring 2008) [online journal].
- (2007) "'This Ambitious Polish Jew': Rethinking the Conversion and Career of Bishop Isaac Hellmuth." Ontario History (Autumn 2007): 221-46.
- (2021) "'She just vanished': Mob-Boss Bessie Starkman and Family and Religious 'Abandonment.'" Association for Canadian Jewish Studies, May 25, 2021 (ZOOM)
- (2021) "Leaving Harry for Rocco Perri: The Ambiguous Identity of Jewish Mob-Boss Bessie Starkman." JEM, Jewish Adult Education, London, Ontario, January 18, 2021 (ZOOM)
- (2017) "'The program of Christmas songs draws together people of the most diverging faiths: Jane Addams, Hull-House, and Jewish Immigrants.'" Social Science History Association, Montreal, Quebec, November 2, 2017
- (2017) “The 30th Anniversary of The Riot at Christie Pits: Perceptions of the Clash Before and After the Book.” Association for Canadian Jewish Studies Annual Conference, Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Ryerson University, May 28, 2017
- (2017) "'The Comfortable Concentration Camp': Female Domesticity and Nazi Analogy in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique." Jewish Community Centre, London, Ontario, February 6, 2017
- (2015) “‘Are You People Jewish?’ The Mistaken Identity of Mary Rosenblatt in the 1952 Harry Lee Murder Case.” Jewish Research Group, Western University, November 18, 2015
- (2015) “Alice in Shandehland.” Archives Association of Ontario, Eastern Chapter, City of Ottawa Archives, September 17, 2015
Awards and Distinctions
- 2018 Samuel Clark Research Fund, Faculty of Social Science, The University of Western Ontario, for When Harry Met Bessie and Bessie Met Rocco (awarded requested amount $4653)
- 2016-17 USC Teaching Honour Roll
for Teaching Excellence (seventh time receiving honour also received in 2015-16, 2010-11, 2008-09, 1997-2000)
- 2016 Dean's Award of Excellence (awarded to the top performers in a Department, 2012-2015)
- 2014 J.B. Smallman Publication Fund and the Faculty of Social Science, The University of Western Ontario, for Alice in Shandehland: Scandal and Scorn in the Edelson/Horwitz Murder Case ($5000)
- 2009-10 Nominated, Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
USC/Alumni Association/Bank of Nova Scotia (third nomination also in 2006-07, 2001-02)