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.

Mildred Rich, age 16
Mildred, age 16
Mildred, age 16

Her father died in 1934. MIldred still lived at home, but her oldest brother, Arthur, was away at medical school at the University of Cincinnati.

Mildred Rich, age 20
Mildred, age 20, circa 1935
Mildred Rich, age 20

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.”

MIckey and Mildred
Mildred and her first cousin, Myra (Mickey) Blieden

She married Emanuel Wesley Rich on June 8, 1940, in New York City, New York. She was 25 years old

Mildred Rich on her wedding day in 1940
Mildred and Manny Rich wedding portrait

In a July 18, 1944, letter she wrote to her brother, Arthur, we learn a lot about her relationship with her mother and what it was like to be an Army wife. Also, we see that we was living in Wildwod, NJ.

Monday, July 18, 1944

Dear Artie –

Received your letter on July 16th and yes card on July 15.

I so appreciate your position altho, now your decision is made.  You must have been heartsick those days & in much of a quandary until you made up your mind.  There is nothing, I think, worse, than having to make a decision on which the future is based.

It was a swell opportunity, but what good is a swell opportunity if everything connected with if isn’t right.  By that I mean the locale, the town maybe I’m wrong but I honestly can’t see you being very happy living in a tiny town all the time, especially one that is such a distance from a large city.


Anyway, your decision is made – that no use think further about it, except on one score.  The opportunity for you are definitely there & open, which, in itself is a wonderfully encouraging sign.  All you need is to keep trying to widen those opportunities until you strike the right one & then make the right decision.

Another thing, you said you’ll even earn between 6 – 9000 dollars this year.  Of course, we don’t forget the upkeep where you are, but, nevertheless it’s a steady advancement & also shows you’ve constantly forging ahead where you are, so that you can feel what you’re doing is worthwhile, too.

One important point (to me anyway) is to keep in mind for future decisions is this.  Can you he happy away from everyone you know?  By anan, I mean thousands a write!  You are, the important thing in this altho I know you don’t agree with me – if you have a partner,


In other words, a worthwhile info – anything is worth a trial, because you can achieve for greatly happiness that was than totally alone.  And make no mistakes, a wife & a mother are two difficult points – I think even you will grant me that.  Therefore, alone you must weigh the decision of happiness versus money & advancement, for more than you would otherwise.

As for as Mama is concerned I hope you know & you should know, that I can’t agree with one chaupts many of leaving Mama to her lonesome.  If you feel you can take her with you anyplace that’s fine.  If not, you needn’t ask.  I never thought otherwise.  She’ll be with me.  As for getting along, I’ve unfortunately learned a lot in 6 months’ time & that but amounts to


This – that there is no such thing as give & take for a mother who has raised her children & is in her own home.  In other words, all the giving and all the taking must be solely on one part only – mine. All right, so I’ve learned that fact.  I guess I can make it do.  I reckon – they will be friction – there must be friction for various reasons.  I’m only human & I’ve been master of my own destiny for so many years, it’s quite hard for me to know, on all the time & for me to know if on all the time & be stepped on. For that’s what it amounts to.  You don’t realize it – but you see, Mama grants you a respect she never has, & never will, grant me.  One word from you is law, but my word means nothing.  So you can’t appreciate all I’ve learned about taking, but is important that I have to take it, because she cannot ever learn to compromise.  As I say, I’m flexible, very flexible & I can do my best & will do my best.


All I’m trying to say is I’ve always had in in mind that eventually Mom & I will get together, so if you ever have a decision to make don’t hesitate on that score at all.

Of course, right now things aren’t normal.  Like, you must take this into consideration.  If Many is ever settled any place for a decently long period I’ll join him again.  For many reasons, one of which is very important – I will not take Mama with me.  That one reason among others is that Mama could not take the hardships army wives endure & I know which of I speak.

In such case, should you have to make any decisions to go elsewhere, we’ll keep up an apartment together, Mama & I, but for


whatever length of time I will have to be with Many I will join him & Mama will have to be alone.  In such case, we could arrange for her to have a lady border, or roomer, just so there will be someone in the apartment. I think that’s a pretty fair solution to all sides, yours, hers, mine, for a very impermanent time as the present & near future until some days of permanency again appear & we can see then what to do on a permanent basis.  What do you think?

In other words, I want you to go where you would for your best, knowing that I will go with Mama, but I also want you to keep in mind that I will go with Mama, but that I also have a husband who is pretty important to me – but also that I don’t want you to hesitate doing anything to your welfare because of that point, since I think we can


also handle Mama’s end pretty satisfactorily, too, fair whatever few month I may have to be away.

Another point I’d like to clarify is this.  Many times you write of “Mama’s being sick, etc.”  Also, many times I’ve asked you to tell me what is wrong.  Always you waive the subject aside.  Do you really think that that’s is fair to Mama, to our, to me, to have me in ignorance of what is wrong. After all, should you go away, would it be very fair to me, much less to Mama, to have no one with her who understands her state of health, what to do if necessary, where to go if necessary, etc. – to know more than a general, bland statement that you always pass on


to me of Mama being sick. If she is sick, what is wrong?  I think, in just a fairness, if for nothing else, I should be left in on certain facts & knowledge for, I leave that to you – because you know your there is very little you ever impart to me & there is no use begging you simply leave it up to your own broadness of mind to do as you wish, whether this once you would like me to know something or not.  If not, there is nothing I can do to make you – except to try to tell you that it’s not very fair, or even very nice to all of us, about all to Mama, to keep with such things concealed from people who are very interested, in this case, from me.

I hope, tho I’ve answered your query & relieved your mind – namely I’m in back of you & will help if & when you want to go.



P.S.  If, by any change –I irritate thru this letter, please forgive me.  I mean no such thing.  I also know based on past knowledge, that I do irritate you, without meaning to.  Okay.


Dr. A.I. Blieden

1165 Park Ave.

New York 28, New York



4716 Atlantic Ave.

Wildwood, N. J.

July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p1
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p2
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p3
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p4
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p5
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p6
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p7
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, Art, p8
July 18,1944 Letter Mildred wrote to her brother, envelope

In another letter to Art date 8/17/1944, she expresses her concern for her mother and describes her new baby son, Harvey, in wonderful detail.

Thursday 8/17 (1944)

Dear Artie –

Enclosed all the letters from Bern you sent recently – as requested.

Mom’s fine. I think she’s having a very, very nice time.  Now she wants to know if you’re going to Harrisburg weekend of 8/27.  If you are, she asks would you stop off here an Sunday, sleep over till Monday morning and go back with her on Monday A.M.  If you’re not going to Harrisburg, she says not to pick her up.  She doesn’t want you to spend all that fare just for a weekend. 

However, if you are going to Harrisburg, tell be only another couple of dollars to come out here.  The reasons she says to sleep one till Monday is because it’s too much riding to come from Harrisburg to here and on to N. Y. all in one day.  And, if you don’t come out here, let me know so I can arrange with you where you can pick Mama up in N. Y. – and actually meet her.

Okay – got it straight – so now answer, please.

Got your card – hmmm, so you think the stables smell – yes, it had kind of a horsy smell.  I forgot to be a lady talking to you – parding will make amends (but, if you’re interested – It’s a better selection of words_ incidentally, forget about any “annex”!  Just leave things be.

Who can tell – even miracles can happen.  No kidding Mama actually fed Harvey his dinner twice since being out here.  See – miracles do happen – so quiet and let’s see.

Anyway, wait till you see my snippin, pippin.  If you think your old lady’s going to rave about him, you’ll rave even more.  Yop, I’m telling you.  He’s all that and much more.  Everyone around here is crazy about him.  I can’t tell you – you’d just have to live with him to understand.  He’s good and happy and sweet, laughs and sings and dances all day long and is bright as a lark. Since Mam’s been here, he’s taken to trying to talk.  He says “bo” for button, “sh” for shoes, “d” for his duck, “sha” for his shovel, “b” for bread and “Ba-ba” for a little cousin here called Barbara.  All this has happened in two weeks – Mama came at a wonderful time to watch this latest development.  As for understanding, one can almost hold a conversation with him.

He’s nice to look at, pretty, has a lovely built body, sturdy, far from thin, well covered with fat, but to me and everyone else not a “fat baby”. And the little fat he has is no surprising because he’s such an active baby.  No exaggeration at all, I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a baby who moved around so much.  He never sits down, unless I coral him and stick him in his high chair.

Etc, etc, an infimum or ad nauseum, whichever it may mean to you this ranting on.

Anyway, you want it, I’m crazy about him – and he is not a spoiled child – one of the least spoiled I’ve ever seen – I don’t care what anyone says – babies may be born good – but they stay that way only with the help of the parents attention.

Well, tootsie – write immediately and let me know about mom.

Love, Mildred, Harvey, Spur & Mama

8171944 Letter to Art from Mildred, p1
8171944 Letter to Art from Mildred, p2


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.

Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan
Stuyvesant Town – Manhattan – NYC (current image, except for the air conditioners, it looked the same)

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.

To illustrate how important education was to the family, when Harvey was a young teenager, he was acting up at home. Mildred asked him why he was being so difficult. He replied that he could either be good at home or at school but he couldn’t behave everywhere. Mildred told him to continue being good at school and she would deal with him at home.

Mildred was a school secretary and attended Hunter College in NYC at night. She received a degree in teaching in 1968. Her mother did not get to see her graduate. She died  February 22, 1967.

Mildred Rich graduation college in 1968
Mildred, 1968, the new college graduate

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.

Although she had her own problems with her crumbling marriage, after her brother Bernie’s wife died, she was always supportive of him and the family.

Camp Hila, 1971, family  visitation day
Visiting her nephew and niece on camp visitation day in 1971

Mildred was elated when her granddauther, Jessica, was born to her son, Harvey and his first wife, Pam. They lived in California so Mildred made sure to take trips out there to see Jessica, and Harvey also brought Jessica out East on a regular basis.

Mildred holding her granddaughter, Jessica

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 - late 1960s
Mildred – late 1960’s
Mildred – 1995
Mildred at 80 and sitting in her father’s rocking chair which is now in her niece’s home

From California, her son, Harvey, planned a fun 80th birthday party celebration in honor of his mother. It brought together cousins from both sides of her family. The party was held at her niece, Mavra’s home, in Pequannock, NJ

Mildred's immediate family at he 80th Birthday Celebration
Bottom row: Mildred, granddaughter Jessica – Back row: daugther Alice, son Harvey, Harvey’s wife Magnhild
Harvey making a speech at his mother's 80th Birthday
HA=arvey presenting his mother with a special gift

When I asked her what historical event made the most impact on her she replied when women got the right to vote. The 19th amendment granted women the right to vote and was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. Mildred’s Aunt Reve Blieden Bricker had been a suffragette and Mildred must have heard her stories about the importance of this event. Mildred was about 5 years old when the 19th amendment was ratified so her Aunt must have been a big influence on her.

he 50th Anniversary of Women's Right to Vote stamp
1970 – the 50th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote

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.

She was pre-deceased by her brothers. Bernie died on September 28, 1973, and Arthur died on November 5, 1983.

From the NY Times:

Mildred with cigarette
Mildred Deborah Blieden Rich

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