How did Mildred miss out on things because she was “just a girl”?

Mildred (Deborah) Blieden

Deborah M. Blieden was the youngest child of Gussie Abramowitz and Harvey Blieden.  Somehow when she was registered for school, there was a mix-up and she was registered as Mildred Deborah and after that, she was known as Mildred.

                                                          Mildred Blieden – circa 1919

Growing up, Mildred was close to her Aunt Reve and to her grandmother, Hannah, who lived with her daughter, Reve.  Mildred, and her brother Bernie, often slept over their Aunt’s house on weekends. Her older brother, Arthur, was usually off somewhere with his friends.  The children spoke Yiddish at home and only learned English when they started attending school.

Mildred studied the piano for ten years and was a crackerjack stenographer.  She was a very competitive student and skipped several grades.  Although she badly wanted to go to college, she was told there was no money for her to do so.  Her brother, Arthur, was attending Columbia University, even though it was difficult for the family to afford it.  No matter how difficult though, there would be money for Bernie for college if he chose to go, but not for a girl.  Mildred was raised to be subordinate to men, not to have a career.  Typical of the times, she was sent daily to care for her bachelor Uncle Max, cooking and cleaning for him.  However, he left her nothing in his will since she was “only a girl”.

After high school she went out to work.  When her company moved to Philadelphia, she moved too.  It was there that she met her future husband, Manny Rich.

Top – Mildred at 16, then at age 20 (circa 1935)

Mildred in the 1931 Girls Commercial School Yearbook

Next to her yearbook picture it says:

“Dora Blieden
Bump, Bump! Falls down the floor
And up she goes, and asks for more —
Oh, yes, it’s basketball.”


Mildred as a young mother and with her husband, Manny Rich

When she was first married, she moved all over the country with her new son and her big dog, to follow her soldier husband.  After Manny was discharged from the Service in WWII, they settled in Stuyvesant Town in NYC.

After her cousin Arnold Bricker died during a polio epidemic, her Aunt Reve no longer felt up to hosting the holidays.  Mildred took over the tradition for many years and had the extended family for Passover Seders at her apartment.

Mildred and Manny Rich had 2 children.  However, as the years went by, the marriage fell apart and she divorced him.

Mildred was a school secretary and attended Hunter College in NYC at night. She received a degree in teaching in 1968. Afterwards, she even went back for a Master’s Degree.  She taught business and typing courses at the “toughest” high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY.  As a matter of fact, the TV show, Sixty Minutes, did an expose on how bad the students in that school were, and Mildred was interviewed and appeared on the program.

Mildred holding her granddaughter

She was not one to sit idle, and once she retired from teaching, she sold costume jewelry and tea cups in various flea markets throughout New York City.  She chose those two items in particular, since once she moved to a smaller apartment, she no longer had room for her collections. Much of the jewelry she made herself. She continued to sell at her flea market in the Chelsea Antiques Building at 110 W. 25th St. in NYC up until she got sick.  At this point, she was about 84 and still going daily to work.

Mildred loved to travel and took bus trips, cruises, and tours all over the world.  She always brought back little tchotchkes for her children, and for her nieces and nephews.  She often planned her bus trips to include visiting relatives around the country.  I always liked her philosophy “tour while it is light and eat dinner after dark”.

Mildred at 80 and sitting in her father’s rocking chair which is now in her niece’s home

She worked hard to keep her family together under trying circumstances and always was attentive to the needs of her nieces and nephews.  That was extended to her own grand-daughter, and to great-nieces and nephews when they started coming along. She was always there for everyone’s milestone events in addition to holiday and birthday celebrations.

Also, she was known to have a great sense of humor. Unfortunately, she was a smoker and never wanted to break her habit.

Mildred developed emphysema, but ultimately died from lung cancer.  Up until the end, she insisted that her non-stop smoking habit had nothing to do with her illnesses. She is buried in Beth-El Cemetery, Companion Plot 21, in Paramus, NJ.

From the NY Times: