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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Madloch

Naomi Youngstein

My paternal grandmother, Mollie Rand Youngstein, was known as Bubbi to her family and friends. She was born in 1891 in Galicia (Austro-Hungary, now Poland) and in 1910, she arrived at the United States accompanied only by her brother. They both worked extremely hard and managed to bring their remaining siblings, eight or ten of them, here with them.

I did not know her and everything I learned about Bubbi came from my father who was very close to her. Bubbi had a somewhat useless husband so all the responsibility for the family’s well-being was hers alone. She had two children, my father and his sister, and she raised them to be independent and self-reliant. From early childhood, they had to do everything for themselves, and she did not divide chores or housework into “women’s” or “men’s” jobs. They both had to learned how to do everything. Bubbi’s greatest fear was that they would become helpless like their father.

Bubbi did not have any formal education but she could read and write. This made her realize her own limitations, but also taught her to value education. She insisted that her own children studied and succeeded at school. Herself, she was an accomplished seamstress and made all the clothing for her family. I am sure that the dress she is wearing in this picture was made by her. I was told that when the family lived in the Bronx and money was tight, she often exchanged her sewing for rent. She did not have many possessions which were not made by her. While I don’t have almost anything that belonged to her, the neckless I am wearing was hers. My father brought it for her from Japan, where he stationed during World War II and this was one of her most cherished possessions.

There are no doubts that Bubbi had a tough life. However, one can say that all her hard work paid off in future generations. She had six grandchildren and they are all well-educated, successful in life, and happy. In many ways, her story is an example of the classic American dream. It is special for me because it’s mine.

My only daughter Mollie is named after Bubbi. She inherited not only her name but also her amazing gift for sewing. Mollie is a skilled and dedicated seamstress. I think that Bubbi would love that and be proud.

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