In 1885, “The Matzah Queen” Regina Horowitz Margareten baked her first batch of commercial matzot to sell in her family grocery store on New York’s Willett Street. In an interview, Regina later wrote, “I lit the fires, worked the dough, and found the customers.”
Within a few years, Regina’s matzot were so popular that they became the sole product of the family business. In the early years, Regina “baked through the night; for weeks at a time she saw the light of day only on Shabbat.” When her husband Ignatz died in 1923, Regina took the title of Treasurer of the Horowitz Brothers and Margareten Company.
She grew the business steadily; in 1931, the company used 45,000 barrels of flour and grossed the then-considerable sum of $1,000,000. She was a one-woman quality control department; she tasted the matzah when she arrived at the plant at 8:30 a.m. each day and had samples sent to her office throughout the day.
Regina was the company spokesperson to the community. During the ’40s and ’50s, she broadcast an annual Passover radio greeting in Yiddish that she would then repeat in English “for the sake of the children who may be listening in.”
Regina Margareten continued to work at the factory, including tasting the matzot and checking on the price of flour, until two weeks before her death at age 96.
Source: Shulamith Z. Berger: American Jewish Historical Society Chapter 97.
TOBY ROSSNER (email@example.com) was the Director of Media Services at the Bureau of Jewish Education from 1978 to 2002.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth article in a series on the history of Jewish women entrepreneurs.