All Posts for March 2019

Book review for Women’s History Month: The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Not sure why I read this book during Women’s History Month, but because I don’t believe in coincidences, I must have been guided by my “higher power” to take it off the shelf after reading one of the author’s other books (future posting) and finding a
new writer who writes so well I don’t want the books to end! She seems to be too young to write such deep feelings, but she certainly knows the human heart.

 

I chose this particular book for Women’s History Month because in this novel the book moves back and forth between WWI and the first decade of the millennium, with the link being a portrait of Sophia, painted by her husband  before he goes off to war and the millennium character Olivia (Liv), whose husband purchased the portrait for her on their honeymoon from a woman whose mother dies and was part of her possessions. Learning about WWI through the novel was quite interesting, since we did not study that war in school.

Both women seem to be facing terrible times. Sophia is not sure where her husband is, and while she waits to hear from him, has been forced to feed German soldiers at her hotel establishment, the Germans having invaded France during WWI. The commandant seems to have fallen in love with the portrait of Sophia, and perhaps even Sophia. Liv, whose husband died suddenly four years after their marriage, loves the painting of Sophia because her husband said it reminded him of her. It hangs on Liv’s wall in the glass-enclosed house her husband, an avant-garde architect, designed for them when they first married.

Enter a young man, Paul, who happens to work at returning paintings stolen by the Nazis in WWII to their rightful owners. And even though this painting is from WWI, the law seems to be working retroactively.  Paul and Olivia are attracted to one another, having met on the fourth anniversary of Olivia’s husband David’s death. She gets drunk on that night at the bar owned by Paul’s brother. Her purse is stolen, so Paul helps her get back her purse and visits her at her home, where he spots the painting of Sophia, which he recognizes because the family of Sophia has already contacted him about its loss and return.

Both women are strong and vulnerable. Author Noyes has made them come to life in her book and this could easily be a movie. The part where there is a legal battle between Olivia as the owner of the portrait and Sophia’s heirs who claim it belongs to them reminds me of the movie, Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren, based on a true story. But this story, while fictitious, fascinated me even more so, because of the personalities of the two female characters are almost one hundred years apart in age, yet seem to operate with the same gut feelings. Both were terribly in love with their husbands, and yet still found/find the strength to go on when times become worse and even dangerous.

The book ends on a sweet, if not perfect, note for both women, having come to grips with their lives, holding onto the love of their spouses and having faith in the human spirit to meet the odds head on. As I noted above, choosing this book during Women’s History Month may seem coincidental, but I think not. I think I was supposed to find this author and read her book this month.

The book is published by Viking Press, released in 2012.  369 pages, ($27)

 

P.S. I recently received information from the Women’s History Museum project in Washington, DC. (www.womenshistory.org) I Googled the topic and came up with this excerpt, which gives a listing of all the women’s museums in our nation’s capital:

 

  • Women’s History Museums in Washington, D.C.

    www.tripsavvy.com/womenshistorymuseums

    Women’s History Museums in Washington, D.C. Daughters of the American Revolution Museum. National Museum of Women in the Arts. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located in… Hillwood Museum & Gardens. The 25-acre estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post displays an impressive… …

     

    Also, I just read this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, which my husband subscribes to but I rarely read. This issue, however, features Women’s History Month articles. I was especially interested in the Education page entitled, “Written Out of History: A new study reveals just how few women are required reading in America’s schools. I may do more research on each of these women for future postings.

 

 

 

 

 

Doris Lightman Lazow: Forties & Fifties Fashion Flashback

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

NOTE:  I chose to post this in March since this is Women’s History Month, and Ina’s mom was way ahead of the women’s movement. She was a single mom freelancing with her art and illustrations, a rarity before the 1960s. So I thought it would make a nice bookend to my posting in early March announcing Women’s History Month.

by Ina Luber (Ina wrote the essay) and ellen sue (I helped put the photos with the story and contacted Reminisce Magazine)

Published in late 2017 by Reminisce Magazine and reprinted with permission.

 

Introduction by ellen sue

My first visit to my husband’s friends, and now my friends as well, Ina and Jerry Luber, pulled me back into my teenage years. For there on their hall wall were illustrations of women dressed in the clothes reminiscent of my youth: fancy wedding gowns, crinoline-skirted dresses, fur coats, and lacy lingerie. I learned on another visit that the impressionistic paintings on the wall were also from the same artist: Doris Lightman Lazow, Ina’s mother.  (See fashion photos below. I hope to post photos of the paintings in the future.)

With each visit, I learned more about Doris: a single mom with an artistic career, far from the “norm” of her era. At my request, Ina sent me a mini-memoir of life with her mom.  (See below.)

 

Essay from Ina Luber: Reflections of her Mom

My mother, Doris Lightman, divorced my father, Benjamin Lazow, in the year I was born, 1936. They had been married only one year. Apparently, he was a charming cad, and my mother’s four brothers made him promise he would disappear from our lives when I was born, so my father never laid eyes on me.  My mother then became a single working mom.  There was no child support, except I remember that when they could find my father, she would get a check for $10 from the family court. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as a general rule, garnishment of wages is prohibited.

 

 

Despite my fatherless childhood, I was raised in a sort of warm and cozy cocoon. I was surrounded by and lived with: my mother, my maternal grandparents, and two uncles who resided in the home until going off to war in 1942. We all lived behind and above my grandparents’ small corner patent medicine and ice cream soda fountain store in Germantown. On reflection, I realize I wanted for nothing because everyone played a role in making my life feel as normal as possible for an only child with only one parent.

 

So my mother was left to pursue her amazing talent as an artist. She started off as a fashion illustrator, having graduated in 1926 from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now known as Moore College of Art. She did newspaper layouts for department stores such as John Wanamaker, Lane Bryant, small boutique shops and milliners, and window designs for the same stores. Eventually, my mother experimented in many art mediums, including live nude classes, watercolors, oils, and acrylics. She did landscapes, still-life, painted designs on blouses and neckties, and customized accessories in tolle for bedrooms and baths for two high-end linen shops on Walnut St. in Philadelphia and Jenkintown. My bedroom was actually her studio in our two-story, “above the store” home, so I was able to watch her paint every day, becoming intoxicated on the smells of linseed oil and oil paints, scents I shall never forget.

 

 

In addition to her painting, she relieved my grandfather in the store, and I guess in this way helped repay my grandparents for all they did for me. I have no doubt that my grandparents paid for almost everything for me – my religious training, summer overnight camp, and college. In those days, single parents did not have their own apartments, residing in their family home. My grandmother was a superb cook, so she did all the kitchen duties. My mother would wash the dishes but was basically left to pursue her craft. Each morning she would come downstairs in stockings and a dress, see me off to school, and then go back upstairs to my bedroom/her studio to illustrate or paint.

 

Her art brought her an income of sorts, but because she freelanced, the money was sporadic. Since I was lucky to have such a loving and generous family paying for the big-ticket items in my life, my mother did not have money worries. Later, she became an “Auntie Mame” to my own children, because she became their arts and crafts teacher and mentor, teaching them painting or other arts and crafts projects at her side.

 

 

           (Ina’s Mom  also decorated toilet seat covers, like this one.)

 

Doris Lightman Lazow (she used her married name as her signature in her paintings and elsewhere from the time I was born until I was eighteen years old) was one of a kind — a unique and superbly talented woman, who was fashionably single before it was fashionable to be a single working mom with an artistic career.

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