As the month of March is coming to a close, I am trying to catch up on Fearless Females posts. Passover and school vacation are to blame for my falling behind, nevertheless, there are a few post I don't want to miss.
Analyzing the education of women in my family is an excellent way to review how historical changes have affected the opportunities of the women in my family and women throughout this country. I refrain from implying that these advances have equally affected women worldwide, since progress has been much slower in many parts of the world.
Examining my female ancestors going back four generations is a very powerful exercise. I will begin with myself and travel back the generations.
I have a bachelors in Biology and Doctorate in medicine. My sister is completing her masters in Education.
My mother has three degrees in psychology, a bachelors, a masters and a PhD.
My grandmother Ethel was the not only the first of my woman ancestor to go to college. She was the first person in her family to attend college. She had an uncle and cousins who went to college, but neither one of her parents had to opportunity to go to University. Ethel held a bachelors in Chemistry and a Law degree. I am writing about her remarkable achievement extensively on my new blog, Ethel's scrapbook. Her parents were extremely proud of her accomplishments.
|Ethel with her parents Minnie and William Bloomfield|
at er Rice graduation 1940
My paternal grandmother, Shoshana Lavi (Celnik) did not attend university. She immigrated to Israel from Poland in her late teens, and gave up the idea of studying in exchange for the dream founding a Kibbutz.
None of my great-grandmothers received a higher education. I make this statement with a bit of reservation, as I don't know for sure how much schooling my paternal great-grandmothers received. Cyla Jampel (Reiter) was listed as laborer and Anna Celnik (Rosenblum ) as store keeper on their Holocaust Yad Vashem witness sheets. My mother's paternal grandmother, Mollie Bogdanow (Katz) was a trained Chef. I believe she went to Austria to study cooking, when she was young.
In her writings, Minnie Crane, Ethel's mother, shares quite a bit about her struggles to obtain an education. As a young female child in a small village in Russia, her education was not a priority to anyone but herself. Though her parents did believe in educations and encouraged the children to study, the boys education came first. Her education came in dribbles, when the family could spare her from housework. Her father taught her to read and write. She followed her brothers to school when she was allowed. The town had a shortage of teachers in the Russian schools and education there was irregular at best. While her brothers were sent to Yeshivas (Jewish High Schools), Minnie was the primary caretaker of her sickly mother and her younger children at the age of ten. She had no real formal education, but she spoke five languages and could read and write in all of them, including Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Polish and German. She was able to help her father with his job as the town's postman. She was adept at reading and writing letters for illiterate towns folk.
Arriving in America, Minnie placed education high on her list. She enrolled in English classes immediately. While working fulltime, she continued to study English as well as take writing classes. Once again, family duties called, and she moved to Hartford to keep house for her siblings. The older Crane brothers worked, supporting the youngest brother. Their goal was to send Bernard to Medical school. Bernard finished high school, college and finally medical school. Minnie continued night school and received a bookkeeping diploma. She studied French with a tutor in preparation for college entrance exams. When she moved to NY, she worked full time as a bookkeeper and took classes at the Columbia Extension School. Her college aspirations ended when she married William Bloomfield and they moved to Laconia, NH.
Worth mentioning is another detail from Minnie about her own mother, my lookalike, Feige Kranowitz (Yarmovsky). Feige's family was fairly well to do. Her grandfather had hired a tutor for his grandchildren. The tutor, Moshe Aaron Kranowitz was a learned young Rabbi who came to the grandfather's house to teach the boys. Feige, sneaked into the back of the room, to catch a bit of the lessons. Her yearning for knowledge sealed her fate to the man she would marry, Moshe Aaron, the tutor.
|Minnie showing her pride in her grandson's|
Understanding how difficult it was for Minnie to acquire an education, it is understandable why she pushed her daughter to take advantage of the educational in America. Ethel, on her part, felt a lot of pressure from her parents to excel. Her mother encouraged her to skip grades and graduate early. She pursued Chemistry because it was her father's dream to study Chemistry. She certainly tried hard to please her parents but as a mother and grandmother herself, she encouraged the rest of us to follow our own dreams and not those of others. Her advice has remained with me as I guide my own children to discover what they wish to study.