The Boston upper class circa 1950: "a Republican-Episcopalian group"

Moldbug infamously attempted to blame Jewish political radicalism on a desire to assimilate with "Boston Brahmins". I'm not making this up:
to succeed [Jews] assimilated the cultural tropes of America's highest status caste - the Boston Brahmins, basically.

In reality, of course, the Boston upper class was never politically radical as a group relative to other Americans -- much less in comparison to frequently socialist or communist Jewish immigrants. Not when it was predominantly Unitarian in the middle of the nineteenth century. And not in the mid-20th century, when the Boston upper class had shifted Episcopalian and remained relatively conservative:

Clearly Boston was in a state of change following World War II, undergoing alterations in outlook and values that perhaps would not be clarified for another generation. In spite of the changes, however, there was evidence that the stereotypical Boston lifestyle still existed. In maintaining this way of life in the face of strong challenges, the influence of the past on Boston and its social leaders cannot be overlooked. To appraise more scientifically the mid-century Boston Brahmin, a survey was conducted by the writer in April, 1949, when a questionnaire was mailed to a sample of women from the year's Boston Social Register. Many of the questions included sough to determine the truth of previously discussed generalities, and although it has become increasingly clear that many important points for research were not included in the questionnaire, nevertheless, a definite effort was made to test several of the previously noted characteristics of Boston Brahmins.

[. . .] The religious preference of our sample was clear; indeed, the previously quoted statement beginning "I come from Boston, I am Unitarian, I wear . . ." might more realistically be changed to "I am Episcopalian or Unitarian, with an emphasis on the former." For even though 77 percent of the women attended one or the other, more than twice as many were Episcopalian. The eloquence of Phillips Brooks and the English tradition seem to have eclipsed the more intellectual approach to religion exemplified by Emerson.

Certain data from this sample, if not startlingly new, clearly validated previously mentioned statements from the literature. Not only was this class Episcopalian, but it was Republican in politics. Eighty-one percent of the respondents were Republican--this in 1949, while located in Democratic Boston, and after living seventeen years under Democratic presidents.

The questionnaire's answers showed, as illustrated in literary sources, that Boston Brahmins emphasized education as a broad cultural goal, but they have been quite conservative in the amount of education given their daughters compared with that provided to sons. Of the sample, only 11 percent of the husbands did not attend college, and of the college-trained group, 71 percent attended Harvard. Of the women, only 13 percent completed college, while the largest group (39 percent), completed secondary private school only. The pattern of private schooling before college--with almost no trend toward either a more-democratic or more-aristocratic type of education--was suggested by the fact that no one in the sample attended only a secondary public school, and just 3 percent indicated they had been taught solely by private tutors.

Regarding the group's marital status, 76 percent were married, 15 percent widowed, 2 percent divorced, and 5 percent were single. Of those married, 51 percent had three or more children and only 7 percent were childless.

[. . .] The single home and its location have remained very important criteria to determine class status; however, upper-class idiosyncracies became manifest in the type of home owned and the conveniences it had. Homeowners comprised 77 percent of the sample, but not all houses were equipped with what are generally thought to be basic essentials, such as electric refrigerators or central heating. Only 2 percent had televisions. An odd item was that a few more families had fireplaces than central heating. The actual differential, while not significant in absolute figures, had some symbolic import--illustrating a way of life hardly typical of the "Great Middle Class."

The lifestyle of Boston's social leaders has alternately stimulated admiration or amusement in the minds of outsiders. The excessive frugality and the tendency not to change butchers, grocers, or candlestick makers generation after generation are well known. To a large extent, such generalities are overdrawn but not incorrect or entirely fanciful. The sample did tend to shop at R. H. Stearns and S. S. Pierce. Forty-three percent named Stearns as their favorite department store [. . .]

The Boston Brahmin woman is reputedly a busy one; thus, how she spends her time should be informative. Only 12 percent of the sample worked outside the home, with teaching, business, editing, and secretarial work being listed. Thirty-five percent stated they were employed before marriage, and the premarital occupation was similar to that followed afterward. [. . .] The more than 70 percent of the "unemployed" busied themselves with all types of activities, the most popular being care of families, cultural pursuites, and church and charitable work. [. . .]

The purpose of this chapter was to draw a composite picture of the Boston upper class and, in particular, its upper-class women. Generalities made speculatively about the Boston upper-class woman were supported by evidence from literary, manuscript, and questionnaire sources. First of all, a strong awareness of an upper class existed in this community which was felt to a large extent by the members themselves as well as by others. Many names of families and individuals were easily identified as being members of this group. One reason for the perpetuation of this class is that conscientious effort has been made by its members to remain ingrown and to foster habits, customs, and values identified with them and their ancestors. The family played the key role in maintaining the proper lineages and instituting the right values. All other significant values appeared secondary to it: individual happiness, the importance of husband's occupation, and many other factors served only to strengthen the importance of family as an institution. Although divorce occurred, it was definitely not sanctioned. So family-oriented was this group that the trend toward smaller families, characteristic of the rest of the country, was reversed here. This was a Republican-Episcopalian group where the men attended Groton and Harvard and the women the Winsor School. The importance of ancestors and their role in the history of community and country continued to vie with the values of money and education as legitimate claims for upper-class position. Even though the women did not work, they wished to be active--in the home and in the family charities, large or small. In many areas, their horizons seemed limited and their concern for larger issues undeveloped. On particular issues, they were conservative, though in the matters of morals, the question of a single--albeit strict--standard was the major preference. Certain institutions patronized by this group either were unique as to type, for instance, "The Morning of Diversion," the sewing circle, or women's clubs with specific forms and roles; or, if generally familiar, were so influenced by the local culture as to seem unusual and at times unique, such as the dancing school or the debut. In all, the picture of the Boston Brahmin, while not drawn by social scientists, was nevertheless delineated and reminiscent of W. H. Warner's portrayal of the upper-upper class in nearby Newburyport ("Yankee City"). [. . .]

Twice as many non-Brahmins as Brahmins lacked a special interest in the history of their families, but when it was expressed, that interest was according to the prevailing community pattern of genealogy: English background and Revolutionary War experiences, for example.

[Source: The Other Brahmins, Boston's Black Upper Class (c). By Adelaide M. Cromwell.]

Also see Jewish Liberalism: the Allinsmith Study:
The 1944 presidential vote also revealed this marked difference between Jewish and Gentile political behavior. The upper-class and upper-middle-class Christian denominations voted heavily against Roosevelt and in favor of Republican standard-bearer Thomas Dewey. Only 31.4% of the Congregationalists, 39.9% of the Presbyterians and 44.6% of the Episcopalians backed Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The more working-class denominations, however, voted heavily for him, particularly the Catholics who were 72.8% in his favor. In terms of their combined educational, occupational and status rank in the Allinsmith survey-that of second place-the Jews might well have been expected to vote Republican. Actually, they were 92.1% for Roosevelt. This overwhelming support was greater than that of any of the Christian denominations. [. . .]

However, in the 1952 elections, despite the fact that the Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had led the Western coalition to victory over the Nazis, 75% of the Jewish voters supported Adlai E. Stevenson, a man who had played no role of any importance in World War II. There was no difference in the attitude of the candidates toward Jewry or the state of Israel. The issue was clearly one of moderation vs. liberalism. In a situation where American voters as a whole gave decisive support to Eisenhower, three-fourths of the Jews backed his Democratic opponent. Moreover, interviews in depth of Boston voters showed that only 30% of the Gentiles with high socioeconomic status, as against 60% of those with low socioeconomic status, backed Stevenson. Among Boston Jews, 72% of those with high status voted for Stevenson.

6 comments:

ben tillman said...

Outstanding work! I haven't done much digging into the empirical data since the theoretical arguments are so strong. It's laughable to suggest that an ideology that favors Jews and disfavors Anglo-Americans was created by the latter and merely copied by the former.

And, in any event, Jews do not behave according to the posited ideology (ethnofugalism), so they could not have copied it from "Boston Brahmins" or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but what of the Brahmin class today, whatever may be left of them ?

Anonymous said...

They died. But their children married lapsed Irish Catholics and now live in places like NC.

This is why Moldbug's stuff is so half assed. He and his people don't even bother to test their theories against current outcomes.

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