Elsie Miller Legum
Infused with the centrality of family unity from an early age, Elsie Miller Legum was born the fifth of eleven children in 1915 in West Baltimore. At age seventeen, shortly after graduating from Western High School, Elsie eloped with Sidney Miller. She continued to live at home and date other boys until her "legitimate wedding" was openly celebrated over two years later. For many years, Elsie was kept busy by their four daughters, Phyllis, Carole, Joan and Margie, a large social circle, and volunteer work for many Jewish organizations. After the devastating loss of her husband, Elsie created a new life for herself, becoming the chief buyer for Miller Brothers, her family's women's clothing business. A unique family trust established by her parents ensures extended family presence at Passover seders, Hanukkah celebrations and an annual vacation/reunion. Elsie enjoyed a wonderful marriage to Aubrey Legum for over 20 years and, in the face of recent health challenges, continues to relish time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Elsie grew up in a big family, the fifth of eleven children. Her mother gave her many life lessons, but her upbringing was strict. Elsie noted the differences in how her father and mother parented and how her father treated the boys and girls in her family differently. Elsie traces her mother’s family’s immigration history and working life. She says there was an emphasis on family unity and Jewish education growing up. Elsie has fond memories of family seders, Shabbos, Jewish observance and education, and her father singing prayers at Shabbos or the holiday table. Elaine describes the neighborhoods and the homes where she grew up – on Hollins Street and Forest Park in Baltimore – and the different synagogues and shuls she attended. She was very aware of race, class, gender, and religious differences growing up. Elsie talks about the differences between East and West Baltimore at the time and over the years. Elsie has many memories of her grandmother, who owned the first mikveh in Baltimore. Elsie met Sidney Miller, a student at the University of Baltimore while attending Western High School, and they secretly eloped shortly after her graduation. Elsie was still living at home during the first years of their marriage. Elsie describes her father-in-law’s family furrier business, where Sidney worked after leaving college before graduating. She remembers her “public” wedding and how it took place during the Great Depression. Elsie worked for Miller Brothers after Sidney's death. Being busy at the store and connected to her husband's family business helped her cope with the loss of Sidney. It’s also where she met her second husband, Aubrey Legum, who was six years younger and had children of his own. After Sidney’s death, Elsie was busy raising her family and doing charity work. She talks about her courtship and marriage to Aubrey and how they adapted their lifestyles to one another. Elsie reflects on her many friendships and her family and the different ways they practice and identify with Judaism. Finally, Elsie says she doesn’t see herself as a leader, but her children do.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Elsie Miller Legum. Interviewed by Elaine Eff. 19 April 2001, 30 April 2001, 24 May 2001. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/legum-elsie>.
Oral History of Elsie Miller Legum by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.