Henrietta Szold: Diving Into the Collections Part I

Blog post by Development and Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

Before “community organizing” had a name, there was Henrietta Szold – the rabbi’s daughter who broke with the traditional role of women to become a champion of Jewish engagement. Her tenacity and courage played a vital role in the expansion of social services, medical services and the founding of the state of Israel.

Henrietta Szold, July 1936. JMM 1992.242.7.200.

We are very lucky to have quite a few collections materials related to Henrietta Szold, one of Baltimore’s Jewish luminaries, including the Henrietta Szold and Bertha Szold Levin Papers. We even created a living history character based on Henrietta and her many works.

I thought it might be nice to take a slightly closer look at some of the many personal effects of Henrietta that have been donated to the Museum’s collections. Today, I wanted to share some of the jewelry (and related accessories) that belonged to Henrietta. Looking at these small objects helps give us a more personal sense of Henrietta, beyond her public persona.

First is this brooch which depicts a tree and water in front of a mountain. According to the donor of this particular item, this brooch was a particular favorite of Henrietta and can be seen in some photographs. Gift of Martha Cooper, JMM 2004.21.2.
It appears that Henrietta was fond of brooches in general, as her personal collection also included these two cabochon-style pins. Gift of Sally Levin, JMM 2020.24.1-2. 
This blue stone set of shirt studs, hat pins, and a collar pin have a lovely flower pattern and were donated in what appears to be their original velvet-lined box.
Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, 2004.97.62.
She also owned this small necklace made of blue Hebron glass, in uneven shapes and sizes, c. 1935. Gift of Faye H. Simkin, 1987.194.6. Based on the size, I’m not sure this necklace would have actually been worn by Henrietta and may have been acquired more as a souvenir.
Keeping with the blue theme, Henrietta also owned this turquoise and yellow glass bangle bracelet. The small chips on the bracelet imply that this piece was worn, whether by Henrietta or a later family member is unclear. Gift of Faye H. Simkin, JMM 1987.194.7e.
And, of course, everyone needs something to keep their jewelry in! This brass jewelry box has a carved ivory centerpiece depicting the Tomb of Rachel. Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, 2004.97.58.     

As we learned in our Fashion Statement exhibit, the clothes we wear and the items we choose to adorn ourselves with have all kinds of meanings. I wonder what these various jewelry pieces meant to Henrietta.

One particular accessory from Henrietta’s collection seems like it might have had a complicated meaning to her. This two-part ceramic belt buckle was made by Royal Copenhagen, 1908.

But what is most interesting about this buckle is that it was a gift from Louis Ginzberg, given to Henrietta at the same time he announced his engagement to Adele Katzenstein. Prior to this engagement, Henrietta thought she and Louis were developing an understanding. She was taken entirely by surprise by his engagement and later wrote about the challenges of dealing with her feelings of disappointment. Yet, she chose to keep this gift in beautiful condition, perhaps as a bittersweet memento. Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.97.59.

I look forward to sharing more items from our collections related to Henrietta Szold!


Collections jewish museum of maryland

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