Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

We had just finished our first dinner together as a family since before the pandemic—both of my daughters, my son-in-law, and my grandsons. It was a wonderful meal—lots of laughter and food and candles and blessings. Apples and honey and challah and wine. We were cleaning up in the kitchen, the kids were playing, and suddenly I heard my son-in-law gasp. He stood up, ashen, and whispered, “Ginsburg died.”

All I could say was, “Oh, no.” Then two seconds later. “Oh, no.” It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. It felt like a personal loss, the death of someone I knew and loved, not the death of someone famous I’d never actually met. We were all stunned. Even my grandsons, ages six and ten, knew who Ruth Bader Ginsburg was and knew how important she was.

We talked about her and her life, and then the next night we all watched “On the Basis of Sex,” a dramatized version of her early career and one of the first legal cases that established that treating men and women differently solely on the basis of gender was unconstitutional. When the movie ended with the shot of the real RBG standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, I cried. She was a hero, a role model, someone who changed the world I lived in and thus changed the course of my life.

She was born in Brooklyn, where my mother was born and raised and where my grandsons now live. Like my mother, she was Jewish and the daughter of an immigrant father and a mother who was first-generation American-born. She went to Cornell University and then was one of only nine women in her class at Harvard Law School in the 1950s. Despite the discrimination she faced there and the skepticism many had about women becoming lawyers, she rose to the top of her class.

Without Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others like her, I never would have dreamed of becoming a lawyer. When I was in high school and the women’s movement was just brewing, I thought girls could only grow up to be three things—a mommy, a nurse, or a teacher. I recall a heated debate with a classmate who was already more awake to the need for change than I where I took the position that a woman had to choose between a career or a family. She couldn’t have both.

All that changed in the four years I was in college, the years that RBG began litigating cases against sex discrimination. By my senior year I’d decided I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to have it all—a family and a career. When I arrived at Harvard Law School in 1975, there were more than ten times the number of women in my entering class than had been there when Ginsburg enrolled. We were still only 20% of the class, but at least there were more of us—thanks to the work of Ginsburg and others. Professors could no longer outwardly treat us as lesser beings than our male classmates, although some may have still thought that way. Without RBG and others, that never would have happened.

When RBG graduated from law school in the late 1950s, she could not get a law firm to hire her despite being on law review and at the top of her class. Twenty years later when I graduated from law school, there were still few women partners in law firms (and none at the firm where I was hired), but firms were hiring women.  Four years later, my firm had two women who were partners (out of over forty partners overall), and almost half of new hires were women.

When I left practice in 1982 to become a law professor, there were only two other women on the faculty of twenty-five; there were many students who expected their professors to be men, preferably older white men in suits, not a young woman with a young child and another on the way. But things changed over the years. More and more women were becoming lawyers, and more were becoming law professors. One of those law professors was Jane Ginsburg, Ruth’s daughter, and I first felt a real personal connection to RBG when I adopted two of her daughter Jane’s casebooks—one on copyright law, one on trademark law—to teach my courses in those subjects. When I retired from law teaching in 2014, women made up a majority of those on the faculty at my school. We had seen a momentous shift in thirty-two years.

So much changed from the time I was in high school and could only dream of becoming either a mother or a nurse or a teacher. So much changed from the day I entered law school until the day I retired almost forty years later. Women went from being outsiders in the legal profession to being a majority of those enrolled in law school and prominent in the profession, though even today there are still too few women partners in big law firms and too much discrimination generally against women in society.

I feel so deeply grateful to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for all these changes. When she was named by Bill Clinton to the US Supreme Court in 1993, I felt as if someone I knew had made it to the highest court in the land. A Jewish woman was on the Supreme Court. Someone who grew up in the time and place in which my mother had grown up. Someone who had had both children and a career. Someone who shared my background and my values. She was only the second woman to be named to the court. She changed it forever. She changed me and my life and my world even before I knew her name.

I am forever indebted to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No wonder I feel her loss so personally. She was a blessing to every little girl growing up today, to every woman searching for a meaningful life, and to every woman of my generation who benefited from everything she did. She was a blessing to all people whose rights have been denied, who have faced discrimination, or who simply want to see justice and fairness in our society.

May her memory be a blessing forever. May we carry on her legacy.


Two other bloggers wrote posts about Ginsburg that touched me. I recommend them both. You can find them here (“The Heavens Opened for RBG” at Zicharanot), discussing another personal reaction to her death, and here (“Ruth Bader Ginburg, Rest in Power” at wmtc), discussing her opinions on the Supreme Court and their significance. There have been, of course, many other tributes and obituaries published that describe her life and her career and her impact on the law and on society.

 

 

Honoring Women: Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and the month of March is Women’s History Month, according to Congress, and my genealogy blogger Janice Webster Brown of Cow Hampshire blog has encouraged her fellow genealogy bloggers to tell the story of at least one woman this month in honor of that occasion.  Although the theme this year for the national Women’s History Month is women who were active in government or public service, I’ve decided to highlight a woman whose life was more typical of her times, a woman who did not necessarily do anything historic or that would be remembered by anyone other than the members of her own family, but a woman who nevertheless is worth remembering and honoring more broadly.  This post is for all those women who lived lives that did not make headlines but who made their mark in quiet, unheralded ways that made a difference for their families and thus for all of us who followed.

It may not surprise those of you who have been reading my recent posts to know that I have chosen Rose Mansbach Schoenthal, the wife of Simon Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle.  Like most of the women I’ve researched, Rose did not leave behind much in terms of actual records or documents.  She did not have a career outside her home; she did not serve in the military.  There are no news articles reporting on her life.  All I really know about her is when she was born, who she married, where she lived, who her children were, and when she died.  The rest is all conjecture on my part and interpretation and extrapolation from those facts.

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

 

Rose was reportedly born in  Gudensberg, Germany, on March 12, 1850, according to her family.  I have not yet been able to find a birth record for her in that town, however, nor do I have any information about her parents.  I did, however, find a passenger manifest for a sixteen-year old girl named Rose Mansbach who immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany and who listed her occupation as a servant.  That ship, the D.H. Wagen, arrived in New York on September 23, 1867.

 

Rose Mansbach on the DH Wagen, line 446 Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Rose Mansbach on the DH Wagen, line 446
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Guess who was also on that ship? Rose’s future husband, Simon Schoenthal, then just seventeen.  Did they know each other before they boarded, or did they meet on the ship?  I don’t know.

 

Simon Schoenthal and Amalie Schoenthal 1867 ship manifest, lines 230 and 231 Year: 1867; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 286; Line: 1; List Number: 1004

Simon Schoenthal and Amalie Schoenthal 1867 ship manifest, lines 230 and 231
Year: 1867; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 286; Line: 1; List Number: 1004

 

Unfortunately, I can’t find Rose Mansbach on the 1870 census nor can I find a record of her marriage to Simon, but the 1900 census reported that they had married in 1872.  That seems correct since their first children, the twins Harry and Ida, were born in 1873.

From there Rose went on to have eight more children—eight more pregnancies, eight more labors and deliveries.  Her last child, Sidney, was born in 1891, eighteen years after her first.  In between Rose had lost her first daughter, the twin Ida, in 1887 when Ida was just thirteen.  The family had moved from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and then not long after Sidney was born, they moved again to Atlantic City.

In 1904, Rose lost her husband Simon.  She was only 54 years old, and her children ranged in age at that point from Harry, who was 31, down to Sidney, who was 13.  Somehow she and her children pulled together and survived the death of Simon.

 

The nine surviving children of Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal Photo courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

The nine surviving children of Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal
Photo courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

 

Soon after Simon’s death, her children began to disperse.  In fact, Rose’s daughter Gertrude had already moved to Tucson, Arizona with her husband Jacob Miller before Simon died. Harry had moved not too far away in Philadelphia. A few years later, Martin and Maurice moved to Chicago, and Louis and then Sidney moved to California.  Hettie also left for Arizona, leaving only two of the surviving children, Jacob and Estelle, back in Atlantic City with Rose.  Rose had raised children who were as independent and courageous as she must have been when she boarded that ship when she was just sixteen.

And then Rose herself, already in her 60s, left for Tucson in the mid-1910s along with her daughter Estelle.  I can only imagine what Rose must have felt and experienced in the frontier country of Arizona with the coyotes and rattlesnakes that her daughter Hettie described in her memoirs.  When I look at this photograph of Rose looking so citified and civilized, it is hard to imagine her in the wild west of those times.

Rose Schoenthal -1916

By 1920 Rose and Estelle had returned to Atlantic City, and her other two daughters soon followed them back to the East Coast.  Harry, Martin, and Jacob also ended up living in Atlantic City.  Thus, for the last decade of her life, Rose had all but three of her nine children as well as most of her grandchildren living relatively close by.  Rose must have instilled in her children not only a love for their mother but for each other and for family generally.

Up until last week, all of this was pure speculation on my part.  Rose had no actual voice—just government records and a few photographs told me what I knew about her.  But then Sharon Lippincott, her great-granddaughter-in-law, found a letter written by Rose to her daughter Hettie on August 25, 1927, on the occasion of Hettie’s eighteenth wedding anniversary.  In just a few short lines, I learned more about Rose than I had from any of those records and census reports I’d found:

 

Rose Schoenthal s last letter August 24 1927-page-001

Rose Schoenthal s last letter August 24 1927-page-002

Congratulation

Dear Hatte, Hanry and Children
Excuses lat [light?] pensil
writing, it is the best for
me, as yur dear Anneverses [Anniversary]
is soon. I Vish you al
the best of luck, and every
thing you want

I mus stob writing

with love and
kisses  I remain
your lovly. Mother
and Gramdma

Every time I read this letter, my eyes well up with tears.  When she wrote this letter, Rose was 77 years old and had been in the US for most of her life, almost sixty years.  English, however, was still difficult for her.  Yet despite the obstacles she faced writing in English, in these few words she expressed herself so clearly.  “With love and kisses”—not the stereotype I have of German Jewish grandmothers nor the words I would expect from Rose, having seen photographs of her where she appears rather stern.  With these few simple words she expressed so much love and affection for her daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren.

 

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal
courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

 

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal died on May 16, 1929.  She was 79 years old.  Had she done anything notable in her life, anything that would make the history books or even a newspaper? Not really.  But think of what she had done.  She had ventured across the ocean at age 16 by herself.  She had raised ten children, nine to adulthood, all of whom seemed to have stayed close to her and to each other.  She had moved from Germany to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Atlantic City to Arizona and back to Atlantic City.  She had persevered even after her husband died, leaving her with three children who were still teenagers.  Rose had created a family, a family she raised and a family she loved.

Rose Schoenthal and her granddaughter Blanche Stein, 1916

Rose Schoenthal and her granddaughter Blanche Stein, 1916

When I think about all that she did do in the quiet, unreported way that most women of those times lived their lives, I know that she deserves to be honored during Women’s History Month even if she never worked outside the home, ran for office, wrote a song or a poem, or carried a weapon in war.

Hannah Cohen 1858-1927: A Life to Remember

The further I delve into the story of my ancestors, the more aware I am of how much the lives of women have changed in the last 100 years—actually, more like the last 50 years, but since I am focusing on the women born between 1850 and 1900 right now, the 100 year line seems more appropriate.  I’ve said numerous times that women are harder to research because they changed their names when they married.  If you cannot figure out who they married, then they just disappear and their stories are never completed.

I obviously have a personal perspective on the question of taking on a new name when you marry.  When I married back in 1976, most women still took their husband’s names when they married, but some women were starting to resist and keeping their birth names.  Some women argued that keeping your father’s name was just as much a concession to male dominance as taking your husband’s name.  I struggled with this issue; I was never a radical or a pioneer.  But in the end, I wanted to keep my name.  My reasons were varied; some of it was definitely based on the values of the women’s movement that was exploding around me during my years in college.  Mostly, however, it was just about holding on to my identity, the one I had had for over twenty years.  How could I not be Amy Cohen?  It just felt wrong.

So I kept my name.  And despite the occasional strange looks I got (and sometimes still get) from people who think it odd and despite the awkwardness of making calls on behalf of my children and having to use two different surnames to identify who they were and who I was, I am very glad that I did.  Especially now when I see how many women disappeared into thin air historically when they changed their names, I realize how much it can matter to have your own identity, including your own name.

In the case of Jacob and Sarah Cohen’s daughters, I was actually able to figure out their married names, and so they did not disappear into thin air.  Sometimes it was really easy to find them because there was an entry in the online marriage records that revealed both the groom’s and bride’s names.  Other times it was rather serendipitous.

For example, in the case of Hannah Cohen, Jacob and Sarah’s eighth child, it was a tiny little death notice for Hannah’s troubled brother Hart that caught my eye.  I wasn’t even researching Hannah at the time, but the death notice made reference to calling hours for Hart being at the home of Mrs. Martin Wolf.  I thought that Mrs. Martin Wolf might very well be one of Hart’s many sisters.  I searched for Martin Wolf on ancestry.com and FamilySearch, and I found one in Philadelphia on the 1900 census with a wife named Hannah.

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1900 census

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1900 census

 

According to the 1900 census, Martin and Hannah had been married for 20 years.   Hannah’s birth year on the 1900 census was consistent with earlier census reports.  Martin and Hannah had three children living with them in 1900: Laura (1882), Edgar (1885), and Martin A. (1889). Martin was in the wholesale liquor business, apparently his family’s business as the city directories list him as working for S. Wolf and Sons, and Martin’s father’s name was Solomon Wolf.  It appears that he worked for this business for all or almost all of his adult life.

As I was researching Hannah and Martin’s life, at first it seemed that their life would be like Hannah’s sister Rachel’s life—fairly uneventful.  But as I researched more deeply, unfortunately it seemed her life had plenty of unhappy events, though not as overwhelmingly sad as that of her sister Maria.

First, I saw on burial records at Mt Sinai that there was an entry for a fifteen day old infant “Ray Wolf” who died in 1887 located in the same lot as Hart Cohen (Hannah’s brother) and other members of the Wolf family.  I found a death certificate for a Rachel Wolff who died on May 10, 1887, at six weeks, daughter of M.L. Wolf and Sarah Wolf, living at 855 North 6th Street, the same address in the city directory for Martin L. Wolf of S. Wolf and Son in that year.  Despite the error in the mother’s name and the inconsistent age at death, this is obviously the child of Martin and Hannah.  Little Rachel died of inflammation of the bowels.

Rachel Wolf death certificate 1887

Rachel Wolf death certificate 1887

Those same burial records also included an entry for a Carrie Wolf, aged three years, who died in 1894.  Once again, further research revealed another terrible loss for Hannah and Martin.  Their daughter Caroline died from typhoid fever, the disease that had also killed two of her first cousins, a child of Fanny and Ansel Hamberg and a child of Joseph and Caroline Cohen.  If little Caroline was named in honor of her aunt Caroline, that must have been an awful irony to see her niece die from the same disease that had killed their son Hart.

Caroline Wolf death certificate 1894

Caroline Wolf death certificate 1894

So between 1887 and 1894, Hannah and Martin had lost two young children.  Somehow they continued on, Martin continuing to work in his family’s liquor business and Hannah home with the remaining children, who by 1900 ranged in age from 11 to 17.  In 1901 and 1902, the family was living in Atlantic City, where Martin was still involved in the liquor business.  Perhaps his family business was expanding, or perhaps the family just needed a change of scenery.  Laura, their oldest daughter,married Albert Hochstadter in 1901 when she was nineteen years old.  Albert was a hotel proprietor in Atlantic City, so perhaps she had met him while her family was living there.  Albert and Laura had a son, Martin Hochstadter, born in 1904.

It might have seemed that life had settled down and that the worst was over, but then there were more changes and losses ahead.  On the 1910 census, Laura, married only nine years before, was living at home with her parents (who had returned to Philadelphia by 1903) and, according to the census report, widowed.

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1910 census

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1910 census

At first I thought, “How awful.  Her husband died before they were married ten years,” but I said she was widowed “according to the census report” because I found a death certificate for Albert Hochstadter, dated June 5, 1912. Albert was still alive at the time of the 1910 census when Laura claimed to be a widow.  Moreover, his death certificate says that he was divorced.  Did Laura lie to the census taker, embarrassed to be divorced, or did the census taker just get it wrong? At any rate, it’s a bit eerie that Albert did in fact die just two years later when he was only 46 years old.  His cause of death was reported to be uremia.

Albert Hochstadter death certificate 1912

Albert Hochstadter death certificate 1912

Laura had quickly moved on and was already remarried by the time her first husband Albert had died.  On the 1910 census, when Laura was living with her parents in Philadelphia, there was a boarder living there named William K. Goldenberg who was a treasurer for a theater.  Within a year, Laura had married William, and by 1920, Laura, William, and Laura’s son Martin Hochstadter were living together.  William had advanced to become the manager of the theater, an occupation he continued to hold for many years.

Laura and William Goldenberg 1920 census

Laura and William Goldenberg 1920 census

Both of Martin’s sons registered with the draft, and both were employed at the Central Market Street Company at the time of their registration, as was their brother-in-law William Goldenberg.  I assume that that was the company that owned the theater where William was the manager.  It seems he took good care of his brothers-in-law by providing them with employment.

martin a ww1 edgar ww1 William ww1

But in 1918 the family suffered another loss.  Hannah’s husband Martin died from acute myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, while in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, which is about 16 miles south of Philadelphia (and once the hometown of Jennifer Aniston, for you trivia fans). The certificate is definitely for the same Martin L. Wolf; it indicates that Martin’s former or usual residence was 1737 North 15th Street in Philadelphia, the same address listed for Martin L. Wolf in the 1918 city directory and in the 1912 directory that also provided his business address for the liquor business.

Screenshot (7) Screenshot (8)

But the certificate raises some questions.  It says that Martin’s occupation was as a laborer for Remmington Arms in Eddystone.  According to Wikipedia, Remmington Arms, the rifle manufacturer, had opened a plant there during World War I, and “a large portion of the rifles used by American soldiers in France during World War I were made at Eddystone.”  What was Martin doing there?  He was 63 years old, too old to be drafted and serve in the war.  Was this his way of making a contribution to the war effort?  Or perhaps more likely the social forces that eventually succeeded in leading to the 18th Amendment and nationwide prohibition of liquor sales had already led to a decline in Martin’s liquor sales, thus causing him to get a job in the munitions industry during the war.  It’s total speculation, but it does seem very strange that after a career in the liquor business Martin would have taken up work in Eddystone making rifles.

Nine years later in 1927, Hannah also died from myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes.  She was sixty-nine years old.

Hannah Cohen Wolf death certificate 1927

Hannah Cohen Wolf death certificate 1927

She and Martin were both buried at Mt Sinai with their two daughters Caroline and Rachel.

Mt Sinai burial records

Mt Sinai burial records

In some ways the timing of  Hannah’s death may have been a blessing because three years later her daughter Laura died at age 47 from complications of diabetes on February 10, 1930, leaving her husband and her 26 year old son, Martin, who had already lost his father when he was only eight years old.

Laura Wolf Goldenberg death certificate 1930

Laura Wolf Goldenberg death certificate 1930

On the 1930 census Martin was listed as William’s son and had adopted his surname Goldenberg as well.  He was also employed as a theater manager, another member of the family finding employment through William Goldenberg. Martin married later that year, and in 1940 he was continuing to work as a theater manager.

William and Martin Goldenberg 1930 census

William and Martin Goldenberg 1930 census

Two years after Laura died, her brother Martin A. Wolf died from chronic ulcerative colitis on September 20, 1932, at age 43.  He also left behind a wife and a nine-year old son.  Martin A. also had continued to work as a theater manager.  His wife Marie died seven years later in 1939, leaving their son Martin without parents at age sixteen. On the 1940 census he was living as a lodger with a couple named Magee and working as an usher, following in the footsteps of his father and other relatives.

Martin A Wolf death certificate 1932

Martin A Wolf death certificate 1932

That left Edgar as the only surviving child of the five children of Hannah and Martin Wolf.  Edgar had married in 1916 and had had a son in 1921, and like his brother Martin, his brother-in-law William Goldenberg, and his nephews Martin Goldenberg and Martin A. Wolf, he also continued to work as a theater manager in Philadelphia.  Edgar died in 1966.  He was eighty years old and was the only one of his siblings to live a full and long life.  No one else had made it to 50, let alone 80.

When I look back on Hannah’s life, as with the lives of so many of the women I have researched, I realize how completely a woman’s life was defined by her husband and her children in those days.  Whereas I can report on the men’s occupations and their military careers, for the women I seem only to be able to mention where they lived, who they married, and how many children they had.  Unless a woman remained unmarried, she did not work outside the home. These women had hard times and raised their families under often difficult circumstances, losing babies and children to disease and having more pregnancies and childbirths than I can imagine, and probably even more than are reported.  It was the way women lived for most of history: family and home centered and dependent financially on their fathers and then their husbands.  It is a very different life from the one most women I know live today, for better in many ways, but also for worse in other ways.

If women’s lives and their value was based primarily on their children, then losing a child must have been especially awful for these mothers, losing two unimaginable. At least Hannah did not live to see that two more of her children would die prematurely. She had lost two babies and her husband. Nine of her siblings, including some younger than she, had predeceased her.  Those are enough losses for any person to have to endure.

If I had not found that little death notice mentioning a Mrs. Martin Wolf, Hannah Cohen might never have been found.  As you will see, it was an equally serendipitous discovery that allowed me to learn the story of her younger sister Elizabeth. Hannah’s life was a life with plenty of heartbreak.  She did not make any scientific discoveries or make a lot of money or change the world.  It was nevertheless a life that should not disappear simply because she changed her name when she married or because she never worked outside the home.  I am glad that I was able to help to preserve her name and her life for posterity.

Happy Mother’s Day

I am not usually a big fan of Mother’s Day.  It’s always seemed like a “Hallmark” holiday to me, manufactured for commercial purposes to sell cards and overpriced meals at overcrowded restaurants.  And I say this as a mother, not as a daughter. But this year I’d like to pay tribute to all the mothers I’ve learned about through my genealogy research.

First, to Bessie Brotman, my great-grandmother, who journeyed to America like so many other immigrant women alone with two young children, who took in the young children of her husband Joseph’s first marriage and raised them.  Bessie then lost that husband after being in the US for only ten years and after bearing three more children with him, one born just months before he died, leaving her as a widow with three very young children and several older children.  Bessie remarried and then took care of not only her children but the numerous children of her second husband, Philip Moskowitz.  She was a sweet and loving woman who brought love to all those children.

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

I’d also like to pay tribute to my other great-grandmother on my mother’s side, Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager.  She also made the journey to America, only to find when she arrived that her husband Moritz had died  months before her arrival.  She also persisted and survived, as did her sister Tillie, also widowed shortly after arriving in the US and having seven children to care for herself. She had a generous enough heart to take in my grandfather and his sister Betty after their father died and before their mother arrived from Romania.  The third Rosenzweig sister Zusi also lost her husband and raised her son Nathan on her own after losing his twin brother as a month old infant.  All the Rosenzweig sisters suffered such terrible heartbreak.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

I am thinking also of my grandmother Gussie, who never spoke of her childhood and who lost her father when she was only five years old.  She then moved in with her sister Tillie when her mother remarried rather than live in a household filled with stepsiblings and a stepfather she did not like.  She took care of her younger siblings from a very early age and then took care of her three young nephews before marrying my grandfather and raising three children of her own.  Despite her own unhappiness, she was a loving grandmother and always made us laugh and smile.

Gussie with Jody Julie and Ira 1962

Gussie with Jody Julie  Ira and me 1962

My grandmother’s two sisters also come to mind this Mother’s Day—Frieda, who died from complications of childbirth and thus never got to experience the joys of motherhood, and Tillie, who my mother and her siblings remember as being a devoted aunt who took them places and brought them baked goods, gifts and most importantly lots of love and affection.

Tillie

Tillie

My other grandmother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, whose story I’ve not yet told, also lost her husband at a young age and managed to move on, remarrying later in life.  My memories of her are of a soft-spoken, beautiful woman, who had experienced a great deal of sadness but carried herself with a lot of pride and dignity.  I also think about my two great-grandmothers, my father’s grandmothers. who took care of him and my Aunt Eva when his parents were not able to do so.

Eva Cphen

Eva Cohen

All who read this blog know that my Aunt Elaine was our family matriarch, the one who kept the family history and saw to it that we all knew each other and were part of each other’s lives.  She was thirteen years older than my mother and often like a second mother to her as well as her sister and friend.  She could always make us laugh, always make us feel loved.

Elaine and Jeff 1949

Elaine and Jeff 1949

And, of course, I am thinking of my own mother.  She is and always has been a devoted, loving mother who gives her love unconditionally.  Alhtough she has said that she was so young when I was born that she had no idea what she was doing, she did everything right.  She, along with my father, have always made me feel special, loved and valued.  I grew up believing that I could do and be anything I wanted.  To this day my mother is someone I  turn to when I have something good or bad to share.  She is always there to listen, not to pass judgment, but to listen and to provide support.

My mother and me 1952

My mother and me 1952

My mother and my daughters and grandson

My mother and my daughters and grandson 2011

And finally, I am thinking of my daughters, the ones who enabled me to take on the title of mother myself.  Somehow despite all my mistakes, and there were many, they both grew up to be amazing young women who love with all their hearts and bring joy to all who are lucky enough to know them.  They taught me how to be a mother just by letting me watch them  become the people they were always meant to be.  I don’t need cards or overpriced meals at overcrowded restaurants.  I am just happy getting to be their mother every day of the year.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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Women are Difficult…to Find and Track, Part I: Lillian Rosenzweig

One thing that has been clear to me for a long time is that women are much harder to track in vital records than men, largely because they traditionally changed their names when they married. The Rosenzweig daughters are a case in point.

I have now located and tracked from birth to death the five sons of Gustave and Gussie: Abraham, David, Jacob, Harry and Joe. For those who survived to adulthood, I know who they married, where they lived, and what they did for a living and their military service.  I still need to trace the children of Abraham and Jack, but I wanted to see what I could find about the five daughters of Gustave and Gussie first.  I’ve been looking all along, but kept hitting walls and so decided to focus on one daughter at a time.  Here’s what I know about Lillian.

The oldest child and the only one born in Romania was Lillie or Lillian.  According to the 1900 census, she was born in July, 1884, in Romania, but since that was only a month after Gustave and Gussie’s marriage, it seems likely that this was an error and that Lilly was probably born during 1885. The census also says that Lillie arrived in 1884, but her father’s naturalization papers say that he arrived in 1887.  In 1900 when she was only fifteen years old, Lillie was working as a typist while her younger siblings were all in school.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

In 1905 the family had moved to Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and Lillian, now 21 according to the census, was doing housework as her employment.  In addition to the siblings listed on the 1900 census, there were now two additions, Rachel, who was four, and William, who was three.  William is described as a son of the head of the household, which led me to believe that he was another child of Gustave and Gussie.  I was unable, however, to locate William on the birth index as William Rosenzweig, nor did he reappear on the 1905 or 1910 census with the family.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Once again I searched the death index for a child of Gustave and Gussie, but could not find a death record for William Rosenzweig either.  If he was not living with his “parents” and siblings in 1905, where could he be? I searched on ancestry.com for William Rosenzweig and found him living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906.  I knew it was the right boy by his age (four years old), the address from where he was taken (1021 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), and his mother’s name—Lillian nee Rosenzweig.

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

William was not Gustave and Gussie’s son, but Lillian’s son.  His father is only identified as “Frank (dead),” with no surname.  For the other children listed, their father’s first name is also all that is supplied, but that’s because the child presumably has that surname.  For William, his surname is the same as his mother’s—Rosenzweig, and no surname is given for his father.  I could not find any marriage record for a Lillie or Lillian Rosenzweig between 1900 and 1902 to a Frank, so had Lillian had William out of wedlock? Who was Frank? Was he really dead?

I did find a Frank Cramer who died between 1902 and 1906 and a William Cramer born on March 2, 1902, the birth date provided for William on the orphanage records.  I sent for the birth certificate for William Cramer, but unfortunately that William’s parents were not named Frank and Lillian.

Then last night I went back once again to the marriage index and looked again for a marriage record for Lillian Rosenzweig, but this time I did not limit my search to grooms named Frank.  I restricted the dates to 1900 to 1902, based on the fact that Lillie was single in the 1900 census and that William was born in March, 1902.  I found one marriage of a Lillie Rosenzweig in July, 1901, to a Toscano Bartolini.  Could Frank have been his more American nickname?  I turned to the death index and searched for a death record, and there it was—Toscano Bartolini had died on April 27, 1904, at 27 years old.  Finally I looked for a birth record for a William Bartolini and found one—born March 9, 1902, a mere eight months after Lillie’s wedding to Toscano in July, 1901.  It was all starting to come together.  I obviously have to send away for all these records to be sure that Lillie is Gustave’s daughter and that William is Lillie’s son, but it certainly seems likely that the records will back up my hunches here.  In fact, I checked today on FamilySearch for Toscano Bartolini and found a more thorough description of the marriage record, including a reference to the bride’s parents’ names, Gustav and Gussie.  I will still order a copy of the certificate, but I am now certain that Lillie married Toscano, who died just a few years later, leaving her with a two year old son named William.

UPDATE:  All these facts were confirmed by the documents.  See my more recent post with images of the documents.

After finding all this, I remembered something that Joe’s grandson Ron had told me—that one of Gustave’s daughters had married someone who wasn’t Jewish, and Ariela had said she thought one of the sisters had married someone with an Italian name.  Ron had told me that the family was not happy about this, and that for a long time there was some estrangement.  Despite whatever they felt, however, in 1905 after Frank/Toscano died, Gustave and Gussie took both Lillian and her son into their home.

It also occurred to me that perhaps the reason Lillie used the name Rosenzweig for William and not Bartolini was based on the fact that he was being taken to a Jewish institution.  Obviously Rosenzweig would seem more clearly Jewish than Bartolini.

But why he was taken from the home in 1906 is not explained by the records. The orphanage record indicates that William was discharged to his mother on September 3, 1906, and reports that her address was then 307 East 120th Street in Manhattan, so perhaps there was a falling out with the family.   But in 1910, Lillian was living again with her parents and siblings in Brooklyn, and William was not living with her.  Lillian’s occupation was listed as a trained nurse at a hospital, and she was listed as single, not widowed.  But where was William?

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

I had not been able to find him as William Rosenzweig in the 1910 census, but now I searched for William Bartolini and found him, living at a residential facility, St. John’s Home in Brooklyn.

William Bartolini 1910 at St John's Home, Brooklyn

William Bartolini 1910 at St John’s Home, Brooklyn

Maybe Lillie placed him there so that she could get training to be a nurse.  Perhaps she just could not take care of him.  Perhaps I can find some records from St John’s Home.

I also was able to find where William was in 1915: another home for children, this one the New York  Catholic Protectory, in the Bronx. (Interestingly, this facility was located where Parkchester is today; Parkchester is an apartment building complex developed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the Bronx and is where my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my parents once lived; I lived there also until I was four and half years old.)

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protection Bronx

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protecory Bronx

It seems that in both 1910 and 1915 William had been placed in Catholic institutions after being at a Jewish orphanage briefly in 1906.  Had Lillie given up her parental rights? Was neither set of grandparents interested or able to take care of the boy? Was William troubled or disabled in some way that made caring for him at home a problem for everyone?  I don’t know the answers, but will try to find out what happened to William after 1915.  Apparently you can order microfilm from the Family History Library and see the actual records for the children who resided there, which I plan to do.

And I cannot find Lillie in 1910 or thereafter.  She was not living with her mother and siblings in 1915 or in 1920.  I cannot find her as Lillie Rosenzweig or as Lillie Bartolini.  Perhaps she remarried and changed her name, but I have not yet found a marriage record.  But now I know that I just have to keep looking.  I almost gave up after Frank Cramer did not pan out.  And then last night I looked a different way and found Toscano Bartolini. I hope I can eventually uncover what happened to Lillie and to William.

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