Mildred Grossman papers- Scope and Content Note
This collection contains the papers, photographs, books, and ephemera of Mildred Grossman Berkowitz. The documents span from her high school years in 1929 until seven years after her death, in 1995. The collection is divided into six series, based both on type of activity and kind of document. As a general rule, documents within series have been arranged in date order. The first series, Union Activism, is based on Mildred's activities with various unions. The bulk of this series is included in the first sub-series, "Teachers' Union," which includes details about Mildred's tireless efforts to reinstate thirty-three teachers that had been expelled from the New York City Public School system in the 1950s due to suspected Communist leanings. The transcript for Diana Wolman's (one of the teachers) HUAC hearing can be found (in html format) at http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate/mccarthy/83869.txt. Because of the focus of the series on a particular activity, it includes various kinds of documents, such as correspondence, case files, clippings, and notes. From the beginning of her work on the case until 1974, when the teachers were finally reinstated, there is evidence of the close friendships that were built between the people working on the case.
The second sub-series, "Hotel Union," contains photographs and documents relating to Mildred's work with the Hotel Trade Council for an exhibit called "Portrait of a Union." The papers include the history of the union until the exhibit, as well as goals and challenges that still needed to be met by the hotel workers. The photographs included in this series, which were originally included with the rest of the HTC papers, are of various workers in the hotel industry. More photographs of the workers are included in the photography section, but as these were specifically part of the HTC exhibit, they have been retained in the series. The second series is Notes and Correspondence. Mildred was a copious note taker, and kept a record of every meeting she attended (and as a member of the ASMP, the Teachers' Union, the Workman's Circle, and other numerous groups, there were many meetings that she attended throughout her life). Particularly prevalent in the notes is information regarding an exhibit depicting the history of the Hotel Trade Council called "Portrait of a Union." The actual drafts and photos are in the first series, mentioned above, but all of Mildred's handwritten notes on the subject are included here.
This series includes the bulk of Mildred's correspondence aside from that dealing with the Teachers' Union case. It includes professional letters requesting photographs (for exhibits, publications, etc.), commissions for Mildred's photography skills (from the Hotel Trades Council and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union), various correspondence regarding employment (with Long Island University, Special Services of Queens, and the NY Public Schools), personal correspondence (of particular note is Wendell Phillips Dodge, noted explorer), and medical correspondence pertaining to both Mark and Mildred. A postcard from 1939 indicates Mildred's membership in the American Labor Party.
The third series, Financial, includes all of Mildred's documents relating to her finances. As noted above, she was a very careful note-taker, and kept records for just about everything. Included in the series are receipts and bills for various objects or services that Mildred used, such as furniture, photography, and electricity, or that she provided, such as photographs. There are detailed records in Mildred's handwriting of various transactions throughout the years, as well as her notes regarding how much compensation she should receive from the state of New York as compensation for the loss of money while suspended from teaching. Two sub-series are particularly noteworthy. The first, "German Pension Papers," does not deal with Mildred directly, but rather her husband. Because Motel Berkowitz had been in a concentration camp during World War II, he was entitled to reparations from the German government. This series includes some legal papers (in Polish, German, and English), regarding the reparations, as well as documents proving Motel's eligibility for the pension plan, verifying his identity and history.
The second sub-series, "Insurance Papers," consists of correspondence between Mildred, her lawyer Benjamin Zelman (who was also the lawyer on the Teachers' Union case), and Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. Mildred's insurance policy was for teachers only, and so the insurance company tried to verify that Mildred was actually teaching. Mildred, in her inimitable stubborn way, refused to answer the question, resulting in subsequent lawyer intervention and many letters from the insurance company. All of the correspondence in the sub-series is included in duplicate.
The fourth series contains both medical and legal documents relating directly to Mildred or her family. Included in this series are numerous passports for Mildred and Motel, as well as Mildred's IDs for the NY Department of Social Services and The Cooper Union. Included with Mark's passports are international certificates of vaccination. In terms of legal documents, the contents are rather eclectic. Mildred's high school career is depicted here, with a diploma, a report card, and various awards she received while in school (from the Little Mothers' League, the Anti-Litter Bureau, the Arista League, Spanish class, the Service League, Honor Roll distinctions, and a scholarship certificate from The City College of New York). Various other legal documents include a certified copy of a birth certificate, various travel documents, immigration documents for Mildred's parents and husband, and a teaching certificate. Also included is a draft and an actual contract for Mildred's work with the Hotel and Club Employees Union Local 6.
The medical documents in the collection relate to both Mildred and Motel, including a notification of Mildred's death from the Heath Insurance Plan of Greater New York. It also includes membership information in The Workman's Circle's insurance plan. Funeral papers seemed appropriate to include with medical papers, and so the series also includes information about the burial and perpetual for by Motel. Included as well is a series of drafts for a eulogy delivered at Mildred's funeral, and an envelope with Mildred's gravesite address that included pictures of his late wife. Series V includes a mix of documents that do not fit into one of the above series. Included is Mildred's yearbook, "The Lexicon," from the School of Business and Civil Administration of the College of the City of New York, a number of address books, various awards and honors received by Mildred Grossman, for photography, alcoholism recovery training, and the Teachers' Union case. (Mildred did receive a certificate from the National Urban League, which was not included in this series, as it was considered an attachment to a letter, and so was included with general correspondence. Also included are clippings and printed materials regarding Mildred's various projects, often including Mildred's photographs, regarding the Hotel Workers Union, The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, and the Teachers Union. Published materials that were retained with the collection, such as books regarding legalities of teachers and teaching in New York are included here. Other publications retained in the collection a magazine called "Friday" from January 1941, "There Are Men Inside: A presentation by Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union," and "Hotel and Club Voice" (November 1963), all of which contain images photographed by Mildred. Other miscellenia are various membership cards and photographic (unmailed) postcards belonging to Mildred Grossman, exhibition catalogs, a press release regarding an exhibit and some of Mildred's applications for various exhibitions. A final sub-series within the Miscellaneous is not at all connected with Mildred or her various projects. This sub-series contains extensive information on the Gizela and Rafael Federmans, Motel's sister and brother-in-law, who came to the United States after World War II. The sub-series contains miscellaneous photographs, various Yiddish publications by Rafael regarding the Jewish Labor Bund, immigration and death certificates, and a will for Rafael Federman, written in Yiddish.
he sixth series, Diaries/Daybooks, quite possibly contains the materials for a researcher to see Mildred as she lived her daily life. This includes Mildred's planners, daybooks, and diaries, spanning about fourty years of her life. The earliest book included here is a diary from 1950 recording one of her trips abroad with fascinating details of some of the people that she met. Eleven daybooks, from 1959-1969, list Mildred's day-to-day events and appointments. Papers that had been inserted into the daybooks were sometimes kept and sometimes removed to other folders, depending on appropriateness. Some, such as photo lists, miscellaneous notes, Peanuts comic strip clippings (1964, 1966), and a list of birthdays and anniversaries (1966) have been left in the books for context. Correspondence, ID cards, and receipts, however, have been removed to their respective folders. The back of the daybooks include a "cash account" section, which Mildred used to list monthly transactions. The four daily planners (1976-1977, 1979, 1981) include similar information as the daybooks, albeit in less detail.
The seventh series contains Mildred Grossman's personal photos, including six photo albums as well as loose photographs. This series also includes photographs taken by photographers other than Mildred (generally personal photos). Her professional photos have been removed to the UMBC photography collection. The eighth series contains items of ephemera: Six stamps belonging to Mildred that were used for labeling her photographs, and her Leica "flash unit" in a box.