Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?


twenty-ninth in 1945, and the thirtieth in 1946—of the Brooklyn Society of Artists at the Brooklyn Museum.

          In a 1946 newspaper clipping headlined “Critics Acclaim Boro Grandmother as Top Flight Surrealist Painter,” its unidentified author writes that “Mrs. Sobel, up to six years ago, was just a borough housewife, busy with an invalid mother and a big family, four sons and a daughter.”84 The reporter then misinforms us, saying that Mrs. Sobel “came to Brooklyn 40 years ago, at the age of 12. Mrs. Sobel, who now has five grandchildren, makes no secret of her age, tells it casuallybut doesn’t look within a good many years of the actual figure.”85

                Perhaps Mrs. Sobel told her age too casually (although, two years earlier, in her column “Only Human” in the Daily Mirror, Emily Cheney got it right when she wrote that “Janet Sobel has lived in Brooklyn 20 odd years”)86 or now was not very interested in conveying exact facts, or the reporter misunderstood what Mrs. Sobel had said. However, records do not seem to exist that make it possible to de-termine where in New York Janet Sobel lived when she arrived in the United States, and we are not sure that she arrived in the United States when she was twelve. If she was twelve, then she probably immigrated in late 1905 or in 1906, not in 1908. By 1910, however, she was living in Manhattan (see page 17) and lived there still on January 26, 1916, according to her husband’s Declaration of

Intention to become a citizen of the United States. By the time Max had filed his naturalization petition on May 19, 1922, he; his wife, Jennie; and their four oldest children were living in Brooklyn (in fact, the three oldest children, including a son Isidor, who, I discovered, was later named Stanley, were all born in Manhattan); the fourth child, Solomon, already mentioned here as Sol, was born in Brooklyn on April 24, 1920, which suggests that the Sobels had moved to Brooklyn before

Sol’s birth.

          When I first secured Janet and Max Sobel’s marriage certificate, I was led by it to assume that Janet’s father was at her wedding, since on it her father’s name is given as Bernard Wilson, and we have been told that Janet and her family were given the surname Wilson when they arrived at Ellis Island.87 It was not until I


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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg, 2009