7: Tambourine, Betsy Teutsch's "Queen Esther the Riveter," circa 2007.
Betsy Teutsch is an artist specializing in Judaica and Hebrew calligraphy. She has created several designs of tambourines in homage to the prophetess Miriam, who is said to have played the instrument as she led Israelite women in dance after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds described in the Book of Exodus. This tambourine presents an image of Rosie the Riveter as Queen Esther (or, perhaps, of Queen Esther as Rosie the Riveter). The borrowed illustration of Rosie the Riveter (a symbol of the women who worked in factories producing arms, munitions, and vehicles for the war effort) was an icon of American women’s patriotism during World War II. It was created through a government campaign aimed at recruiting female workers, and has since become a cultural icon of the American feminist movement and a symbol of women’s strength and determination. By depicting Rosie the Riveter as Queen Esther, Teutsch draws attention to the boldness and courage of the figure of Esther, while also criticizing more traditional, passive, or domestic takes on the character of Esther.
Suggested Activity: Invite your students to create their own portrait or collage merging a modern figure or role model with the image of Esther. What value is there in this kind of overlaying of icons? How does the process impact our understanding both of the contemporary woman and of Esther? For each figure chosen by a student, consider which aspects of Esther, and of the figure, are highlighted or complicated or celebrated by the merging?
Students may also be asked to caption their image with a relevant verse from the Book of Esther (whether in Hebrew or a language of translation), possibly adapted to their take on the character, as Teutsch has done. She captions her image with an adaptation of a quotation appearing in Esther 6:9 and 6:11, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor." Haman proposes that princes of the realm proclaim this statement before him as he parades on horseback through the capital city, but he instead is forced to proclaim it before Mordecai as the latter is given that honor. In Teutsch's adaptation, the verse becomes, "Thus shall the queen do who delighteth to honor her People." Students can consider how Teutsch has changed the original verse and why.
Source: Betsy Teutsch, "Queen Esther the Riveter" tambourine, circa 2007. Reproduced with permission from Betsy Teutsch.