In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to take a trip through our collections to see what kinds of things I could find that related to the topic of mothers. I started by typing in the word “mother” into our collections database. 1,087 records appeared. And with that I was off and running as I pulled up record after record of objects, photographs, and archival documents that captured an array of fascinating stories.
So what wonderful treasurers did I unearth? Many letters written from family members (usually sons) documenting travels and other important news such as engagements and births. I found one letter from “Mosie” (Moses Rosenfeld) to his mother written in July 26, 1899 (1968.22.13) and postcards from artist Reuben Kramer sent to his mother while he was traveling in Greece (1994.84.224). Some letters document sadder occasions reflected in one (1963.43.3) sent to Jacob Moses in October 1921 from the Keren Hayosod Committee offering condolences on the loss of his mother.
Mothers also show up in our art collection as the artist’s subject including works by noted Baltimore artist, Herman Maril. One painting, “My Mother’s Bread” (1955) (1989.125.1) depicts a glass of wine and loaf of challah. Another work, an ink drawing “Mistress of the House,” (1992.279.1) is of his mother Cecilia Maril Baker. Clearly his mother was influential in his life!
[photo of lithograph – 1975.022.002 - My search also turned up a beautiful lithograph that was used as an advertisement for Vienna Yeast from around 1897 and shows a mother, father, and son gathered around the Shabbat table.]
Looking through the object records, I found many artifacts that paint a story of women’s domestic life in the early 20th century including sewing machines, dishes, and silver. They also reflect the importance of objects owned by mothers as family heirlooms such as the silver Kiddush cup brought to the US that belonged to her mother by Rose Goldberg after World War II (1988.77.1). One of the more poignant items in our collection is a tombstone from Russia and dates to around 1910 that has this inscription, “In memory of dear mother, Mrs. Yutta, daughter of Reb Pinchas Kashan, passed away on the 18th of Elul, 5667 (August 28, 1907). I’d love to learn more about the journey of this object from a western Russian cemetery to the JMM’s storage room!
Much of my time, of course, was spent looking through our photograph collection. Here are some of my favorites:
By the time I had finished (and I have to confess that I did not actually have the time to look through all 1,087 records), I felt as though I had come away with a crash course on the impact of women in the lives of Maryland Jews spanning a course of two centuries and running the gamut from birth to death. Plus a much better understanding of the breadth and variety of our collections!
To learn more about our collections, feel free to check out our free on-line database!
So to all the mothers out there, I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!