Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Esther Field


Born on 6 March 1890 in Warsaw, Poland. Her father was the owner of a tavern, as well as a prayer leader, who used to sing with a chorus. F. began to sing even as a child of four in children's concerts. She worked with her father, and after her marriage she moved with her husband to London, England, where she performed in Yiddish vaudeville. In 1910 she came to her family in Chicago, America, and through the actor Weinstock was taken in to the chorus in Glickman's Theatre during the performances of Regina Prager, remaining in the chorus and receiving small roles during the guest-appearances of her kinsmen Boaz Young and Clara Young, and also acted in "Damaged Goods" by Brieux with the guest-starring Keni Lipzin and other guest-stars. Then she began to perform in vaudeville (together with Ethel Dorf) as "The Field Sisters" in individual numbers, and in duets, and had an opportunity to act in a production with Berta Kalich in St. Louis.

F. acted for twelve years in Chicago with Adolf Gertner, earlier in vaudeville, later in shortened plays and then in legitimate repertoire, together with Muni Weisenfreund (Paul Muni), Paulina Hofffman, Abe Dorf, Gertler, Henig and with the late playwright Louis Freiman and S. H. Kon, as well as with guest-stars. Then she was engaged for a season in Toronto to the Germans as a character actress (with Menasha Skulnik as the comic), a season in Cleveland (with Mr. and Mrs. Ferkauf, Ethel and Abe Dorf, Sam Gerstanzang and Dina Feinman), as well as with the guest-starring Max Gabel and Rudolf Schildkraut ("Sara" in "God of Vengeance") and Blank, in Philadelphia,


 under the management of Mike Thomashevsky and the direction of Max Rosenthal and Louis Birnbaum and finished with the guest-starring Boris Thomashevsky and Regina Zuckerberg in Cleveland, under the direction of Novikov and Baratz (with Henrietta Schnitzer as the main role-player), and mid-season she was called on to act in Brooklyn's "Liberty" Theatre with Anshel Schorr.

In 1926 F. was taken in as a member of the Hebrew Actors' Union and was engaged for Boston to the Hollanders, where she acted for a season and then travelled across the province to act with Leon Blank. From there a season in Detroit under the direction of Sam Auerbach and Sadie Shoengold and later with guest-stars, then a week in Toronto under the direction of Dubinsky, Wolf Goldfaden and Mae Simon and finally with guest-stars, such as Pesach'ke Burstein  and Betty Frank, Moishe Oysher and Florence Weiss et al, further a season in Detroit under the direction of Littman and in Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre under the direction of Gruber, and she made a home in New York.

Through Sholom Secunda F. was brought onto the radio, and the first song that she had sung, "Machitenesta," had evoked so much interest that she became popular in the span of this one performance. In the beginning F. sang under the name "The Jewish Kate Smith," but soon her professional name was changed to "The Yiddish Mame," and in the span of ten years she was often a guest on the Yiddish radio in New York and in concerts, performing as an actress only during the 1940 season in the "Folks" Theatre in Rumshinsky's operetta, "Ven di zun geyt oyf (Sunrise)."

F. performed in the main roles in the films "Eli Eli" by Izidor Frankel, and "Hayntike mames (Mothers of Today)" by Simon Wolf.

F.'s son is a violinist.

F. also recorded several Yiddish songs, and she especially had success with the song "Machitenesta," which was sold in very great numbers.

On 27 March 1946 F. passed away in New York and came to her eternal rest in the society plot of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance at Mt. Hebron [Cemetery].

Zalmen Zylbercweig portrays her as such:

"Her name, 'Yiddish Mame," had fit her very well, because she did not have, as a rule, the appearance of an actress, but as a simple Jewish woman. She spoke as a unpretentious [heymish] woman, but had barely took to singing; she literally had everyone charmed. Her voice, which in her youth was a soprano, was an alto, a deep-breast tenor together with a higher tenor, which passed for a soprano. However, when singing, she not only employed her natural talent; her voice became absorbed into her heart. When she used to sing a Yiddish song, especially a mother's song, she grabbed the listener, and there weren't any signs of the great success that she has had over the course of years, particularly by women of a middle age."

Sh. E. and M. E. from her husband and son.

  • Boaz Young -- "Mayn lebn in teater," N. Y., 1950, p. 18.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2243.

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