Shared Photo: Mother of Etta Nathan

+12 votes

An occasional photo from the family collection is a mystery.  This photo, which I inherited from my grandfather, is of a woman whose identity is not clear.  We believe, due to the Dallas location of the photo studio and a certain resemblance to my mother, that this was my grandfather's maternal grandmother.  Unfortunately, my mother never asked him while he was still alive, so I don't know her name or the origin of the costume she's wearing.  All we know is that she was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe or possibly Crimea in the 1880s.  We believe, from my grandfather's birth certificate, that her married surname was "Almos", though my mother also thinks she remembers "Drew", which would have been an obvious anglicization.

I wanted to share this family photo of Unk. Almos with the community. Location: Dallas, Texas. Date: unknown.
Click here for the image details page or here for the full-sized version (1201 x 1803).

WikiTree profile: Jacobs Jacobs
in The Tree House by Jason Howe G2G Crew (800 points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Thanks for sharing this, Jason. Very interesting.

I wonder who could identify that costume.

My first choice for a new source would be your local state university where they'd be most likely to have concentrations in Jewish history, for instance. Another way is to see if your state capitol or any larger city has a Jewish Heritage Center or historical society. State Library archives would have sections for information on Jews in that state. A Synagogue or Temple has an office staff and one or more rabbis to ask about costume, and though clergy is always busy, they're happy someone else is interested!

1 Answer

+1 vote
Great photo, Jason.  Perhaps someone else in the family can identify her?  Have you checked with aunts and uncles?
by Star Kline G2G6 Pilot (553k points)
No one knows! The name is alternately spelled "Almas" on documents, which, in its Spanish variation, is common.  But while it's possible she was Sephardi, I have no evidence to back that up.  Again, my great-grandmother's place of birth is alternately listed on documents as Russia or Poland, though the same was the case for her husband, who was documented as born in Kovno, Lithuania.  That costume looks more exotic than the Baltics, though...

In a search limited to "Clothing of Sephardic Jewish women of the 19th c." I was returned thousands of thumbnail photos of Sephardi women and men in many centuries including one of Ivanka and Jared Kushner (21st c.).* The headdress is closest to being pictured in a photo-portrait of two girl's headdresses (on the girls) for what seems to be a "festive dress" occasion. These are structured very similarly to that in "The Mother of Etta Nathan."

Included in this lineup are placards of criteria for dressing, which seem to include more than Sephardic, as do the photos. Occasionally a designation of place is included.  Worthy looking for those with Jewish Roots or anyone interested in social history and conformity and non-conformity.

The Mother of Etta Nathan has dressed according to the criteria for observant or even orthodox women. Completely form-covering (as in not describing the woman's figure, her multilayered "suit" or "ethnic costume" covers her to the neck and wrists, and presumably to the floor. Her hair is completely covered. Etta's mother seems to wish not to be having her photo taken, and so she does not project a happy woman. Nor does she seem neutral. Perhaps her shtetl (village) wants women to be absent, invisible, or not to be photographed (pure conjecture). At the very least, she seems withdrawn, and at the most, afraid.

The search didn't include Ashkenazi clothing--but that can still be done by someone. It's very interesting to see photos taken mainly in celebration over something like 150??? estimated years of life. 


* the site offers ways to enlarge and, if you are clever, to copy and paste here: It comes up on Safari without a url, as the first entry.   

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