Andrea Kalinowski's artwork brings up various ideas and issues, both historical
and aesthetic. Providing them in advance with some contexts in which to consider
the work, the viewers' experience of the exhibition will be enriched. The educational
component to the exhibition has three broad objectives:
1) Expand understanding of the history of Jewish-American immigration and the
connection between the experiences of the Jewish pioneer women and the waves of
migration that have occurred throughout world history and that continues in the
2) Explore the impact of pioneers on the American West and the role women played
in shaping the lives of their families and larger communities and the meaning
of their experiences for contemporary times.
3) Increase awareness of the role of art as a catalyst for social change.
Suggested preparatory activities, readings and discussions:
1) View the video (click on "The Artist"). Lead a discussion with the
class about the Jewish immigration experience. Connect the history of Jewish immigration
to the migration experience in general. What causes people to immigrate? Cite
examples of areas that have seen emigration in the past, and talk about areas
that are experiencing emigration today and why. Have them imagine what it would
be like to uproot their lives, bringing only a few of their most valued possessions
with them, and even leaving some of their family behind.
2) Read excerpts from women's or children's diaries (or read fictional accounts
based on such diaries) about their move to the West. Discuss traditional roles
for women in that era, or what was expected of children during the migration to
the West. What were their responsibilities? How were they able to fulfill those
responsibilities, or what difficulties did they encounter? (Refer to bibliography
for options for journals appropriate to students' age level.)
3) Read in your history textbook, supplemented by primary source readings from
The American Frontier: Opposing Viewpoints, to learn about the frontier
of the American West. The primary source material will provide perspective about
the diversity that existed on the frontier: men, women, Native American, African
American, Spanish-American, and other ethnic groups. It will also demonstrate
to students that the American West was not uninhabited and undiscovered territory,
as it is often represented to be. (The American Frontier is directed toward
students ages 15 and up. An alternative to illustrate frontier diversity for younger
students, ages 6 and up, is Jewish Heroes of the Wild West.)
THEMES FOR TOURING THE EXHIBITION
There is an old African saying that until the lions have their historians, the
stories of hunting will always glorify the hunters. Similarly, until there were
women historians of the American West, the conventional historical view had focused
on the larger-than-life personalities of famous men. Andrea Kalinowski's artworks
provide another perspective that allows us to appreciate the daily lives of ordinary
people, specifically Jewish immigrant women, as the basis for creating a new understanding
By researching and telling us the stories of Jewish women living in the American
West, Kalinowski has connected to her own heritage. Yet the stories she relates
have parallels among many other cultures and ethnic groups. The cross-cultural
connections are worth investigating with visitors, who might find this as an opportunity
to consider their own families' experiences with respect to migration and maintaining
Some of the important themes that might be discussed with visitors are noted below.
Please refer to the bibliography for readings on these topics.
1) A History Tour
The excerpts that appear in the artworks are taken from diaries, journals and
- Expand understanding of an important and little known aspect of the history
of the American West‹the role of Jewish immigrants and women.
- Allow viewers to make connections with personal stories and local history.
- Engage viewers in considering what Jewish-American history has to teach us about
contemporary issues and concerns.
letters gathered by the artist from archives throughout the country. These documents
give valuable insight into what life was like on the American frontier from the
mid-1800s to the early 1900s. In their migrations, these pioneers, many of whom
had recently completed journeys to the United States from Europe to escape persecution
or political repression, faced experiences that were entirely new to them and
that challenged the perspectives and cultural practices that they carried with
them from the "Old Country."
Discuss some of these excerpts and what we can glean from them. What do we learn
about the individuals who wrote them? What do they reveal about the time period
and the social changes taking place? Below are some other things to consider based
on a discussion of the excerpts:
2) A Women's Tour
- Jewish Immigration
The artist asks us to consider what compelling reasons drove these Jewish
pioneer women to such bravery and willingness to stray from their familiar
lives and endure such hardships.
Fanny Jaffe Sharlip vividly describes her family's journey from Russia to
the United States. What were the instructions her father gave to her mother
for the journey? Why was the cow so important to the family? What are some
of the things she remembers from the trip across the ocean? What were the
conditions like on the boat?
Compare her trip across the ocean to Fanny Brooks's trip across the United
States in a wagon. What sorts of supplies did Fanny Brooks's family bring
with them? Discuss how even the most basic of essentials‹food‹was in limited
supply for these travelers.
Now imagine you are a Jewish immigrant from Germany or Russia traveling to
the American West. Why did you decide to come to the United States? What had
your life been like in the "Old Country?" What are some of the things you
may have been fleeing? What did you bring with you? What did you leave behind?
What do you imagine your new life will be like (i.e., what is your "American
Dream"?) What was your journey like? How did you travel? What hardships and
dangers did you endure?
You entered the United States through Ellis Island in New York City and settled
there in a small apartment building surrounded by other immigrants. What new
things did you encounter once you reached America? Did you encounter any language
obstacles? How was your everyday life different? Did you practice Judaism
as you had in Russia?
Your family decides to move to the West. What are some of the reasons you
decide to move? What is the allure of the West for your family? What is your
journey like? How do you travel? What difficulties did you encounter? How
will life in the West be different from life in New York City?
- Worldwide Migration
Fanny Sharlip had an idyllic upper-middle class childhood in Russia, but
increasing acts of anti-Semitism began to erode her family's sense of
security. When the windows of her father's business were broken, they
decided that the family must leave Russia. Her father "was determined
to go where Jews could worship God as they pleased, where they could breathe
freedom, and where their life was not threatened every minute of the day
. . .that was infinitely more important than money."
Connect the experience of Jewish-American immigration to instances of
worldwide migrations happening today. Discuss why such migrations happen,
e.g., as a result of war, starvation, poverty, religious persecution or
political repression. Think of current or recent examples (e.g., movement
of people from rural areas to urban centers in search of work throughout
Latin America and Asia; immigration of Mexican laborers to the United
States in search of jobs; Afghan refugees fleeing to the Pakistani border
to avoid US military action; Cubans coming to the United States in makeshift
boats; movement of Rwandans to refugee camps to flee the civil war).
Now imagine you are suddenly caught in a situation where your continued
security or even your life is threatened. What situations would cause
you to consider leaving your home and family? What are some of the things
that would cause you leave? What would you take with you? What things
would you leave behind? What do you imagine your new life will be like?
What will your journey be like? How will you travel? Will you need to
cross borders illegally? Will you need to bribe people to help you? What
hardships and dangers will you endure?
- Maintaining Cultural Traditions
Sarah Thal describes being asked by a neighbor to cook a crate of pork.
Sophie Trupin describes the lack of a synagogue and her mother's efforts
to maintain the Sabbath, keep a kosher home, and observe the holidays,
and being unable to fulfill the obligation to take the monthly ritual
bath known as the mikvah.
Consider how Judaism remained important to the pioneers in this era.
What are some of the challenges they faced in practicing their religion?
Did religion make their travels easier or harder? In what ways? Did their
practice of Judaism change?
Think about your own family's cultural traditions. Do you have any special
foods that you eat or rituals or holidays that you observe? Have these
traditions changed over the years? Do you maintain cultural traditions
in the same way as your grandparents? Think about how other traditions
have changed over time, and how culture changes to adapt to changing circumstances.
Do you think these cultural traditions are still important to maintain
in the contemporary world? Why or why not?
- Young Pioneers of the American West
Children took on many responsibilities during the long journey West. Some
of the pioneer women were only teenagers when they undertook these arduous
travels and experienced these life-changing events.
Fanny Brooks was only 16 years old when she emigrated from Germany, Rachel
Calof was 18 when she arrived in North Dakota as a mail-order bride, and
Sophie Trupin was only 5 years old when her family arrived in the United
Consider how your childhood is different from that of a pioneer child
in the 1800s. What are some of the experiences you might have endured
as a young pioneer? What are the activities that you enjoy that someone
your age in the year 1875 would never have imagined possible? How are
your responsibilities different from a young adult in the late 1800s and
- The West of Our Imagination
We often have a romanticized view of the American West, based on
Western movies, novels, and other representations of life on the frontier.
How do the accounts of life in the American West that we see in Andrea
Kalinowski's artworks differ from the West as it has been depicted in
Flora Spiegelberg describes founding a non-sectarian school for girls
and establishing Children's Gardens in Santa Fe, and her sister Betty's
dramatic rescue of a slave girl who had been stolen from her plantation
by soldiers. Anna Solomon describes establishing a business providing
charcoal to a mining company and delivering it by ox teams. Rachel Calof
describes her first winter as a bride sharing a small home with her in-laws.
Anna Marks was a foul-mouthed gun-toting storekeeper.
How has this show changed your vision of the history of the American West?
Was it like what you imagined life was like then? What did you imagine?
Were women and children part of the frontier life you imagined? What about
Jews, African-Americans, Spanish-Americans or Asians, or the practice
When the women presented in these artworks were making their travels across
the Atlantic Ocean and across the United States to settle in the American
West, there were definite roles that women had in their families and in society.
The excerpts that appear on the artworks provide valuable information about
what it was like to be a woman during this period. Yet as the artist points
out, "In the early West, women were encouraged by their husbands to take on
new roles. It was important that women step out of what had been previously
understood as the feminine role. In the West, a woman didn't just work in
the family store, she often ran it."
- Expand understanding of how women played central roles in their families
in preserving ethnic and religious practices and assumed leadership roles
in forging multicultural communities on the Western frontier.
- Allow viewers to connect personally with these women's lives and the
strength of character that enabled them to endure danger and hardship.
- Allow viewers to consider attitudes and assumptions about women's roles
in society from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, as well as in contemporary
Focus on one or two works in the exhibit for an in-depth discussion of the
excerpts, such as the ones noted below, or select other quotes that would
be of particular interest to your group.
3) An Art Tour
- Keeping Kosher
Read Sophie Trupin's descriptions of her mother trying to keep a kosher
home and the family observing holy days and the Sabbath. Was it hard for
them to maintain these practices as pioneers in the West? Give specific
How did their practices differ from your own?
Consider Rachel Calof's description of her wedding. How old was she
when she got married? Describe some of Rachel's experiences as a new wife.
What were the living conditions like? Think about how the lack of privacy
affected her life.
Read Betty Spiegelberg's excerpts. What are some of the dangers
she describes? How did the women take care of each other and protect each
Anna Freudenthal Solomon and Sarah Thal both discuss the challenges of
motherhood that they faced while traveling to and living on the frontier.
Describe some of these challenges (e.g., childbirth, infant mortality).
How did the mothers take care of their families?
- Women's Responsibilities
In the "Old Country" Jewish people tended to live together in long-established
communities. The Jewish immigrants who traveled West often settled in
areas where their neighbors were not Jewish, and they needed to forge
new multi-cultural alliances and communities. Based on viewing all of
the artworks, cite examples of how women adapted to their new circumstances.
What traditional roles did they maintain and what new roles did they find?
How did they influence building their new frontier communities? How did
the women work together and help each other?
- Allow consideration of why the artist chose to combine quilting and
digital technology in these artworks and how the history of the quilt
relates to the history of women in this country.
- Allow consideration of how art can act as a catalyst for social change
and community building.
- Connect Kalinowski's art to the development of feminist art in the 1970s.
- The Traditional Quilt and Digital Technology
Andrea Kalinowski's work merges modern technology with the traditional art
form of quilting. By creating her artworks digitally and then hand-working
them, Kalinowski has created very modern manifestations of an age-old art.
There are parallels that can be drawn between the quilt, pieced and layered
together by hand, and the digital photograph, which is created through another
process of layering.
Point out the traditional quilt designs that Andrea Kalinowski uses in her
work. Discuss how these quilts differ from a traditional quilt. How has modern
technology affected the choices available to an artist? Why did she choose
to tell us about each of these women through a quilt, rather than some other
medium such as painting or sculpture?
- The Quilt as a Metaphor for Women's History
Quilts were among the valued objects that families brought with them in their
westward journey. They were used to line wagons for warmth and protection
and to wrap the dead for burial. They were also heirlooms and reminders of
personal family histories.
Up until the 1970s, the art world was more or less a man's world. Success
for a woman artist was usually hard won, and the exception to the rule. During
the 1970s, things began to change. With feminism and the women's movement
on the rise, many women artists began to delve into women's experience as
the subject of their art. They began the process of uncovering women's history
that is usually omitted from conventional historical accounts. They often
incorporated or referenced traditional handwork and domestic crafts that ordinary
women, usually anonymous, created within the confines of their socially defined
roles. Three important leaders in this art movement were Miriam Schapiro,
Judy Chicago, and Faith Ringgold.
Why do these artists feel that it is important that women today know about
the lives of women from the past? What statement are they making by incorporating
domestic crafts into works intended for art galleries and museums? Do you
have any keepsakes that are important to you, and what kind of meaning and
memories do they hold for you?
- The Quilt as a Metaphor for the Multiple Histories of the American West
Kalinowski's artworks add the element of personal history by incorporating
excerpts from journals and diaries and photographs of the women represented.
Historian Elizabeth Jameson notes "Patchwork becomes a precise metaphor for
the scraps of documents, letters, memoirs, and artifacts from which historians
now piece together the larger patterns of the women's lives."
Note the personal histories and narratives that are told through these quilts.
Discuss how artists tell stories through art, much the way a writer might
write a biography or autobiography about someone's life. Demonstrate how the
quilts communicate ideas through a combination of images and text. If the
traditional quilt is a symbol of personal narrative, Andrea Kalinowski's digital
renderings of the quilt more directly and visually communicate these narratives.
- The Quilt as a Representation of the Complex Cultural
Crossroads of the American West
Quilting has conventionally been an art practiced by women. Through social
interactions such as quilting bees, women have often created important bonds
with other women of their community. In this collaborative effort, each woman
contributes something to the end result. In this way, quilts often told stories
about communities as well as individuals.
Historian Elizabeth Jameson notes: "Jewish women's neighbors might include
Hopi, Lakota, Shoshone, and immigrants from Latin America, and Europe... Women's
daily work transplanted cultures, built the West's farms and businesses, founded
synagogues and churches, schools and libraries. They gleaned the time and
resources to build communities much as they quilted, in fragments, and collectively
with other women."
What are some other art forms that have been traditionally considered "women's
work" and why? Why was it so important for women to create a sense of community
on the frontier? Can you think of other activities that build ties between
people in a community? Why do people value communities? How do communities
help the individuals who make up that community?
- Quilting and Politics
Quilts have often been used to make social or political statements. For example,
during the period of slavery, quilts were used to indicate "safe houses" along
the Underground Railroad. During the temperance movement, quilts were used
as banners. And during the Civil War, quilting was used to raise money. More
recently, people have used the quilt to indicate a sense of community and
to raise awareness. For example, the AIDS quilt memorializes those who have
died from this disease. Its immense size reminds us of how serious AIDS is,
and how many people it has impacted. More recently, in the wake of the September
11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Oprah Winfrey's website
oxygen has started a Quote Quilt, which invites people to express their sorrow
and their thoughts, which are added to an online quilt.
There is a tradition of art whose purpose it is to promote social awareness
and change. Early precedents include the work of Kathe Kollwitz, the Mexican
Muralists, and the WPA artists, to cite but a few examples. Artists have been
an important part of protest movements including the anti-war movement during
the Vietnam era.
Discuss how these kinds of projects can increase awareness about social and
political issues, help change people's attitudes, help build a sense of community,
or help promote social change. What kinds of projects are there in your own
school or community that serve this purpose, such as mural projects?
1) Interview an older family member or neighbor to learn more about your family
or your community. Below are some questions you may wish to ask:
If family immigrated to the United States:
- When did our/your family first come to the United States?
- Do you know what their life was like before they immigrated?
- How did their life change when they came to this country?
If Native American:
2) Invite a speaker to share his or her personal story about immigrating to this
country. What was their life like in their homeland? Why did they decide to move?
What was their journey like? What were some of the specific things that were different
here than in their homeland? Have them recall some of the specific stories or
incidents about their immigration experience.
- How did your family's life change when the Europeans came to North
- Has your family maintained its traditional customs and beliefs?
- What is your earliest memory of our family or of our community?
- What was your daily routine like when you were my age?
- Have you always been able to live according to your beliefs and values?
- How would you summarize your beliefs and values?
- What are the biggest changes you have witnessed in your lifetime?
- What advice to you have for kids my age?
3) Make a quilt that tells your own story. Using a template of a traditional quilt
design, place a photograph of yourself at the center. Then add words or pictures
of people, places, or events that are important to you. You can write on your
quilt, or add stitching or collage elements that have been cut out of a magazine.
You can also add layers of images by drawing designs like those in Andrea Kalinowski's
quilts. When making your quilt, think about what you like to do, what things and
people and places are important to you, what your family's traditions are, etc.
When everyone has made their own quilt, connect them together to create a larger
quilt that tells stories about the entire class.
4) Choose one of the Jewish pioneers pictured in the quilts. Read about her life
in the excerpts. Think about what you know about her and what you don't know.
Write an essay about what you think her experience was like in the West. How was
her experience different from you own? Would you have liked to live when she did
or now? Are you inspired by her life? Do her experiences make you understand yourself
and your own history better?
5) Think about an object in your family that is symbolic, or has great importance
in your family. Ask family members about its history and what it represents to
each person. Why is it important? What does it symbolize? What meaning does it
hold for you? After learning the story about the object, do you look at it in
a different way? Think about what object someone from another society or culture
might consider important. Do they value their family heirloom like you do yours?
After you have gathered this information, write a short story about the object
and its importance in your family.
6) Imagine that you and your family are leaving your home tomorrow to emigrate
to another country. You can only bring what you can fit in one bag (a small suitcase,
a back-pack or a duffel bag). What would you bring with you? Think about what
you value and why as you are packing. Bring your bag to school and explain to
the class what you selected. What are the things that you wished you could bring
but could not because they would not fit?
7) Watch the movie How to Make an American Quilt. Discuss how quilting
brought the women together to form a community. What was the occasion that they
were making the quilt for? What did the women learn from each other, and why was
the gathering important to each woman? How did each woman stitch something about
herself and her personal story into the quilt for Finn? What did Finn learn from
the women from an earlier generation? How does quilting build community?
8) Think of an issue that is important in today's society, or an event or moment
you would like to remember or commemorate as a group or individually. Make a quilt
that pieces together your various thoughts about the issue(s) or event(s). What
would you like people to learn from this "issues quilt"? How will the quilt raise
9) Choose one of the books from the "Dear America" series. Read it and write a
book report to present to the class. As you are reading, consider some of the
following questions for your book report: What time period did the character live
in? What was happening then, and how did that shape the experience that the character
was writing about? Describe the personality of the character. Did he or she encounter
challenges that he or she had to overcome? What were they, and how did he or she
handle them? These books are written as if they were diaries. How did that affect
how you read the book and learned about the character? Did you relate at all to
the character? Can you think of any comparable experience today that is like what
your character went through? Put yourself in the shoes of the character. Write
a diary entry in the same style as how the character wrote, in a situation that
character might likely encounter during his or her lifetime. After each individual
book report, have the children compare and contrast the experiences of their chosen
10) Lead a class discussion about the broader theme of migration, not only as
it relates to Jewish immigration but worldwide. War, religious persecution, political
repression, poverty or natural disasters are just a few of the factors that might
cause people to uproot from their homes and move somewhere else. Of the estimated
more than 100 million migrants worldwide, statistics show that more than 26 million
are refugees who have been forced by politics or circumstance‹not of their own
choice‹to leave their homes. In being displaced from their familiar physical surroundings
and communities, people often are forced to leave behind families, possessions
and traditions as well. People often are able to maintain their traditions‹whether
religious or social customs‹in the face of such migrations, yet those traditions
are often transformed as people adapt to their new surroundings and neighbors.
11) Keep a journal for a month. In it, describe your daily routine, the experiences
you have and your reaction to them, and any observations you have about the society
you live in. Think about the things that you found interesting and important in
the first-hand accounts from the frontier that you have read. With this in mind,
include things in your journal that you think someone reading it 100 years from
now would find useful to understanding what it was like to be a young adult in
the United States in the early 21st century.