The Gumpertz and the Baldizzi family. As
The Tenement Museum The Tenement Museum is prestigious for its fine architecture and history that continues to relive itself. The tours of the museum show the lives of the people who once lived inside the tenements.
The tours educate the visitors on historical events and display a museum unlike any other. The following essay will incorporate my experience at the museum along with the stories of the families that once dwelled in these tenements and lived during a time of economic struggle. In the nineteenth century, families of all different kinds of races resided in tenements.The tenements I will be writing about are located on 96 Orchard Street in the lower east side of New York City. Every room tells a remarkable story of the lives of many who endured struggle and the means of survival. In this specific tenement, we as visitors were given a tour of two particular families who dwelled here all those years ago. The two families were known as the Gumpertz and the Baldizzi family.
As you will read, the lives of these families are great examples of how hard it was to survive, with the difficulties of providing basic needs for the family.It was the late 1800’s and the Gumpertz family consisted of Julius Gumpertz (father), Nathalie Gumpertz (mother), and their children. The family was living in a 3 room apartment, which consisted of one bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room.
Like other families who lived in a one bedroom apartment, they struggled. The lack of space, food, and money, made their living situation very challenging. At any given time, the apartment would be without heat or water, making it a daily struggle to survive without these essential items functioning.Apart from these inconsistencies, there were also trust issues that also categorize the daily struggle of those dwelling in these tenements.
For example, Nathalie would hang dry the family’s clothing inside their apartment so that it would not be stolen by any of the local people since they had little clothing to wear. During each tour, we were given a brief telling of how these families lived on a daily basis. Nathalie was a stay at home mom who cared for the children while the Julius worked.Julius worked long hours of the day and would go to the local bar located in the basement area of the tenement after work.
One day however, as Nathalie was waiting at home, she became worried as Julius had not returned home from work. Julius was always home by sunset, but this time, Julius was not there. Nathalie went down to the bar to see if Julius was there. The owner of the bar stated that he saw Julius heading off to work in the morning, but has not seen him since. Unfortunately, this would be the last time anyone saw Julius, as he never returned home and his whereabouts were never discovered.For the sake of the family and for herself, Nathalie knew that she had to find a way to work and support her children without Julius. Nathalie’s skills in sewing inspired her to turn the living room, into a small garment shop.
With Nathalie’s skills in sewing, she made dresses for other German women in the neighborhood. Nathalie survived these rough times with determination and hard work and was able to be the sole provider for her children. After living a life of unexpected events, such as her husband’s disappearance, Nathalie’s life took yet another turn.However, this time it was a positive turn. Years after Julius’ disappearance, Nathalie was sent a letter that stated that she inherited $600 from her husband.
Julius Gumpertz was never found and the family used the money to move to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. After years of hard work, Nathalie Gumpertz was extremely fortunate to receive this inheritance check. However, many families did not receive this same fortune when they were abandoned by the male figures and main providers in the home.
To protect these families, a law was passed in 1935 called the Law of Aid to Dependent Children.This law enabled states to aid needy children without fathers. “There were several motivations for the program: to keep families together, to keep mother’s at home to raise their children and to keep children out of orphanages; to prevent children’s inadequate supervision and potential delinquency; and to limit the paid labor of the children and their parents” (Dolgoff, R. & Feldstein, D. , 2007, p. 97). Certain eligibility requirements were necessary to receive this grant, but Nathalie for example, would have qualified because she was a single mother with children.
Apart from the Gumpertz family, we were also introduced to the story of a family called the Baldizzi’s. The Baldizzi family lived in the tenement from 1928 to 1935. Life during the Great Depression was not easy, but the family was able to make a comfortable home at 97 Orchard Street.
Although Adolfo (father) and Rosaria (mother) left their country of Italy for a better life in the United States, Adolfo struggled to find a job and Rosaria supported the family by working at a garment factory. Unfortunately, Rosaria had to quit when the job became a threat to the family’s benefits.Adolfo was trained as a woodworker in Italy so whenever he was faced with unemployment, he would walk the up and down Orchard Street in hopes of securing odd jobs with his skills in carpentry. Thankfully, Rosaria found work lining coats in a garment factory. Rosaria later quit because the job threatened her family’s Home Relief benefits.
Adolfo and Rosaria lived with their two children Josephine and Johnny. As I was on the tour, the tour guide played a cassette of Josephine’s voice describing life back in the late 1920’s-early 1930’s. Josephine remembers her childhood life during the depression-era very well.Josephine speaks of helping her mother clean around the house and iron. The family’s bond included sitting around the kitchen table and playing card games and riddles. Josephine also remembers the family’s ritual of watching and listening to Italian soap operas and singers on the radio. During the mid-1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia cleaned New York’s slums and tenement buildings.
Due to a high rise in renovations, landlords, including the owner of 97 Orchard Street, evicted their tenants. In 1935, no one lived in theses apartments. The Baldizzis found a temporary home located on the Lower East Side and then later relocated to Brooklyn.Josephine married and had two children. Though she still lived in Brooklyn, Josephine often returned to the Lower East Side to shop on Orchard Street. For Josephine and for the visitors, such as myself, who continue to relive the memories of these families, it will be a longtime of unforgettable events. New York is known for high buildings and wondering sites, but the tenement museum reminds people of another New York that was different in its own way.
Since the 1970’s, poverty laws have been made. Most of the laws were made after the focus of poverty in the 1930’s.Of the many laws there was the “The Supplementary, Security Income program (1972), which replaced the former state-run old age assistance, aid to the blind, and aid to the permanently disabled programs, Title XX of the Social Security Act (1975) was enacted to give more flexibility to the states in designing their social service programs, and The Comprehensive Employment and Train ing Act (1974) and the Special Supplemental Food Program (Women, Infants and Children WIC (1972) provided food assistance and nutritional screening to low-income pregnant and postpartum women and their infants, as well as to low- income children p to 5 years of age” (Dolgoff, R.
& Feldstein, D. , 2007, p. 95). These laws helped improve family survival in the 1970’s and the present. The importance of social work then and now helps families with their needs such as, food, shelter, and clothing. We owe these changes to laws and programs that help better our society.
Laws, such as the Freedmen’s Bureau has helped provide aid to individuals who are in need. “The Freedmen’s Bureau was family centered.Designed to minimize the social upheaval of the war and the stressful emancipation of enslaved persons, the Freedmen’s Bureau offered-in contemporary terms-child welfare services, income maintainance, medical care, work projects, government housing, provision for the aged and infirm, employment counseling, family location, marriage counseling, legal aid, assistance with resettlement, protective services, and education” (Dolgoff, R. & Feldstein, D. , 2007, p. 301).
There are different programs, such as catholic charities and housing subsidy, which help with rental assistance and other needs that give families the opportunity to stay united. One of the most successful macro systems in New York City today is the Administration for Children’s Services which continues to help countless children from being neglected and/or abused by providing services that prevent the mistreatment of children. Bibliography Dolgoff, R. & Feldstein, D.
(2007). Understanding Social Welfare A Search for Social Justice, United States of America: Pearson Education, Inc.