Beatrice Berler returned to school at the age of forty-five and became an award-winning translator of Spanish-language novels and history. Her work as a literacy activist in the United States earned her national recognition.
Beatrice “Beady” Berler was the child of Ukrainian immigrants Clara Bichman and Max Goldenblank. Born in Brooklyn in 1915, Beady spent her first two years in New York before moving to Miami, Florida, with her parents and younger brother Aaron. In 1932, she graduated from Miami Senior High School and became a buyer for a store specializing in ladies’ intimate apparel. She worked in women’s fashion for twelve years in Florida and briefly in Tennessee. In 1945, she married Albert Berler, a real estate investor, and they settled in San Antonio, Texas.
After continuing to work in women’s sportswear for ten years, in 1956 she decided to pursue a college and graduate education. Berler earned a B.A. and an M.A. in foreign languages and history from Trinity University in San Antonio. Her master’s thesis, “The Mexican Revolution: Its Reflection in the Novel,” was published in part in Hispa–ia. In addition, she cotranslated three novels—The Underdogs, Trials of a Respectable Family, and The Firefly—by Mariano Azuela, the eminent Mexican author.
Aside from these publishing achievements, Berler also became a renowned community activist. As president of the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee from 1971 to 1973, she directed and organized sixty-five thousand members in the effort to raise funds for the Brandeis libraries. Simultaneously, in 1971 she began a collaborative project with federal judge William S. Sessions to provide reading material to correctional institutions. The Brandeis women’s committee, through Berler’s leadership, channeled over four million leisure reading books to thirty federal correctional institutions. In recognition of her efforts, the Federal Bar Association of San Antonio honored Berler in 1975 for Outstanding Community Services. And, in October of 1980, Norman Carlson, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, acknowledged the donation of these most needed paperbacks at a formal ceremony held in Washington, D.C.
In 1987, Mayor Henry Cisneros and the entire San Antonio City Council named Berler a benefactor of the city for her idea to raise funds for the San Antonio Public Library. With her help, over sixty-four thousand dollars was raised in four weeks, and this is now a yearly project. In addition, the Texas Library Association Awards Committee selected Berler as its recipient of the 1987 Outstanding Service to Libraries Award because of her innovative approach to outside funding for the San Antonio Public Library. In February 1988, the National Council of Christians and Jews honored her with its Brotherhood Award.
Berler continued to translate and publish books. In 1988, she published The Conquest of Mexico—a modern rendering of William H. Prescott’s history—and in 1993 the New York Public Library gave a special award to her translation of Ellos Vienen ... La Conquista de Mexico [They are coming ... The conquest of Mexico], by José López Portillo, former president of Mexico.
Berler served as a member of Brandeis University’s board of trustees from 1971 to 1973 and then served as a fellow of the university. In addition to her innumerable academic and civic achievements, throughout the years numerous children from San Antonio and throughout the United States “adopted” Berler as their grandmother, confidant, and special friend.
Beatrice Berler died on September 11, 2000.
SELECTED WORKS BY BEATRICE BERLER
“Azuela y La Veracidad Histórica.” Revista Ibero-Americana (February 1966): 189–305; The Conquest of Mexico: A Modern Rendering of W.H. Prescott’s History (1988); El Epistolario y Archivo de Mariano Azuela [The letters and archives of Mariano Azuela]. Compiled and edited by Beatrice Berler (1969. Reprint, 1993); El Epistolario y Archivo de Mariano Azuela: Documentos Adicionales [The letters and archives of Mariano Azuela: Additional documents]. Compiled and edited by Beatrice Berler (1996); “The Mexican Revolution: Its Reflection in the Novel.” Master’s thesis, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas (1965).
Los de Abajo [The underdogs], by Mariano Azuela. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1979); Ellos Vienen ... La Conquista de México [They are coming ... The conquest of Mexico], by José López Portillo. Translated by Beatrice Berler (1992); Hispanoamérica, sus Razas y Civilizaciones [Hispanic America and its civilizations], by Edmund S. Urbanski. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1978); La Luciérnaga [The firefly], by Mariano Azuela. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1964); La Revolución de la Iglesia en América Latina [The revolution of the Latin American church], by Hugo LaTorre Cabal. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1978); Latina America y el Mundo [Latin America and the world], by Leopoldo Zea. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1969); Las Tribulaciones de Una Familia Decente [The trials of a respectable family], by Mariano Azuela. Translated by Beatrice Berler, with Frances Kellam Hendricks (1979).
Dictionary of International Biography (1988); Who’s Who in American Women (1997); Who’s Who in Religion (1989); Who’s Who in the Southwest (1996); Who’s Who in World Jewry (1989).
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Miller, Rose Ann. "Beatrice Berler." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 23, 2020) <https://qa.jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/berler-beatrice>.