Posted on April 13th, 2011 by Jennifer
The following collection is one of my favorites (mostly because of my interest in the history of medicine), but it's also a very useful tool for genealogists (as long as the genealogists' ancestors were born in East Baltimore around 1900). Rosa Fineberg acted as a midwife during the early twentieth century. She delievered hundreds of babies, and her record books include the names of the parents (only sometimes the name of the baby she delivered), dates, addresses, occupations, and national origins.
Thanks to one of our very dedicated volunteers we are in the processes of creating a spreadsheet with all of the information from the books. When that document is complete (we have several months yet to go as it takes a VERY long time to type up hundreds upon hundreds of names, dates, addresses, etc.) researchers will be able to use it to find information faster, rather than having to leaf through the actual record books.
While this collection has a lot a value to genealogists, it doesn't tell us much about Rosa herself. We know that she was extremely busy and that she must have been trusted since so many families called her in for the deliveries, but we know little else. Luckily we have an oral history in our collection, conducted almost thirty years ago in which Rosa's granddaughter, Pearl Bagan, recounts what she remembers of her grandmother's life and work. The combination of the oral history and the record book collection creates a much richer story than we could tell with just one or the other.
Rosa Fineberg (d. 1926) Midwife Records
The Jewish Museum of Maryland
Accession and Provenance
The Rosa Fineberg Midwife Records were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Pearl Bagan as accession 1966.003 and Leonard Sollins as accession 1985.072. Jennifer Vess processed the collection in November 2009.
Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.
Rosa Fineberg was born in Russia as Rosa Edelhurst, the only girl in a family of seven children. Her brothers became doctors and rabbis, and it is thought that she learned her midwifery from her brothers. Rosa married the chief rabbi of Katrinaslav, Russia, but later she immigrated to United States without him. She settled in Baltimore despite having all of her relations in New York, and, once established, Rosa brought over her three daughters – Sarah, aged sixteen, who married Max Siegal, Rebecca who married Harry Sohffer, and Pearl (the youngest). Rosa’s husband never came to the United States and the family lost touch with him after World War I. In Baltimore Rosa acted as a midwife, her records spanning the years 1895 through 1919. Rosa attended B’Nai Israel.
Information from: OH 0167
Scope and Content
The majority of the collection is made up of record books, containing the date of birth, gender, birth order, and place of birth of the child as well as the mother’s married and maiden names, mother’s place of birth, and the father’s name, occupation and birthplace. Not all of the records indicate the child’s name or gender. The record books are organized chronologically. The collection also includes a computer printout of the information from the record books and Rosa Fineberg’s midwife certificate.
Posted on December 10th, 2010 by Rachel
A post by historian Dr. Deb Weiner.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the upcoming edition of Generations magazine, which will soon go to press. The theme of the issue is “Social Justice,” and without doubt it’s going to be one of our best ever. There will be orphans running away from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and feminists clashing with male charity leaders in the 1890s, Communists sponsoring illegal “mixed race dancing” in the 1930s, rabbis and ordinary citizens taking a stand for civil rights in the 1960s. And (as always) much more.
For this blog post, I thought I’d highlight the career of Dr. Bessie Moses (1893-1965), who is featured in an article about ten Baltimoreans who stood up for social justice in the 20th century. Committed to women’s health care from an early age, she became the first female obstetrical intern at Johns Hopkins. In 1927, she and a few other doctors from Hopkins founded Maryland’s first birth control clinic, the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice (in the 1940s it became Planned Parenthood of Maryland). She was the clinic’s medical director, a post she held until 1956.
When the clinic opened, many of its activities were actually illegal according to the Comstock Law, which restricted the dissemination of contraceptives and birth control information. The clinic stayed on the right side of the law by positioning itself as a research institute—and it took its research mandate seriously, conducting important studies on birth control methods such as diaphragms and condoms. It also provided desperately-needed care to women who had nowhere else to turn. As a rigorous scientist and compassionate physician, Moses guided both the research and patient care components.
To avoid controversy that might lead to the clinic’s demise, it served only married women, mostly poor and working-class mothers who already had large families and couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. But Moses didn’t shy away from controversy on a personal level—she became a strong advocate for legalizing birth control, speaking out publicly and testifying at Congressional hearings for repeal of the Comstock Law. (In 1936, a federal court ruled that the Comstock Law did not apply to doctors providing contraception to patients.) Her clinic served blacks as well as whites, although on segregated days, as local custom demanded. In 1938 Moses founded the Northwest Maternal Health Center to serve black patients, the first women’s health clinic in the nation staffed by African American physicians.
Moses mentored another Baltimorean who became a nationally-known birth control pioneer, and since he didn’t make it into Generations, I’m glad to have an opportunity to mention him. Dr. Alan F. Guttmacher (1898-1974) was the son of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Rabbi Adolph Guttmacher and his wife Laura, a feminist, social worker, and leader of local Jewish women’s groups in the early 20th century. He joined the birth control movement as an intern at Hopkins in the 1920s, “after witnessing a woman die from a botched abortion,” according to a profile on the Alan Guttmacher Institute website (more on that later). He became involved in Moses’s clinic, while also teaching at Hopkins and becoming chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Sinai Hospital. In 1952 he moved to New York and held a similar position at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Dr. Alan Guttmacher
At age 64, Guttmacher retired from medical practice to become president of the national Planned Parenthood organization. The 1960s were a time of great change in the arena of reproductive rights, and Guttmacher was in the middle of it all, as perhaps the most visible advocate for expanding the availability of birth control and legalizing abortion. “No woman is completely free unless she is wholly capable of controlling her fertility, and … no baby receives its full birthright unless it is born gleefully wanted by its parents,” he stated.
In 1968, Planned Parenthood created the Center for Family Planning Program Development, which became the nation’s leading institute for research, education, and policy analysis related to reproductive health. After Guttmacher’s death, the institute was renamed in his honor.
Posted on December 11th, 2009 by elena
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date(s) run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 10/2/09
PastPerfect Accession #: 1987.019.015
Status: Unidentified. Two doctors and three nurses standing on steps, n.d. Dr. Bernard Mark Berngartt is second from the right.
Special thanks to: Stanford Reed