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Judaica] Peixotto, Daniel L.M.

Anniversary Discourse, Pronounced Before the Society for the Education of Orphan Children…


Peixotto, Daniel L. M., M.D. Anniversary Discourse, Pronounced Before the Society for the Education of Orphan Children, And the Relief of Indigent Persons of the Jewish Persuasion. New York: Published by order of the Society, 1830.
8vo.; tan printed wrappers, sewn; some faint evidence of prior vertical fold; occasional light spots of foxing to some pages; pages otherwise fresh, bright; a handsome copy. Housed in a specially quarter-morocco slipcase.
First edition. A presentation copy, inscribed: To Francis Jenks Esq. Editor of the Ch. Examiner with the respects of the author. This is the first appearance of an important tract by a pioneering Jewish doctor and philanthropist. Daniel Levy Maduro Peixotto was born in Amsterdam in 1800 and came to New York in 1807. He was the son of Moses Levy Maduro Peixotto, a rabbi, merchant, and minister at the Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
From early on, Peixotto pursued a career in medicine. He received his M.D. from Columbia University in 1819 and his M.S. degree in 1825. After graduation, Peixotto established himself as a specialist in gynecology: his first post as physician was at the old New York City Dispensary, where he lectured on "abdominal diseases and complaints of females" from 1826-27. From this experience Peixotto acquired a lifelong interest in women's health and in improving the standards of health care delivery to poor women.
Peixotto achieved many firsts for a Jewish-American doctor: in 1825-6, he edited The New York Medical and Physical Journal, the first regular medical quarterly ever printed in English; he helped found the Academy of Medicine, and served as its first secretary; he was active in the New York County Medical Society (and served as its president from 1830-32); and he helped to organize numerous philanthropic organizations, such as the society credited as publisher of this pamphlet.
This publication stems directly from Peixotto's work on behalf of women and children and from his keen interest in combining medicine with political activism. Through his medical service to New York's urban masses, Peixotto became all too aware of the substandard living, education, and health conditions forced upon the immigrant poor. In this anniversary address (The Society For The Education of Orphan Children And The Relief of Indigent Persons of the Jewish Persuasion was founded one year earlier, in 1829), Peixotto emphasizes that the goals of his Society are both financial and educational: "...the objects of this Society are twofold: the diffusion of knowledge, and the dispensation of charity among the ignorant and the indigent of the House of Israel" (p. 10).
Throughout the text, Peixotto advocates education as a vital means of instituting political and material change; he speaks especially in favor of broadening educational opportunities for Jewish women, citing Hebrew tradition:
...Private education was not neglected among them [early Jews]. They were in fact the only people that instructed their children in truths capable of inspiring them with the love and fear of God, and exciting them to virtuous deeds. That their daughters were not overlooked, appears to be sufficiently proved by the songs of Miriam and of Deborah, and by the prayer of Hannah....While the woman of the east was immured behind bolts and bars, from time immemorial a prisoner; and the woman of the west was a toy, a savage, or a slave; our wives and maidens enjoyed the intercourses of society which their talents were well calculated to cheer and to adorn. They were skilled in the harp; their sweet voices tuned to the richest strains of earth; they were grateful in the dance; the writings of our bards were in their hands-and what nation ever possessed such illustrious founts of thought and virtue? (pp. 22-23)
The recipient, Francis Jenks, was the editor of the Christian Examiner; Peixotto's gift to Jenks was no doubt driven by his desire to attain financial and moral support for his projects from the non-Jewish religious community.

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