Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homage to My Benefactors

Rebecca Goethe 17 years old, 1919, Nevers, France
photography unknown

Homage to My Benefactors
        You have arrived at the stage of life when it is necessary no longer to count on the devotion of fellowmen to provide for your needs. It is necessary now to work and not to be something useless and boring.  It is like this for everyone. While for a long time men and women are children and others protect them, what would happen to mankind if children would never become adults or would not wish to behave as adults?
Courage then little maid.   Do not let this name offend you.  That does not take anything away from your honor or your self-respect.
Sometimes it is better to be a “petite bonne,’’ a little maid, than a wealthy woman.  And you ought to have courage not only by simple duty but also by gratitude for those who have guided you along the way.  They are many already, those who have protected you and who extend still their goodwill upon you! Have for them a deep and grateful respect.  Besides this, honor and love God our eternal and sovereign protector. 
When you will raise thought toward Him humanity will seem to be more pure, the task less heavy – the way of duty clearly traced in the horizon of justice.  And to love God, it is to love that which is great, simple and virtuous; this is to think of others and to love them also!  When little and weak thus like a poor bird without feathers, you lived among strangers who did not know anything about your birth or even your name, they welcomed you and took care of you as one of theirs. 

Rebecca Goethe, Moiry, France circa 1918
Translation and Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, January 16, 2010, Brewster, Ma 02631, USA
 Editor’s note: This undated fragment was found among the letters written by my parents, Rebecca Goethe and Charles DeVries between 1919 and 1921.  This was probably written when Rebecca about age 16 or 17 when she had to leave her home to work.  She dreaded being farmed out to be a maid and she seems to be fortifying herself for the task.  Up to this time she had worked for her foster mother.  Every state child* had to go to work at age 13 but Madame Soupet, Rebecca's foster mother, had needed Rebecca to help her. Rebecca’s foster brother Robert was in the Army. Perhaps Mme Soupet did not want to let her go.  Records show that Madame Soupet paid wages for Rebecca to the state.  That money was then given to Rebecca as needed and perhaps became part of her dowry from the French Government when she was married. This piece had a more religious tone than often noted in her letters and Vignettes.

* Rebecca was “un enfant de l'assistance’’, a child of the state, abandoned in Paris at the Hospice of St Vincent de Paul as an infant of one month and 10 days.   She was left with a name, “Rebecca Goethe,’’ that she was “Israelite’’ and born in Platz, Russia on or about September 9, 1902.

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