Tag Archives: working moms

Pratt Institute and Groundbreaking Women

Pratt Institute and groundbreaking women. It sounds like right from it’s inception in 1887, Pratt  was a school that encouraged women to fulfill their dreams. I feel sometimes that we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that until recently, women didn’t have our own independent, vital, creative, interesting lives outside of our role as wife and mother.  If not the latter role, then we were cast as spinsters.  As I’ve told you, Mom was seemingly unusual for her time.  Born in 1914, she had a successful career as a fashion illustrator.  Mom attended Pratt  Class of ’33.  I decided to see who else attended there in those days.  In general, I found a lot of famous attendees, if not graduates – actor Robert Redford, playwright Harvey Firestein, fashion designer Norman Norell, painters Milton Resnick and Ellsworth Kelly and even Allen Funt of Candid Camera fame.  The list goes on and on.  Those were the men.   The women blew me away.  Some I had heard of and some not, but reading about their lives reinforced my belief that there have always been  women doing outstanding work in a so called “man’s world”.  Here is a brief overview of 4 fascinating women, all born in the 1800’s.

THE WOMEN OF PRATT INSTITUTE

Djuna Barnes

Djuna Barnes Attended Pratt in 1912

1892-1992. Attended Pratt in 1912

Djuna Barnes was an American poet, playwright, journalist, visual artist and short story writer best know for her novel “Nightwood”.   For more, see here.

Gertrude Käsebier

Gertrude Kasebier attended Pratt in 1889

1852-1934. Attended Pratt in 1889

“Gertrude Käsebier  was one of the most influential American photographers of the early 20th century. She was known for her evocative images of motherhood, her powerful portraits of Native Americans and her promotion of photography as a career for women.” ~Wikipedia. For more, go here

Pamela Colman Smith

Pamela Coleman Smith attended Pratt in 1893

1878-1951. Attended Pratt in 1893

Pamela Colman Smith (16 February 1878 – 18 September 1951), also nicknamed Pixie, was an English American artist, illustrator, and writer. She is best known for designing the Waite-Smith deck of divinatory tarot cards. For more, go here

Sara Louise Delany

Sara Louise Delany attended Pratt in 1916

1889-1999. Attended Pratt in 1916

“Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (September 19, 1889 – January 25, 1999) was an African-American educator and civil rights pioneer who was the subject, along with her younger sister Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, of the New York Times bestselling oral history, Having Our Say, by journalist Amy Hill Hearth. Sadie was the first Black person permitted to teach domestic science at the high-school level in the New York public schools, and became famous, with the publication of the book, at the age of 103.” ~ Wikipedia  For more, go here

Mom was in good company.  I’m sure there are scores more stories to tell.  If any of you can add one, please post in the comments. The world needs to hear!

Meet the New Gal

Silka c. 1964

Silka c. 1964

Here’s the newest member of the collection.  Her name is Silka c. 1964.  All of the drawings are named after Mom’s models, friends and family.  Silka was my grandmother. Mom’s mom.  Unlike this willowy drawing, Silka was 4’10” and quite stocky.  But she exuded the confidence seen here.  She was born in 1883 in a town called Little Constantine near Kiev Russia.  When she was 15, she started a business making corsettes.  She and my Grandpa Lazar immigrated to the US in 1904.  She wasn’t happy here and longed to go back.  Lazar agreed and they did, but upon returning after a while, she realized she had made a mistake and in 1907, they returned and settled in Brooklyn.  She was a business woman and had several dress making stores.

Cilka and Lazar. Note that she's standing on books pushed under the carpet.

Cilka and Lazar. Note that she’s standing on books pushed under the carpet.

 

She wanted all four of her daughters to have a career and Mom was the only one who realized that. She was so proud of her.  Like Mom, Silka was way ahead of  her time.  So every time you look at this beautiful drawing,  please think of my Grandma Silka and see a little Jewish lady blazing a trail.

Grandma Silka

Grandma Silka

The Silka Print and Notecard are now available on our site.  

 

 

 

 

Traveling

I had the good fortune to have a booth at a local Women’s Expo yesterday.  As the crowds entered the room, invariably many stopped to look at Mom’s work.  I’d  watch  them stand and kind of drift off in thought. Then they’d turn to me and tell me the memories that came back to them.

“My sister used to have a coat just like that one, the one with the fur collar. It’s a swing coat. She was a lot older than I was.  But I remember our parents getting us all new outfits to wear at Easter.  Times were different then.”

“My mother was a dressmaker and she made clothing just like this.”

“I went to school for this. There was a public school in Brooklyn that specialized in fashion. That’s what I wanted to do many years ago.  I ended up becoming a nurse.”

“My grandmother made dresses for top designers.  She designed them and they took the credit.  But that was what happened in those days especially if you’re a women just off the boat from Italy”

“Remember those fox stoles that still had the head on the animal?  The mouth was the clasp and it sat on the shoulders?  Awful!”

“My mother looked just like that.  She was beautiful.”

I’ve seen this business take off in the matter of a couple of years.  And I think this is why.  I watched these people look at the drawings and they are not present. They are back in time to a happy place.  They can go there anytime by purchasing a simple card.  

Who says there’s no time travel?  I’ve been doing it everyday…

This Girl Meets That Girl

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was That Girl, created by and starring Marlo Thomas.  Her character, Ann Marie, was an aspiring actress in her twenties, who moves to New York to find herself.  Of course she had the boyfriend, but this show’s focus was on a young woman trying enthusiastically to fulfill her dreams of becoming an actress.  If those of  you reading are in their early thirties or younger, you might say “big deal”, but in those years (the series aired from 1966-71), this was a groundbreaking concept to be shown on primetime television. It helped show a generation of girls that there were a lot of choices out there for us. Yes, we could even aspire to have out own apartment, even if it drove our fathers crazy! (New York was more affordable in those days ;-)) It was a comedy, so Ann Marie got herself into some wacky situations, almost always wearing the most fabulous mod clothing of the time.  She was cool. She was us in a few years.

I’ve always admired Marlo (I hope she doesn’t mind being on a first name basis), her work and her active role in the feminist movement, so you can only imagine my surprise when I got a call from Lori Weiss, one of Marlo’s producers for her Huffington Post website MarloThomas.com where women can go to find articles and information on health, career, relationships and  reinventing themselves over age 40.  Lori told me that they were starting a series called “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” about women like me who had changed their perspective on themselves mid stream and struck out on a new path. She wanted to include my story of The White Cabinet.  So this week is my turn.  I tell her every time I read one of her stories, I have to bring out the tissues. So be forewarned. Please share it and the other stories with everyone you know.  They are very inspiring.  I’m honored to be a part of it.

Hilda’s Hangout

I recently caught up with Laura Mueller, one of Mom’s models and a friend of my folks since they met after WWII.  Laura has always had a fabulous wit and time has not passed that gift by.  She says of herself “As a former model, I can say that I no longer have snap to my garters”, but I beg to differ.  Laura was 17 when she started modeling for Mom.  They met at a place called Wally’s.  This was a studio in Manhattan on 44th Street between Lexington and Third.  Wally’s was where all the fashion illustrators of their  day came to practice their skills,  meet like minds and kibbutz.  In other words, it was a hangout.  The owner, Mrs. Wally, was a widow from Scandinavia and apparently a women of few words.  Laura says she only remembers two – “Pose Please” – at which point the models would do four five minute and then four twenty minute poses.  This was an opportunity for the for the artists to really express themselves more creatively.  Even the very best of them had some more mundane accounts where there were restrictions on how the clothes were drawn. Wally’s gave them an opportunity to create truly unique portfolios. This was a time when the printing technology had evolved so that photography was starting to infiltrate into advertising more consistently.   Fashion illustrations were starting to be phased out.  It must have been a very competitive group.  It was also a place where life long friendships (and business associations) started between both artist and model, and artist and artist.  In talking to Laura, I realized that not only she, but other friends that I remember as a kid, came from Wally sessions.

In addition to Mom, Laura worked with  many of the artists that she met there.  One had an account of a very upscale store.  Laura would pose in the most beautiful gowns and after the drawings were done, the artist would give them a little spritz of Chanel No. 5 and off they went to the client.

Mom never mentioned Wally’s.  She did love to reminisce, so I’m surprised this was all new to me.  Perhaps it was an ordinary occurrence of her week at that time and she didn’t think it special enough to discuss.  I am grateful to Laura for helping me bring those years back to life.   

My Very Silent Partner Pt.1

A little more about Hilda.  As I’ve said on the site, she was born in 1913 in Brooklyn NY and graduated from Pratt Institute in 1933.  After that, she attended the famous Art Student’s League where she studied with some pretty heavy hitters of the time, Rico Le Brun, Jon Corbino and Bill McNulty.  There she met Bernie Glasgow and they married in 1938.  They were together for 52 years (47 of those married) until his death in 1986.

Mom always loved paper dolls.  For my friend’s birthday presents, she made large dolls about 2 feet tall with their clothes.  Alice of Alice in Wonderland was a favorite of hers.  She also made a beautiful folder for them.  Then came the late 1960’s and posters were in.  In fact, one entire wall of our dining room were posters of all sorts – Peter Max, anti-war, funny, serious, political. You name it. She started creating a poster series called “Cut-It-Outs”. The main girl figure was surrounded by her choice of costume.  There were several posters.  I remember Hippies, Native Costumes and First Ladies.  We took a trip to the Smithsonian for her research for the latter.  She stood in front of the displays and made her sketches. There were more, but memory fails me.  Here’s Carnival Fun. It’s the only mock up that survives.

Carnival Fun

Her next venture was a needlepoint business. More on that next time!

A 1960’s Afternoon

Very occasionally mom would bring me along to a client.  I have a distinctive memory of a trip to Coates and Clark, a company that made yarn and sewing materials.  Her drawings appeared in their ads. I think their offices were on Fifth Avenue in Midtown.  I must have only been about 4 years old, but I remember feeling very excited to go with her. We walked over to Fifth and took the bus downtown.   Up in the elevator we went to what seemed like a high floor and there was a beautiful view of the city.  She must have had a meeting as I was seated with the secretary, who gave me a basket full of yarn and thread spindles to play with. I really do remember all the beautiful colors and the softness.  I sat there happily on the floor picking thru the basket.  Mom came out all smiles, chatting away with everyone. They gave me some pretty colored buttons as a little present.  I was always loved colorful things. Guess you figured that out already.

Our next stop was Schafft’s for lunch.  Does anyone out there remember Schrafft’s?  I loved their tuna sandwiches and coffee ice cream.  We were The Ladies Who Lunch.  Last stop was Best & Co.. I had quite the wardrobe. More on that at another time.

Looking back, I wonder why she thought to bring me along to a client.  Did the babysitter cancel? Did she get a last minute phone call from the company?  An emergency fashion illustration needed!  Or maybe she just wanted to show me off.  She had me at age 45 in 1958, unusually late for the time.  She was very proud of this and not shy to tell people.

It was a beautiful day. We walked out of Best, she put on her white gloves, took my hand and we walked home up Fifth Avenue.

I do love New York…

Ink, Paper and a Three Year Old

As I had said previously, mom would work with her models and I would sit and play. One day, she had a drawing that was particularly difficult. After the model left and then after being a mom all day, she continued working into the night. And into the next day and the next, trying to get it right. Finally it was done. She had made her deadline too. I guess I must have seen myself as an artist, or maybe a critic, because I thought some changes should be made. All the ink jars were open. The brushes were sitting there waiting to be picked up. I had been watching for all three years of my life. How hard could it be? So when she was out of the room, I took brush in hand, dipped it in the ink and ran it over the smooth paper. It must have felt good, because I did it again and again. Then mom came back in the room. What a devastating moment for her. The work was ruined. But she never yelled at me. I can’t imagine what was going thru her mind. What do you tell a client? Something akin to “my dog ate my homework”? Working with a child at home was a challenge, but she figured out a creative solution. She set up a little table for me next to her own. We each had our jars of paint and the choice of many brush sizes. The models would come and change into a beautiful gowns. Mom would help get them in just the right pose and we would both get to work.