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Threadbare, the prequel to In the Hands of Women is a historical novel written as a tribute to Jane Rubin's great-grandmother and explores the late Victorian era through a character living among the emerging middle class. 


Jane's great-grandmother, Mathilda (Tillie), emigrated from Germany with her parents in 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War. They passed through Castle Garden in New York City and settled in the northern farms while Central Park was in development. All but lost to history, with scant family folklore, she chose to capture her spirit through the shreds of those remaining stories.

Threadbare recounts the story of an innocent but tenacious young girl who chooses marriage to Abe, a lonely widower, rather than follow her farming community north as urban development transforms rural Harlem. Convinced Abe will help her attend high school on the Lower East Side, she faces a rude awakening to the filth and disease of the tenements. Through the following decades, Tillie turns her energy and intelligence to partnering with Abe as he builds a thriving button business while she and her neighbor Sadie launch a unique garment company. Pushing back against anti-Semitic, Victorian values dominating the time, they acquire wealth only to have life upended by the challenge of their life. 

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"A striking novel of a changing New York City... the plot is dramatically powerful, and Tillie is a memorably dauntless protagonist."   Kirkus Reviews



"Jane Loeb Rubin wins us over again in Threadbare, the captivating prequel to her earlier novel, In the Hands of Women. Readers follow resilient Tillie Isaacson Levine from her adolescence on a farm in 1879, through her marriage and move to a Manhattan tenement, and finally to her work in the city’s garment business in the 1890s. Against all odds, given biases against women and Jews, she starts a business while raising a family.  Readers will race through Threadbare, rooting for Tillie in every chapter."

Marlie Parker Wasserman
Author of  Inferno on Fifth

"Rubin’s novel is a classic, delicious immigrant story with a twist. Set in 19th century New York City— not the 20th— it’s loaded with history, and its protagonist, Tillie, is a headstrong, visionary teenage girl. Although Tillie becomes a woman far too fast, her indomitable spirit prevails. Her compelling story is one of resilience in the face of discrimination, economic hard times, and epidemics— and it resonates for the 21st century." "

Susan Jane Gillman
Bestselling author of the Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

"Jane Rubin’s Threadbare harkens back 150 years stylistically and thematically to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, echoing exquisitely. Universal matters such as the power of family ties, the conflict women face between marital and child rearing responsibilities versus vocational ambition, sisterhood, and emotional resonance, are richly enhanced by compelling narrative layers involving the fin de siècle German Jewish immigrant experience, NYC farming and tenement life, the development of the garment industry, access to healthcare and the agony of loss from epidemic and cancer, and women’s reproductive rights. Rubin’s loom weaves a plush pile, in fact—not threadbare—and is as rich and inviting to the touch as a tapestry of classical antiquity from which one loathes to part.

Peter Bolo, MD
Chair Psychiatry, Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ

"In Threadbare, Rubin weaves a vivid tapestry of hope, heartbreak, and resilience amid breath-stopping challenges, opening a window to a transformative time in women’s history."

Audrey Blake
USA bestselling author of, The Girl in his Shadow, The Surgeon's Daughter

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