Estelle Goldsmith: Woman of the World

The last child born to Abraham Goldsmith and his first wife Cecelia Adler before Cecelia’s untimely death in 1874 was their daughter Estelle. Estelle was born on January 20, 1870, in Philadelphia,1 and was only four when her mother died. Estelle was born in time to be listed on the 1870 census with her parents, her five older siblings, and her maternal grandparents, Samuel and Sarah Adler. (Her name is misspelled here as Estella.)

Abraham Goldsmith and Family 1870 census

And in 1880 she is listed with her father, her stepmother Frances Spanier, her four surviving full siblings (Milton, Edwin, Rose, and Emily) and her two younger half-siblings, Alfred and Bertha.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 60A; Enumeration District: 202
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

Estelle graduated from the Philadelphia Normal School in 1890.  On January 27, 1895, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Estelle had been selected to become the eighth grade teacher at the Madison School in Philadelphia. She remained there for 25 years.2

The Philadelphia newspapers, the social media of that era, published a number of articles in the 1890s in which Estelle is mentioned as one of many attending various social and cultural events in Philadelphia. The papers also reported on Estelle’s travels. In 1896, the Philadelphia Times reported that she and three other women were traveling to New England together,3 and in 1897, she traveled to Europe with one of those same three, Julia Friedberger, who was her brother Edwin’s sister-in-law.

The Philadelphia Times, June 27, p. 26.

The 1900 census reported that Estelle, who was working as a school teacher, continued to live in Philadelphia with her father, stepmother, and her four younger half-siblings, Alfred, Bertha, Alice, and Louis. Her older siblings were by that time all married.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208
Description
Enumeration District: 0208; Description: Philadelphia City Pa, 12th Ward, 6th Division, bounded by Green, Chat ham, Buttonwood, 5th, Noble, 6th,
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Estelle is not listed in the Philadelphia directories between 1900 and 1910, but the Philadelphia newspapers reported some of her activities, including her attendance at various social events and her trip in 1906 to visit her brother Milton in New York City.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 22, 1906, p. 44.

In 1910, her parents now both deceased, Estelle was living with her older sister Rose and Rose’s husband Sidney Stern and their three sons. Estelle continued to be employed as a public school teacher. In June 1913, she traveled on a steamer to Plymouth, England, Cherbourg, France, and Bremen, Germany, with many others from Philadelphia.4 I wonder whether in her travels she visited Oberlistingen and the Goldschmidts who still lived there.

Estelle Goldsmith living with Sidney and Rose Goldsmith Stern and family, 1910 US census
Philadelphia Ward 47, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1413; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 1193; FHL microfilm: 1375426
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

In February 1920 she and three other women traveled to Puerto Rico. One of those women, Carrie Teller Kuhn, was connected to Estelle in two different ways. First, she was the step-aunt of Gladys Fliegelman, the young woman who would marry Estelle’s nephew, Allan Goldsmith Stern, in 1929. Second, in 1930, Carrie Teller Kuhn was a lodger in the household of Sidney Goldsmith Rice, who was Estelle’s first cousin, once removed. Sidney was the grandson of Jacob Goldsmith, who was the brother of Estelle’s father Abraham.

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, February 7, 1920, p. 9.

In 1920, Estelle was still living with her sister Rose Goldsmith Stern and her family, but Estelle had changed careers.  She was now the director of a girl’s camp, which, according to her obituary, was Camp Woodmere for Girls in Paradox, New York, a camp that Estelle had co-founded in 1916.5

Estelle continued to travel in the 1920s.  In 1922 she traveled to China and Japan for several months with Carrie Teller Kuhn, as reported in the Philadelphia Evening Ledger on December 4, 1922. Here is her passport photograph from her passport application before that trip:

Estelle Goldsmith, 1922 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2040; Volume #: Roll 2040 – Certificates: 196350-196725, 23 Jun 1922-23 Jun 1922. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

And in 1925 she and Carrie again traveled together, this time to Le Havre, France; in 1928, they traveled to Naples, Italy.6

In 1930, Estelle continued to live with her sister Rose and brother-in-law Sidney Stern; now her occupation was recorded as director of a hosiery mill.  I was surprised by this change in career, given that Estelle was now sixty years old. Perhaps she was working for Thomas Holmes Manufacturing, the company founded by her nephew Henry Friedberger Goldsmith. Or perhaps this is a mistake and she was still the camp director, as her obituary seems to suggest.7

By 1940, Estelle’s situation had changed.  Her sister Rose Goldsmith Stern had died in 1931, and her sister-in-law Jennie, wife of Estelle’s brother Edwin, had died in 1933. In 1940, Estelle, her brother Edwin, and her brother-in-law Sidney Stern were all living at the Majestic Hotel in Philadelphia.

Estelle Goldsmith, Edwin Goldsmith, and Sidney Stern, 1940 US Census, Majestic Hotel, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03698; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 51-384. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

In March 1944, Estelle and her brother Edwin were among 400 hundred residents evacuated from the Majestic when a six-alarm fire broke out in the upper levels of the hotel.8 Edwin died just seven months later. (Sidney had died in 1942.) At that point Estelle had outlived four of her siblings: Hilda (who had died as a child), Emily (1917), Rose (1931), and Edwin (1944).

In fact, Estelle outlived all nine of her siblings, including her four younger half-siblings. She died on May 7, 1968, at age 98.9 According to her obituary she was at that time the oldest member of her synagogue, Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, an honorary vice-president of the Friends of the Deaf, and a member of the Council of Jewish Women.10

Estelle had lived a long life and a full life, a life that was not typical of women of her times. She had not married or had children, but instead had had two careers. She had been a teacher for 25 years, then a camp director for another 25 years.  She had traveled all over the world. She had lived from shortly after the Civil War, through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the upheaval and many social changes of the 1960s.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to sit down with Estelle and ask her about her life and her observations over nearly a century of living? What questions would you ask her?


I will be taking a short break from blogging over the next two weeks. When I return, I will be writing about Abraham Goldsmith’s four children with his second wife, Frances Spanier.  See you then!

 


  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB13-5S4 : 9 March 2018), Estelle Goldsmith, 20 Jan 1870; citing bk 1870 p 231, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,312. 
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 27, 1895, p. 3; “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31. 
  3. The Philadelphia Times, July 19, 1896, p. 27. 
  4. The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 1913, p. 3. 
  5. Estelle Goldsmith, 1920 Census,  Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 47, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1646; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1791. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census.  “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31.  
  6.  Year: 1925; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3591; Line: 30; Page Number: 7; Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4398; Line: 24; Page Number: 48. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  7. Estelle Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0397. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  8. “Majestic Hotel Swept by Six-Alarm Fire,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1944, p. 1. 9. 
  9.  Number: 183-36-9987; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: 1962.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. 
  10.  “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31.  

30 thoughts on “Estelle Goldsmith: Woman of the World

  1. Estelle Goldsmith seemed to have been the forerunner of the modern woman. Most young women of the early 20th century era married and generally had many children with the husband responsible for feeding the family. Estelle may have seen first hand the total dependence of most women on their husbands and perhaps the drudgery that came with raising a large family. So she decided to embark on a career and use her income to travel exploring the world. My question to her would be: Did you encounter much criticism and opposition to her life style from within your traditional family circles?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also like to think that this was a conscious decision on her part, not something she was forced to accept because Mr. Right failed to show up and marry her.

      And I think that’s a great question. If only we had a time machine…. I have so many questions—she saw so much of the world, and that must have given her a perspective on the World Wars that other Americans didn’t have. If I start listing questions, I could go on and on. Maybe Estelle is lucky she does not have to be interrogated by me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing woman, and as always you have brought her to life through your research Amy. When I was younger I knew several much older women (though born later than Estelle) who had never married, and whose lives had involved careers and world travel. These were women who might have expected to marry the generation of young men decimated by WWI ( and perhaps WWII). They may not have chosen spinsterhood (such a loaded term then) but embrace the opportunities it offered. At the time it seemed to my child’s brain that women could have marriage or “a life” but not both. I’m not sure it’s all that different now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I think it’s different, but still not perfect. Today most mothers work outside the home (at least in the US), and many mothers have careers and professions. But balancing work and family is a struggle; I know it was for me. At work I felt guilty about not being home, and at home I worried that I wasn’t devoted enough to my job. But I do feel I had both a family and a career. I don’t think many women had that choice 100 years ago — or even 50 years ago!

      Thanks, Su!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My mum told me recently that when she and my dad got married, he expected her to stop working because it was “his job” to look after her. At first I thought, “good for her” then she said That she refused to give up her job until she earned enough to buy a washing machine. Sigh.
        I agree that women have more choices and freedoms now, but we also live in a consumerist world that makes living on one income really tough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep—hard to know how many mothers are working because they want to as opposed to because they have to. I know that if we had been able to live on one salary, I would have taken off more than four months with each baby.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I read this on my iPad yesterday . . . . You know that story. I find Estelle to be really intriguing. She doesn’t seem to be as creative as the rest of the family, but she was certainly a traveler!!! and single and that career shift that did or didn’t happen. She sounds like a force, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I admire Estelle and her independent world travels at a time in history when global transportation was not necessarily convenient nor quick. And she really got off the traditional beaten path with visits to China and Japan. Do you know whether photohraphs from her travels survive? I had a great aunt who, after her husband’s death, traveled the world extensively. Her pictures (slides, actually) show a Europe rebuilding after WWII and ports of call in Asia. A fascinating glimpse into history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know if there are photos. Estelle had no direct descendants so I don’t know who would have them if they even exist. Thanks, Michael.

      Like

  5. I guess I would ask her what motivated her to travel – a journalistic interest, a geographical one aroused by her teaching experience, or maybe something less apparent – she seems to have begun in her twenties, was she trying to get away from something or somewhere? She elected never to marry or have children – is that significant, I wonder? In all events a brave woman, and incredibly long-lived; a credit to the tree!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Enjoy your break, Amy. I think if I was at your social with Estelle I would have asked her about the changes urbanization brought to her surroundings and the cities she saw in Europe. It would be an informative comparison and contrast of her past times and the times she matured in. There are many details to daily life that history books can never capture such as once upon a time neighborhoods were smaller and a horse drawn cart or small motorized truck delivered fresh milk in glass bottles…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Alfred Goldsmith: Star-Crossed Lover? | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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