The Color of Water

Was Ruth’s Mameh a good mother? What did Ruth learn from her parents that helped her become the woman she became and a good mother?

Mameh - Mother

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A Polish Orthodox Jew crippled by polio as a child, Mameh (or Hudis Shilsky) was a gentle and good Jewish wife. She bore her husband, Fishel, one son and two daughters, and never learned to speak English, even though she lived in America for many years. Mameh passed away shortly after Ruth (or Rachel) left for New York. Mameh tried hard to balance out the harshness of her husband. She was really the only family member Ruth was fond of. Still Memeh was a realist and no pushover. Memeh kept close watch over Ruth and her younger sister Gladys. Whe two sailors come into the store offering to show the girls their boats, Mameh says "No thank you." Mameh is no fool. She knows that young men, sailors in particular, are interested in much more than showing a ship to two young girls. Memeh conducted herself with grace and dignity, bearing her husband's infidelity and wrath like a martyr.