Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Minnie Goldstein

b. 1882, Warsaw
To U.S.: 1894
Providence, RI

"Success or Failure?"

Goldstein’s struggle for basic literacy was one of the starkest of all the autobiographers’. In her native Warsaw Goldstein spent most of her time on the street, and in New York she went to work as soon as she arrived at the age of twelve. She never received any kind of formal education. Only as an adult did she learn to read and write, first Yiddish and then English. Although she asks the scholars at YIVO to judge whether she has been a success or a failure, Goldstein clearly believes she has been a success. Starting with virtually nothing, she has acquired several houses; learned how to read and write two languages; become active in communal affairs; and “fooled the doctors” by virtually curing her son of the debilitating effects of polio. Note that at Weinreich’s urging, she added two supplements to her first manuscript, filling in various details about her life. Note also that Goldstein uses several forms of her first name: Minnie, Mashe, Mane, and Manele.