Doris Fleischman was the wife of Edward Bernays. But she was so much more.

This artifact is shared in partnership with the Museum of Public Relations.


As we close Jewish-American Heritage Month, we want to highlight both one of the founders of public relations as we know it today, Edward L. Bernays (1891-1995), but also his business partner and wife, Doris E. Fleischman (1891-1980).

Bernays, known as one of the fathers of the public relations industry, was an Austrian-born Jew and the double-nephew of Sigmund Freud, who came to New York as a young boy.

Fleischman was the daughter of attorney Samuel Fleischman and Harriet Rosenthal Fleischman, a Jewish family living in New York City. She attended Hunter Normal School and Horace Mann, graduating in 1909 before entering Barnard College. She landed a job at the New York Tribune, writing for the women’s page before being promoted to assistant Sunday editor. In 1919, she was hired by her childhood friend and later husband, Bernays, and spent the rest of her life working with him.

Bernays himself would say that Fleischman was a 50/50 business partner, but she was also responsible for “wife” duties, such as raising the kids and holding dinner parties. Because of the sexism of the 1920s, Fleischman could not attend client meetings even if she were the person who came up with the ideas or did the writing. At the time, this was just accepted etiquette. Nevertheless, as seen in the ad printed by the New York Times in 1946, the firm was “A Partnership between Edward L. Bernays and Doris E. Fleischman.”

Even though the two got married in 1922, Fleischman, a member of the Lucy Stone League, which aimed to persuade women to keep their maiden names after marriage, famously kept her last name.

Upon Bernays’ passing in 1995, the Museum of Public Relations acquired many of Bernays’s writings and documents. Part of his collection was the original work of Fleischman. She authored the books “A Wife is Many Women,” and “Notes of a Retiring Feminist” and was awarded the National Organization for Women in Journalism and Communication Distinguished Service award in 1972, all of which are housed by the msuseum alongside other original writings by both Bernays and Fleischman.

 

 

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