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Honoring our three mothers

Anne Shaffer Meeropol, 1909 – 1973
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg, 1915 – 1953
Pauline Taube Diamond, 1918 – 2008

Robby and I have had three mothers, all born in New York, all gone now. Of course, I never met his birth mother; Ethel was executed when Robby was six. But Ethel lives in our family history and in my imagination. I’ve written poems, dramatic programs, and stories about her, trying to find my truth of the woman among the multitudes of others' journalistic and literary interpretations. Robby's adoptive mom, Anne, was the woman who raised him, who I met and loved as his mother. My own mother, dead four years now, returns to me in quick gestures and phrases – sometimes remembered but more often glimpsed in the mirror or heard from my mouth. I’m only now starting to be able to write about her, to transform her into fiction.

In our family, we don’t do the Hallmark holidays, but I can’t help thinking this weekend about these three women: Ethel, who died too young because she refused to name names and implicate her friends in McCarthy’s witch-hunt. Anne, who was an actress, a teacher, a singer – the first person to perform her husband’s song, Strange Fruit. Pauline, who taught chemistry and went back to school for her doctorate in her 50’s, afterwards insisting that people address her and her husband as Dr. and Mr. Diamond. Anne and Pauline only met at our wedding. Decades earlier, Ethel and Pauline knew each other slightly through friends and through their husbands’ union.

In a few minutes I'm off to participate in Northampton's Pride March. I'll be walking with my friends, and with the memory of these three women.
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