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.