Moskowitz, Belle

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Belle Lindner Israels Moskowitz (October 5, 1877–January 2, 1933) was a social and industrial reformer and a political strategist. As New York Governor Alfred E. Smith's strategist during the 1920s, Belle Moskowitz helped develop Smith's legislative and administrative policies. These policies later influenced the state's early responses to the Great Depression under Smith's successors, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert H. Lehman. Moskowitz also ran Smith's reelection and 1928 presidential campaigns, working through a post she created in 1924—publicity director of the New York State Democratic Committee. In the process she trained Democratic Party women, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary (Molly) Dewson, in campaign techniques they later used to win support for the New Deal.

Belle Lindner was born in Harlem and educated at city schools, at the Horace Mann High School for Girls, and for a year at the Teachers' College of Columbia University. She worked in a social settlement on Manhattan's Lower East Side before marrying Charles Israels, an architect, in 1903. While raising her children she pursued social reforms, primarily through the Council of Jewish Women. In 1912, she joined the Progressive Party and served as a ward captain. From 1913 to 1916, she worked as a grievance arbitrator in the dress and waist trade.

In 1914, three years after her first husband died, she married Henry Moskowitz, a former settlement worker and industrial pacifist. In 1918, because of Smith's strong pro-labor record, the couple decided to support him for governor. Belle Moskowitz organized the women's vote for Smith and after his victory she proposed a reconstruction commission to plan the state's peacetime economy. Smith accepted Moskowitz's idea and appointed her the commission's executive secretary. Its reports formed the core of Smith's legislative program.

After Smith's defeat in 1928, Moskowitz tried to help him retain party leadership. She produced the publicity for the Empire State Building, a symbol of hope in the growing Depression. She also organized Smith's attempt to win the nomination in 1932. Franklin D. Roosevelt's capture of the nomination, and Smith's increasing bitterness over his political failures, were deeply disappointing to her. Her health declined, and while recovering from a fall she suffered an embolism and died. In 1936 Henry Moskowitz publicly announced that he could no longer support his old friend Al Smith, who by then was vigorously opposing the New Deal.



Perry, Elisabeth Israels. Belle Moskowitz: Feminine Politics and the Exercise of Power in the Age of Alfred E. Smith. 1987.

Slayton, Robert A. Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith. 2001.

Elisabeth Israels Perry