Women's Auxiliary begins hosting Aunt Minnie luncheon

Women's Auxiliary begins hosting Aunt Minnie luncheon

April, 1941: The Women's Auxiliary begins hosting a Washington tradition, the spring birthday luncheon honoring Aunt Minnie Goldsmith

April, 1941

Centennial, Chron., HH begins hosting Aunt Minnie

The Women's Auxiliary begins to host the annual birthday party honoring Aunt Minnie Goldsmith, one of the Home's founders.

"Aunt Minnie" was born on April 19, 1871, in her family home, at 621 E. Street, NW in Washington, one of 15 children born to Gustave Lansburgh of Hamburg, Germany, and Louisa Himmelrich of Baltimore, Maryland. In the span of a century, Minnie Lansburgh Goldsmith became a legend in her own time, and her charitable work earned her honors, accolades, and the admiration of an entire community. Although her “finger was in every pie,” according to a Jewish Historical Society publication, she once told a friend, “My favorite charity is, was, and always will be the Hebrew Home for the Aged.” 

In 1922, she raised $88,000 in 88 minutes to open the fund drive for building the Spring Road facility, and she became the first president of the Women’s Auxiliary. But her best-known event was her annual birthday luncheon.   

“Every April, Aunt Minnie, who now is a Washington tradition, raises funds for the Hebrew Home for the Aged,” reported the Evening Star.  “She simply invites all of Washington to her benefit birthday party.”  The Women’s Auxiliary began hosting these birthday luncheons in 1941.  In 1955, the birthday party drew 1,200 guests to the Willard Hotel, the largest luncheon crowd that hotel had ever served.  “So many people crowded into the Willard’s ballroom the waitresses couldn’t walk between tables, and plates were passed hand-to-hand by the lunchers,” according to a newspaper account.

Aunt Minnie attended until 1963, when at 92, she was no longer able to come. She spent the last eight years of her life as a resident of the Home she had so energetically supported. The annual luncheon has continued in her honor, and the event is at least 69 years old (as of 2010). Over the years, the event has featured cartoonist Al Capp, columnist Ann Landers, the National Ballet, Opera Society of Washington, comedienne Joan Rivers, writer Nora Ephron, Miss America Bess Myerson, and authors and elegant fashion shows. 

 

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