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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                      ESTHER KAHN TAYLOR (1905-1992)


DATE:                                 JULY 9, 1986

LOCATION:                         ATLANTA, GEORGIA

ID#:                                  OHC10715

NUMBER OF PAGES:         72

Transcript (PDF)


Esther Kahn was born in 1905 in Atlanta to Janice and Marcus Kahn, both immigrants from the Bialystok area of Eastern Europe.  Their home was Orthodox and she attended Hebrew school in the afternoons.  The family was enthusiastic Zionists and they are related to Bert and Bob Travis, the foremost promoters of Zionism in the southeast.   Esther discovered when she was quite young that she had a natural ear for music and began to take piano lessons.  She learned ragtime by ear and began to play for her brother’s college friends at their fraternity parties at Emory University. 

Esther started to attend Girls’ High when she was 12, where she was elected glass president, and expected to go to college to be a teacher.  Her father, however, refused to send her to college and felt that she should find a scholarly Jewish husband.  Esther was unhappy about this decision and went to work as a Hebrew school teacher until she met and married Herbert Taylor.

At the time of their marriage, Herbert was a pharmacist with his own stores, although later he went into real estate development.  Esther and Herbert had one son, Mark.  She resumed her musical studies when time and duties allowed, studying with noted pianists, and eventually attending both Julliard in New York City and the Sorbonne in Paris, France.  Esther also was asked to be a member of the Atlanta Music Club and headed several efforts at musical education in classrooms and on the radio.

Esther also joined Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women where she served in a variety of roles, much of it in the area of legislative lobbying.  She attended the Conference on the Cause of Cure of War where she was received at the White House, an event which started a life-long admiration of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  She also joined ORT after a trip to Morocco, where she saw conditions that inspired her to a life-long commitment to the organization.  Esther also brought Planned Parenthood to Atlanta, raising the funds, renovating the buildings for the first clinics, and establishing it firmly in the city.

Esther and Herbert have travelled around the word: Israel, Morocco, the Near East, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean islands.



Esther recalls her childhood in Atlanta and her growing interest and talent in playing the piano and her early musical education.   She remembers how she learned ragtime by ear and became so competent at it that her brother invited her to his fraternity parties at Emory University to play for his friends.   She recalls her time at Girls’ High and how she was elected class president.  She remembers her disappointment at not being able to go to college and settling for teaching Hebrew school and her courtship and marriage to Herbert Taylor.  She recalls hew dowry and her wedding which was performed at Shearith Israel.

Esther recalls the role of women in her mother’s generation who remained in the home exclusively and her mother’s endless baking, cleaning and entertaining, resting only on Saturdays.   She remembers how her father sold clothing—largely to black people and the important role of Zionism in their household. 

Esther remembers her volunteer with Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, and ORT, including attending the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War in Washington, D.C. where she met and was deeply impressed by the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who received her at the White House.

Esther recollects her long career with music including learning to play the piano in childhood, further advanced studies in her adulthood with well-known pianists such as Guy Maier and Louis Teicher, and studying at Julliard in New York City and in Paris, France at the Sorbonne.  She also discusses her participation in music education through the Atlanta Music Club and presenting programs on the radio and in the school promoting music education—especially for disadvantaged and black children. 

Esther recollects in detail her work with Planned Parenthood for which she began the first chapter in Atlanta, raised funds and awareness, opening clinics and expanded and the challenges and achievements of that process.

She remembers her studies at the Sorbonne and her life and travels in France and Europe.  Esther also discusses a series of topics including women’s rights and changes in women’s lives over her lifetime, marriage and changing sexual mores, drugs, education, music appreciation and music in the 1980’s, government, her travels in Israel, religion and history, and being Jewish.



Alliance française

Art appreciation

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Music Club—Atlanta, Georgia

Bialystok, Poland

Birth control

Boys’ Club—Atlanta, Georgia


Clothing industry and trade

Commercial High School—Atlanta, Georgia

Conference on the Cause and Cure of War

Congregation Shearith Israel—Atlanta, Georgia

Damascus, Syria

Dear Abby


Drug stores


Emory University—Atlanta, Georgia

Epstein, Harry (Rabbi)


Ferrante & Teicher

French language

Girls’ Club—Atlanta, Georgia

Girls’ High School—Atlanta, Georgia


Hebrew language

Henrietta Szold Chapter—Hadassah—Atlanta, Georgia


Janus, Leah

Janus, Sidney

Jewish-black relations

Juilliard—New York City, New York

Kahn, Marcus

Kahn, Janice



Kranz, Phillip (Rabbi)

Laval University—Quebec, Canada

League of Women Voters

Maier, Guy


Marriages, arranged


Music education

Music, performance

National Council of Jewish Women

Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT)

Paris, France

Peddlers and peddling

Pharmacy industry and trade



Piano lessons

Planned Parenthood


Radio broadcasting


Religious education, Jewish

Roosevelt, Eleanor



Sh’ma Yisrael

Sigma Alpha Iota

Sorbonne—Paris, France


Szold, Henrietta

Taylor, Esther Kahn

Taylor, Herbert

Taylor, Judith Grossman

Taylor, Mark

Teicher, Louis

Temple—Atlanta, Georgia

Travis, Bert

Travis, Robert

Tureck, Rosalyn


United Way

Van Buren, Abigail


White House

Women’s rights


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