Intermarriage Throughout the Ages

I’m not sure if this is an interfaith marriage that falls into the celebrity category, but Moment magazine this week tells the tale of Wyatt Earp, the notorious sharpshooter, and his Jewish wife, Josephine “Josie” Sarah Marcus.

She was a showgirl from a prosperous, German-Jewish family, and spent most of her young adult years as a performer until she moved to Tombstone. She got engaged to sheriff Johnny Behan, then broke it off to be with Earp. This romantic rivalry was one of the factors that led to the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

After the dust settled, Josie and Earp left Tombstone and lived out their days amongst the burgeoning Hollywood scene, until Earp died at the age of 80.

The article doesn’t dwell on their religious relationship – it’s not said whether they lived a Jewish lifestyle or not. But at the end of the piece is an indication that Sadie, throughout her life, still recognized and respected her Jewish roots.

Josie kept her husbands cremated ashes for months before travelling 400 miles along to the Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, a San Francisco suburb, to inter them near the graves of her parents and brother. She spent her remaining years in Los Angeles vigilantly protecting Wyatt’s legacy. When she died in 1944 at the age of 83, her ashes were buried alongside his.

Whether this counts as a “successful” interfaith marriage is clearly up for debate. But it’s certainly interesting to note that of all the ways Josie could have had her and her legendary husband remembered, she chose a place that will forever connect the two of them to the Jewish community. That, I think, speaks volumes.

1 Comment

  1. I knew Wyatt Earp was buried in San Francisco and that he had a Jewish wife. I had supposed that he had met her after moving to California and that they had lived in San Francisco. So I was surprised that they had actually met earlier in the West. This was partly because Josephine Marcus was the subject of a nude photograph shot from the waist up, albeit covered with a see-through gauze shawl. It was sold at Butterfield & Butterfield a few years back. She looked rather like Monica Levinski I thought and they mentioned she had married Wyatt Earp.The picture was supposedly taken around 1896. If that’s true she was already 34 and married to Earp at the time. It was what was known in those days as “artistic” photography and very much on the outer limits of acceptability in the US or Britain at that date although aesthetically in good taste. Could it have been their daughter? I assume they had a successful marriage although I doubt they had a Jewish wedding or that Wyatt Earp converted to Judaism.If Josephine wanted to be buried near her husband as well as her family obviously she had to choose the Jewish cemetery where they were buried. Presumably the authorities didn’t object. I had meant to look for it when I was in SF but I wouldn’t have expected a Jewish cemetery.

    Comment by JG Lichfield — March 19, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

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