Women and bravery
The photo above is a picture of my Mom.
She was born in February 1906. Her name was Erna Ilgenstein and she followed her brother Bruno to the United States from Germany. And no she did not know the language and had no idea for sure what she would find here in this country.
I do not know the exact year when she came to this country, but I do know that the first work she procured was cleaning houses in the Bronx, NY. I had come across a reference letter written by one of her employers from 1932 recommending her work.
She married my Dad in 1934. She raised 4 children each of us five years apart. I am the youngest of three older brothers and I was born in 1949.
She celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1984.
She reached her 90th Birthday and passed in 1996.
I came across a box that was put up on a shelf with some old cards and letters and that reference letter from 1932. I also found her and my Dad’s naturalization papers. What a treat that was!
This being Women’s History Month felt like a good time to remember her and her courage to get on a ship and come to a land where she did not speak the language and try for a new life. I wanted to share this memorandum to her and other brave women- past and present.
She was not a talker and did not share much of herself while living and I, unfortunately, did not ask many questions either. She was a hard worker and always had a neighbor or a friend to clean house for or watch their child. She ironed everything- even our underwear. She always hung clothes and sheets on the line outside and everything smelled fresh. She had her hair done a couple of times a week and I always remember her pink hair. She loved the “Knight Rider” show. She wore knee-hi stockings that always showed when she sat. She loved her grandchildren. She was tireless in the garden – turning it over with a pitchfork and wedding all the time. She even made bear stew when my father got a bear on one of is hunting trips.
This was her.
Her German accent was with her till the end. She cooked things like Rolarden, Egg Pancakes with her Currant Jelly, and Potato Pancakes with Applesauce. Her Christmas Stollen was the most awesome thing and I still do not get mine to rise as hers did so effortlessly.
I so admire this beautiful small German woman that had the guts to travel so far and left her mark and her love on my family. There are many stories of Mothers and Grandmothers that came to this county as immigrants and still are. Find your story and dig to where you came from and who that brave woman was and find her story.
I hope you savor them and keep their stories safe and pass them down to be part of your family history.
We need to honor all these brave women, especially this month.