Julia’s Bat Mitzvah

Focusing on Prayer

Lacemaking Gives Clues about Penina Moise

You can learn a lot about someone from learning about the things that they did. Penina Moise wrote poems and songs and taught other people. She made some money from her poetry. But she made most of her money to support her family from lacemaking. I wanted to learn more about lacemaking to learn more about what Penina Moise did and how she did it. I wanted to find out if she made bobbin lace or other kinds of lace. I asked Anita Moise Rosenberg, who is the great-great-niece of Penina Moise, if anyone knew about her lacemaking or if there were any things made by Penina Moise that I could see. Mrs. Rosenberg said that she did not know about this. But I still wanted to know about the lacemaking.

There are not many clues about how Penina Moise made lace. There are two sentences in the book Secular and Religious Works of Penina Moise with Brief Sketch of her Life, Compiled and Published by Charleston Section, Council of Jewish Women, published in Charleston, South Carolina in 1911.

“She was always nearsighted, but possessed powerful vision and worked exquisitely in all the fashionable laces and embroideries of the day. Doubtless such practices, more than any other, injured and finally destroyed her sight.”

I remember that Aunt Carol explained that making lace does not make a person go blind. To find out more about how Penina Mosie made lace, I sent an e-mail to the Chesapeake Region Lace Guild. The very nice people there put me in touch with Mary Lou Kueker, who is the Archivist and lace historian for the Chesapeake Region Lace Guild. Mrs. Kueker came to my house on July 11th. She brought with her many books about lacemaking and how people made lace in the 1800s, which is when Penina Moise made lace. Mrs. Kueker showed me pictures of women wearing clothes and hats trimmed with lace. They also wore short gloves that covered your wrists but not over your fingers. These gloves were also made of lace.

Mrs. Kueker also showed me how a special kind of lace was made on net.

She made a heart outline with a needle weaving in and out of the net. We used cotton thread. When we weave the thread in and out it makes loops and lines and zigzags. All together this makes lace, if you are patient and you also if you follow the holes and do it the right way. You can work from a diagram that you hold under the lace net. There is also a way to do this with a crochet hook. You pull the hook down through one of the holes in the net and then you bring the thread around on the crochet hook and bring it up through the holes. My mother tried to do this and she knows how to crochet but it was very difficult for her to do because she didn’t know how to do it and she messed it up because she never did it with a net before. It was very nice of Mrs. Kueker to do all of this with us.

Mrs. Kueker also brought lace to show me that was from the 1800s at the time Penina Moise would have made lace. She showed me a bonnet veil with beautiful little flowers woven into it. I can imagine the conversations that would have happened behind that veil, the lady that might have worn it. She also showed me fine crocheted lace. This is also called Irish Crochet because it started in Ireland and was made there for a long time.

I learned that lace is very hard to make. It takes a long time and a lot of patience and a lot of hard work. The people who made the lace did not wear it. Rich people wore it, rich people who didn’t work so the lace wouldn’t get all dirty. The poor people made lace for the rich people, who had servants or slaves to do all the work for them. I remember seeing the slave quarters at the Aiken-Rhett house in Charleston. The slaves lived in the building in back of the house. The rich people lived inside the house with the marble stairs and the big paintings. The rich people wore lace. Maybe Penina Moise made that lace.

Learning about lacemaking teaches me about Penina Moise. She had to be patient and work hard to make lace. She also had to work hard to write beautiful poems and learn about all the things she wrote about. It felt good to try to make lace the way Penina Moise probably did. I feel I understand more about her because I tried to do what she did. I wish I could see her make lace and how she did it and see what she made. But I got very close. Thank you Mrs. Kueker.

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7 Responses to “Lacemaking Gives Clues about Penina Moise”

  1. Elaine L. Meltzer

    Dear Julia,
    The information that you, through your curiosity and hard work have discovered, is teaching us so much about Penina Moise, her character, and her man accomplishments.
    Each new fact fills in more of the picture of Penina Moise.

    You are doing a great job, Julia.


  2. Elaine L. Meltzer

    Dear Julia,
    This is a very well-thought-out entry in your research on Penina Moise You have written some excellent observations on her character and accomplishments. Her work tells us so much about who she was.

    Keep up the good work.


  3. gwenn

    hi julia,

    this is ‘great-cousin’ gwenn checking in to say you’ve done beautiful work with your topic. you should be very proud of what you have accomplished.
    in peace,
    🙂 gwenn

  4. gwenn

    …p.s. it’s with lots of love too..

  5. Karen Meltzer

    Dear Julia,

    Thank you for enlightening me about lace – how it’s made and it’s history. Perhaps you have found a new hobby in lacemaking.

    I am your mother’s cousin. I live in New York City. I am unable to attend your Bat Mitzvah, but I would like to have another chance to meet you someday.

    Enjoy yourself at your celebration and congratulations on your new book.


    Karen Meltzer

  6. Mrs. Somlo

    Dear Julia, What a pretty name for a pretty young woman! I read the very interesting article about you and your family, and your book in the Jewish Observer newspaper here in DeWitt, N.Y. where I live. I know your Bubby, and your Aunt Marna because I have a son who went to school with Aunt Marna. I also went to your website to read more about you and your book. Congratulations on your wonderful book, and for writing it after all that hard research. I am sure everyone is very proud of you, and all your effort! And belated congratulations on your Bat Mitzvah! Mrs. Somlo

  7. barrie

    hi. you wrote a book.it is a good book.

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