Become an Upstander!


Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection


Ernestine Rose, the First Jewish Feminist.

Posted on July 26th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Hannah Balik. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


“Slavery and Freedom cannot exist together” – Ernestine Rose

Next week, interns will be recording podcasts, which is an opportunity for us to talk about anything our hearts desire. I did of research on a few different topics, being the indecisive person that I am. I eventually found a topic but wanted to acknowledge the research I’ve done on previous ideas that I thought were fascinating and deserve to be shared. One of these things is the life of Ernestine Rose. I had not heard of Ernestine Rose before I started looking for podcast topics. Originally, I wanted to focus on Jewish abolitionists, as my senior project in college was on Jewish slaveholders, and it felt like an interesting compliment. I entered a few search terms into PastPerfect, the JMM’s archival database, to see what items in our collection match my topic of interest. I found a single image of Ernestine, with no other information other than her name. Intrigued, and supported by years of research experience, I read her Wikipedia page. I learned that Ernestine was integral to the first wave of feminism and was amongst other great activists of the time such as Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass. She is considered the first Jewish feminist and was greatly important to the suffrage movement before she left America in 1869.

Ernestine Rose. Via.

Ernestine’s story is one of perseverance and outspokenness. Ernestine was born in the Jewish Quarter of Piotkrow, Russian Poland on January 13, 1810. She was the only child of a Rabbi and the daughter of a wealthy businessman. She received a robust secular and Jewish education. She was a “rebel at age five”, rejecting the religion of her father and questioning the justice of a God who would enact hardships on people, like the many religious fasts her father participated in. By 14, she outright rejected religion and the Jewish texts and traditions that supported the idea that women were inferior to men. When Ernestine was 16 years old, her mother passed away and her father arranged for her to be married. She refused and decided to go to court to have the contract dissolved herself. Through dissolving the courtship, she gained access to her mother’s inheritance, which she ended up giving mostly to her father, only keeping enough for herself to leave Poland.

In 1827 Berlin, the law said that all non-Prussian Jews needed to be sponsored by a German property holder, which Ernestine was not. She appealed directly to the King in order to be exempt from this rule, which he allowed. At this time that she was living alone in Berlin, she developed a room deodorizer that she sold to support herself and her travels. She traveled to Holland, Belgium and France, advocating for the oppressed wherever she traveled. In her travels she met an English man called Robert Owen. Owen was a utopian socialist with followers who refer to their ideology as “Owenism” Ernestine stayed in England for three years, lecturing alongside Owen on the principles on human equality.

Through lecturing with Owen, she met William Ella Rose, an Owenite and jeweler. They married in 1835 and moved to New York the next year. Ernestine continued lecturing widely across the United States, supporting causes such as abolition, religious toleration, public education, and equality for women. Her oral power earned her the nickname “Queen of the Platform.” Once while giving a talk in the south, a slaveholder told her he would have her tarred and feathered, had she been a man. She is also considered to be the first woman to publicly demand that women be given the right to vote in the state of Michigan. In the 1840s and 50s, she banded with a group of activists fighting for women’s rights and for the end of slavery. Some of these people included Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Paulina Wright, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

The end of the Civil War brought a smaller civil war to suffragettes and activists. Many people, including Frederick Douglass, urged suffragettes to ease their seeking of women’s vote until black men got the vote. Douglass frame this task as an “urgent necessity”. Rose proclaimed that “Emancipation from every kind of bondage is my principle,” She viewed civil rights and the women’s vote to be two sides of the same oppression and aimed to dismantle powers that kept both of those from happening. However, when the fourteenth amendment was passed and only gave men the vote, many women’s leaders took this opportunity to be very publicly racist, like how they couldn’t believe that people like black men and immigrants got the right to vote before “well-heeled American born women.” Rose was quoted harboring anti-immigrant sentiment, although she was an immigrant herself. In 1869, she said “We might commence by calling the Chinaman a man and a brother, or the Hottentot, or the Calmuck [meaning Mongolians], or the Indian, the idiot or the criminal, but where shall we stop? They will bring all these in before us.” However, she did not oppose black men acquiring the ability to vote as much as she was frustrated with the government for continually ignoring women. She framed the situation uniquely, asking “Why do [politicians] not at the same time protect the Negro woman?” Sojourner Truth agreed with Rose, saying, “If colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, they will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before,”

The Revolution, a magazine run by Stanton and Anthony, and funded by notorious racist George Francis Train, once ran an article that recommended keeping “the Jews and the Chinese” out of the country. It described Jews and Chinese as “voracious, knavish, cunning traders,” and Jews in particular as “a race of mere bloodsuckers.” Rose was not involved in this newspaper, and never responded to their antisemitism, although she was probably aware of it. She did get in a ten-week-long letter exchange with the editor of the Boston Investigator after he said that the Jews were “a troublesome people to live in proximity with”, and that he hoped their numbers would not increase.

Ernestine Rose. Via. 

Ernestine and her husband moved to England in 1869 for reasons scholars are still unsure of. Carol Kolmerten, in The American Life of Ernestine Rose (1999) speculated that perhaps she felt tired battling anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment in her “feminist” circles and was frustrated by the racism that her colleagues spat. It is also said that she suffered from rheumatism, and that she was simply too frail to continue lecturing in the matter she was. In 1883, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton went to London to visit her and attempt to convince her to return, unsuccessfully. Ernestine continued to give talks in England until her health forced her to retire in 1872. Her husband, William, died in 1882. From then until her death in 1892, she lived in isolation, only seeing a few friends who described her as sad and lonely.

Ernestine’s legacy has fallen out of the public eye. At her time, she was considered one of the most accomplished orators and activists, only to become unknown today. There are a few possible reasons for this – many historians point to her Jewishness in a game played by Protestants, or her immigrant status in a time when nativism was reigning, or maybe the fact that she was an atheist in a religious world. She also left America in 1869, the middle of her colleagues careers, for seemingly no reason and without notice. It is very sad that I had no idea that Ernestine existed and how many contributions she made to modern feminism. It was disappointing to want to learn about the Jewish leaders who came before you, only to be confronted with the short changes of them, like Rose’s anti-immigrant comments. However, we never learn about Ernestine the way that we do other early suffragettes and civil activists, who were much more openly racist and xenophobic, so it was great to open up this piece of history.

Sources [1] [2] [3]

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Finding History in the Collections

Posted on July 26th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Ariella Shua. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

I’m not a crazy history buff – I have to hear dates and names multiple times before I can remember them. But I’ve always liked knowing how old something is, or who used to use an item. It’s especially cool when these details connect an object to history we already know.

While working at the JMM, I’ve made a few such discoveries. I wasn’t searching for any particular connection. I was just recording the facts about a person, place, or time. The importance of these items to me, to Jewish history, or even to American history were bonuses that came with the facts I was searching for.

The first moment of historical significance came on my first day at the JMM. As we went on our first tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, we were taught its story. The synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship in Maryland, and the third oldest still standing in the US. I’d already known that the JMM had historic objects in their possession. I had no idea that one of those objects was a building. Even better, I was excited to know that I’d now been in two of the top three oldest synagogues in the US. I had fallen asleep in the oldest, Touro Synagogue, a few years before (long story, but I hope to go back and see it for real in the future).

Inside the museum, I spend a lot of time in the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit. It provides an immersive walkthrough “tour” of Lombard Street, one of Jonestown’s Jewish neighborhoods, from the early 1900s. When schools and camps visit, I usually guide the kids through the sewing machine activity.

They “sew” together creations on a replica 1914 Singer sewing machine. I’ve used a sewing machine before, but it looks nothing like this one – the Singer on display requires pushing a heavy foot pedal in order to operate.

My assumption was that kids would never recognize the machine. But during multiple tour groups, kids tell me about their own experiences, sewing on more modern machines, or seeing old-fashioned sewing machines in their grandmother’s houses. It never occurred to me that an object that seems so obsolete to me is still relevant in many people’s lives, even in a different way.

Most of the historical connections I’ve made have been in the last few weeks. I am working on a project to discover the historical significance of Windsor Hills, a Baltimore neighborhood which large numbers of Jews once called home. While researching, I’ve come across the names of former residents who I know. I don’t know them personally – all I know is their names. Hutzler, Hollander, and Wolman will all be immediately familiar to any other Hopkins student. They all have buildings or rooms named after them at the school. I never expected to run into them at the JMM, yet here they are.

I’m spending a lot of time on PastPerfect, the JMM’s collections database, while I do my Windsor Hills research. Some of the connections I’ve found point to the darker history that was once in Jonestown. While doing an innocent search for ice cream, I came across multiple results for Hendler Ice Cream Company. Most of the records, photos, and ads that showed up in JMM collections are cheery ice cream pictures.

 

One, though, stood out for its offensive imagery. A 1925 poster for a frozen watermelon snack instantly registered in my eyes as racist. Yet in the 1920s, such an ad was perfectly acceptable – a sign of how much the times have changed.

Fortunately, most of my PastPerfect searches have resulted in records that are much less offensive. During my Windsor Hills research, I’ve even found some former residents who have made their mark on American history.

Jacob Beser, for instance, shows up again and again in the JMM’s collections.

I’d never heard of him before, but I quickly learned that he was the only crew member to participate in both of the Enola Gay’s missions: bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As it turned out, he and his family lived in Windsor Hills, and he was involved in the local Jewish community. Now, some of his former possessions are in the JMM’s collections, telling their history to those who want to find out more.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Intern Weekly Response: Exhibit Review

Posted on July 25th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to review an exhibit that they had recently visited. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here. 


~From Intern Elana 

For my exhibition review, I have decided to focus on an exhibit that I was able to see at the Smithsonian on our Intern D.C. Day. After going on the gallery tour of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), a fellow guest asked our tour guide which exhibit he would recommend that we visit next and he suggested “Americans.” Thus, I went in with no idea what the exhibit would be about. When I entered the hall, I was greeted with a large room with its black walls covered in bright images of Native Americans in American pop culture, from the Land o’ Lakes butter logo to an Indian motorcycle. This black and white color scheme made the brightly colored images and objects pop and gave the whole exhibition a modern and visually striking appearance. This room made it instantly clear what this exhibition would focus on: the myths and stories of Native Americans as a part of American popular culture: how they came to be and why certain stories are particularly popular. Stepping into the first room made me realize how multi-media focused this exhibition was. The back wall projected video clips, the side walls were covered in images and objects in cases mixed together and two long tables in the center of the room were outfitted with touchscreens that allowed visitors to learn about the images and objects on the surrounding walls. Although I am typically a person who is more drawn to objects, I appreciated the use of multi-media in this exhibit. It allows the visitor to see how narratives permeate so many aspects of how we receive information, from movies and television to books to products you might buy at the grocery store.

Photo Credit: https://americanindian.si.edu/

Four rooms jutted off from this center room. Three of the rooms were filled with what one might call an exhibit within an exhibit and the last had a video installation. Each of these rooms told a different popular American story that centered on Native Americans: Pocahontas, the battle of Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears and Thanksgiving. They attempted to get at the truth of each of these stories and understand why these specific stories became so ingrained in the American narrative. Each room did so effectively by using the multimedia aspect of the exhibition. It was only through interactives, videos, objects, artwork, and text together that the exhibit was able to tell each story and explain how it became so ingrained in the American conscious. Personally, I wish that more than just a video had been included for the Thanksgiving story because the multimedia aspect of the other rooms led to a much greater depth to the stories and a better understanding of how stores such as these become so popular and ubiquitous. However, each of the other rooms did a great job of telling the stories they each focused on. For example, the Little Bighorn room, called “The Indians Win,” used artwork of the battle made by both sides, newspapers, posters, and Native objects to show “Why have Americans been obsessed with this one loss rather than dozens of victories?” and how the image of the “Plains Indian warriors came to represent all Indians.”

 

Photo Credit: https://sarahruffingrobbins.com/2018/03/30/americans-exhibit-at-the-nmai/

This exhibit made me consider how narratives, not limited to stories about Native people, become ubiquitous in society today. It made me rethink these particular stories, stories that I had heard for years and just accepted, and inspired me to take another look at other stories that are ingrained in the American consciousness. It made me think about where I absorb information from, even from something as simple as the logo on a stick of butter. The message behind this exhibition is incredibly resonant in this world where we are constantly consuming from hundreds of sources.  As you might be able to tell, I really enjoyed this exhibit and found it to be highly successful in conveying its story. If you are able to, I highly recommend seeing it in person at the NMAI or experience it online at the link below.

Exhibition website: https://americanindian.si.edu/americans/ 


~From Intern Ariella 

Usually, people go to museums to check out things they’ve never seen before. They don’t go to look at things that they already know.

Americans challenges that idea by flipping it on its head.

Americans is an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Open since January 2018, the exhibit centers on showing visitors images that they’re already familiar with.  Most Americans will recognize an Indian Halloween costume, have learned the tune for “Ten Little Indians,” and notice the classic wooden statues outside smoke shops. But the amount of Indian images, terminology, and stories that have infiltrated American culture stretch much farther. Americans seeks to point this out to its audience, and does an extremely successful job.

The Americans exhibit at NMAI features displays of Indian images in American culture, as well as several deep-dive rooms.

Visitors enter the long, narrow gallery, which is a wing on the NMAI’s third floor. On both sides, from floor to ceiling, are objects. Each has the image or loans its name to Indians.

Directly to the left, by the entrance, is a bright yellow 1948 Indian Chief Motorcycle. Straight ahead, a screen plays the clips from various TV shows and movies featuring Indian characters. Several couches enable visitors to sit and just look around- which they would likely do, if they could easily read the panels by the objects lining the walls.

NMAI’s choices in what to include are interesting to consider. According to its Media Fact Sheet, Americans features nearly 300 objects along the walls. While looking at the items, my main question was: why these? Why did South Park and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving make the cut, but not the Twilight Saga’s depiction of a werewolf Indian tribe, or Tom and Jerry episodes featuring Indian war cries?

Perhaps the choices were made to highlight instances where the Indian influence was less obvious to casual visitors. For example, there is no sign in the exhibit of the Washington Redskins, a team whose name and mascot are so discussed that both Wikipedia and the Huffington Post have categories devoted exclusively to the topic. But the Seattle Seahawks, whose mascot is likewise inspired by Indians, is included. By making this choice, NMAI is able to inform visitors of a new angle to a topic they thought they knew about. Everyone has heard of the Redskins controversy. The Seahawks label instead asks, “Are all Native American–themed mascots bad? Maybe not,” before explaining that the logo was inspired by art from the North Pacific Coast tribes.

The best aspect of the exhibit was just off of the main gallery. Four small, deep-dive exhibits are included as small wings off the main room. Each focuses on a different, commonly known tale about Indians: Thanksgiving, the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears, and Pocahontas. The rooms walk visitors through the inaccuracies in the widely known stories.

I was least impressed with the Thanksgiving room, which features a five-minute video explaining the holiday’s confused origins. There was nothing wrong with the informative clip, but I didn’t learn anything new. On the other hand, the Pocahontas and Trail of Tears rooms were especially well-done. The Pocahontas room used several different mediums to carry its message across: a public interview video, panels along the walls, and lights pointing out characters on the Capitol’s Frieze of American History.

One of the exhibit highlights is the deep examination of the characters in this section of Frieze of American History, located in the Pocahontas section.

One of the cleverest, and most telling, aspects of the exhibit comes before visitors even walk in. Just the title reveals much of what the gallery’s aims are. It is called Americans – not “American Indians” or “Indians in America.” It is a short, simple, word that the majority of visitors will identify with themselves. In titling the exhibit Americans, NMAI reminds visitors of the way that Indians have been present in American culture from the beginning. Because they are pointed out, they wind up belonging with all Americans.


~From Intern Mallory 

For this week’s blog post we were asked to evaluate an exhibition. While there are many museums in the Baltimore-D.C. area, the most recent museum I’ve been to was in Missouri. And while I would love to discuss an exhibition in the area for others to visit, I wouldn’t be able to give a proper evaluation as it has been a while since I visited a museum on my own. So, for this week, I’ll be talking about the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO.

The museum, as the name suggests, discusses the Titanic. At the start of the museum is highlights how the Titanic was made, then discusses the voyage through the iceberg. It has a section dedicated to the passengers, and the museum ended with the discovery of the Titanic in recent years, with the trek down to the wreckage.

The exterior of the Titanic Museum.

Personally, I really enjoyed the entire museum. I thought that it flowed nicely, starting at the building of the Titanic and continuing through the more recent re-discovery of her. The exhibits mainly housed quotes from passengers and crew, images from onboard the Titanic, and some artefacts (which included items from passengers, some dishware, boarding passes).

Interior of the museum, interactives within the exhibit

One thing I found to be very interesting was that upon entering the building, everyone was given a boarding pass with a name. This is who you “were” for the time in the exhibits. In the last room there was a wall dedicated to the passengers and crew onboard the Titanic at the time of her sinking, with both survivors and victims listed. This created a very interesting way of connecting the visitors to the people who lived through this event, gaining interest as they walk though and discover more.

One this I found curious was that while the tour was mainly self-guided, with captions to images and text blocks scattered about, there was also an audio tour. While the audio portion wasn’t mandatory, everyone was given a way to access it, and there were numbers throughout the exhibition which would provide more information about certain subjects.

Interior of the museum. A member of the staff dress as a crew member on the Titanic, standing in front of the replication of the Titanic’s grand staircase within the museum.

All and all, I really enjoyed my trip. While it was a bit dark at times, I learned so much more than I previously knew. The audio tour portion was, at times, a bit too much – as it could hold up a certain area. But I still think that the audio tour added much more to the entire experience. The few interactives (panels that you could stand on which were angles to show how steep the deck got during the sinking and water as cold as it was that night – 28 degrees) were cleverly places and fun to interact with. There were also small question panels around where you could test your knowledge on the topic discussed in the room which was an interesting way to not only help visitors remember information but also to increase visitor retention time.

But the mystery and narrative being the person who you “are” while walking through really grabbed not just my attention, but also the group that I was with. We all were actively looking through the rooms, trying to look for clues for the fates of our passengers.

The exhibition was very well done, immersive yet not suffocating so. It provided a new outlook into the lives of the passengers, their experiences, their lives after. Personally, I learned a lot and found the exhibit to be very engaging. The way the individual cases were set up were also well done, for the lack of physical items from the ship that survived nothing seemed empty or overcrowded. I also think that the lifestyle and culture of the era was very well represented. It also handled the topic of the tragedy very well, being respectful while also providing all the information they have.


~From Intern Hannah 

This is a review of Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent, featured in the Freer Gallery, one half of the Smithsonian’s National Museums of Asian Art. I visited this exhibit on the JMM Intern’s trip to DC and gave a short summary of my experience in that blog post. However, this was one my favorite exhibits that I visited that day, so I think it deserves an in-depth look.

The exhibit has a strong focus on the human body, specifically, the human body that was accepted to be the most beautiful during the Mughal Empire. Most of the objects in this exhibit were from the period of time when the Mughal Emperors ruled over much what we would now call the Indian Subcontinent. Their reign, which ran from 1526-1858 covered what is now India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. This empire was one of the most powerful and prosperous in the world. A lot of art was produced in this period, as appearance meant a lot in this society. The representations of bodies and fashion in this exhibit can tell us a lot about common thoughts and beliefs on the nature of being, gender roles, social ideas, and hierarchies of power at the time. Dress, posture, and conduct were all ways for individuals to show their power, authority, and loyalty. Mughal courtiers often wore beautifully and carefully crafted luxury objects on their bodies, in order to display their sophistication. This Mughal strive for refinement was very tied to the regional king’s authority and inspired both Muslim and Hindu civilians to adopt imperial fashions.

One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was not an object, but the curator’s choice to include magnifying glasses for visitors to use. I definitely utilized this tool to be able to see the intricate patterns and details featured in some of the art in this exhibit.

Figure 1: The inclusion of magnifying glasses was a great touch and helped me to better interact with the objects!

As for objects in the exhibit, I loved this displa6y centered on the use of flowers in Mughal Empire art. The display features a dagger with a beautiful floral motif on the handle, which might have belonged to a Mughal courtier. The flowers are made of rubies, which were valued higher than diamonds, so this would have belonged to someone with means. The middle object is a scent box with painted red and gold lilies, and probably held betel, an aromatic breath-freshener used during intimate moments. The label reads, “in ancient India, sophisticated lovers were always well perfumed.” The third object was a sprinkler, which probably held rose water to be sprayed on guests. The label says it was probably made in Avadh, a north Indian kingdom that emerged towards the end of the Mughal empire, as it was in decline. Also in this room were displays with beautiful jewelry and other adornments. In this first room also lived an imperial scroll that gave beautiful images, and an idea of how these beauty standards were understood and passed on through kingdoms and generations.

Figure 2: Dagger, scent box, and rosewater sprayer

Figure 3: A scroll featured in the exhibit, showing some depictions of the ‘ideal’ body and fashion

The second room of the exhibit turns away from royalty and towards gods. There is a long list on one of the walls listing the Thirty-Two Body Marks (called Lakshanas) of a Buddha. These markers run from long legs and white teeth, to curls that come out of the head clockwise, and retracted genitals. There were many statues of Buddha in different representations around the room. It was really interesting to see so many interpretations of the same ideal.

I really enjoyed this exhibit and the beautiful objects in it. I have a soft spot for decorative daggers and swords, so I got very excited by the ones featured in the exhibit. I think it is comforting to look at body image standards from another culture and time. It’s great reminder that all beauty standards are socially constructed and are also constantly changing. It is not a short falling to not fit an ideal that is not realistic. It felt really human to be confronted with fashion styles associated with the time and think about what has changed and what has not, in terms of elitism in fashion and the way that mainstream fashion is still greatly influenced by those with power and money. Although ideas about the body, fashion, and gender are very different now than they were in 17th century India, I felt like I could understand the motivation and societal pressure to want to look or present a certain way. Some things never change.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




« Previous PageNext Page »