Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?


would support the conclusion that she was born in 1893.96 Despite these pieces of evidence, Gail Levin and Gary Snyder have not revised their texts saying that Janet Sobel was born in 1894.

         In her Social Security application, Sobel also wrote that her employer was Sobel Brothers, Inc., at 400 Barclay Street in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (when her husband, Max, died, he was president of the company). Janet Sobel’s obituary described her position further, stating that at her death Mrs. Sobel “was vice president and a director of Sobel Brothers, Inc., costume jewelers of Perth Amboy.”97 Deborah A. Goldberg further elaborated on Janet Sobel’s contribution to her family’s business, saying that Mrs. Sobel helped “to coordinate the design and color of new lines of jewelry.”98

         Although the discovery of Janet Sobel’s Social Security application and other public documents has added useful details to her history, I believe that until some-  one can unearth her immigration records, it will probably be almost impossible to give a more reliable account of her early life. Despite her slippage from most of the art world’s collective memory after the mid-1940s, Sobel’s art is now deservedly receiving new critical attention that, hopefully, will not dissipate as quickly as it did in the past. It would be a pity if her artistic achievements and vital life story were now undermined by her implausibly being declared the victim of gender bias or by a too-vigorous sales campaign and its fragile scholarly underpinnings.

        While putting this essay on-line without the benefit of adequate reproductions of Sobel’s art was not how I had intended to publish it, I concluded that only by making my research available here without further delay could I effectively chal-lenge the too-quickly-assumed veracity of those who have been authorized to speak for her and, in doing so, I would help to illuminate who Janet Sobel truly was.                   


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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg, 2009

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