Etta Wedell Mastbaum’s collection of sculptures, letters, and memorabilia of Auguste Rodin helped preserve the artist’s work for generations to enjoy. In 1904 she married Jules E. Mastbaum, who owned a chain of movie theaters across the East Coast. Twenty years later, while travelling in Europe, the couple fell in love with Rodin’s work and began collecting sculptures, drawings, books, and letters he had crafted at each stage of his career to create a full picture of his life and work, one of the largest such collections in the world. The French government allowed them to take these works out of the country on the condition that they would be displayed to the public, so the couple created a lavish museum in Philadelphia. While Jules died suddenly in 1926, before it was complete, Etta Mastbaum opened the museum in 1929. The couple had previously donated funds to repair Rodin’s house and studio, and Etta was decorated by the French government for her work in honoring the sculptor. After her husband’s death, Mastbaum ran his business, served as an executive of Lit Brothers—a department store her mother and uncles had founded in Philadelphia—and ran several local charities.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Etta Wedell Mastbaum." (Viewed on December 10, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/mastbaum-etta>.