My grandfather, Nathan Kaplinsky, sits on his father, Morris’s lap. My grandfather’s mother, Elizabeth, stands in the center surrounded by five of her seven children. Elizabeth and Morris migrated from a small village in Belarus to the Lower East Side in 1892. A few years later, they moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts. When I started studying women’s work, I asked my grandfather if any of his female relatives ever worked in the paper or textile mills. Jewish women didn’t work in factories, he told me. This is not exactly true, but it was the rule in his family. His mother, Elizabeth, ran a candy shop, made all of the family’s clothing, and cooked their meals. Plus, she worked with Morris, who invested in horses and real estate. Neither Morris nor Elizabeth ever learned to read or write in English, but this picture shows their success in America. Everyone wears nice clothes and new shoes. Elizabeth sports a substantial gold necklace. Morris looks modern, unlike his father, who always had a beard and wore a yarmulke. The city stagnated after the mills closed in the 1930s, but my grandfather remained in Holyoke. He ran a grocery store with his younger brother, Charlie. They made a decent living but they didn’t have their parents’ entrepreneurial drive. Throughout his life, my grandfather remained close to his family and to his friends, all children of Jewish, Irish, Polish, Italian, and French-Canadian immigrants.
– Lara Vapnek