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Altman and Spiewak Family Papers

Identifier: P-831

Scope and Content Note

This collection chronicles the Altman and Spiewak families, specifically through the lens of their daughter, Barbara Altman Spiewak. Included in this collection are baby albums, programs of dance recitals, yearbooks and a diploma, family photographs, and an autobiography written by Barbara Altman Spiewak. Additional materials in this collection include Frank Altman’s Navy certificates, materials referencing Stanley Altman, and a biography of Philip Spiewak (Barbara’s father-in-law), written by Philip’s son, Robert.


  • undated, 1920-1985


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact

Biographical Note

Frank Altman (June 25, 1897-October 13, 1990)

Frank Altman (FA) was born on June 25, 1897 in Newark, New Jersey to Nathan and Fanny Altman. When FA was a child, the family moved to Boston, where Nathan owned a grocery store. A veteran of World War I, FA enlisted in the Navy on August 12, 1918 as an Electrician/Landsman, and was discharged from active duty as a Landsman/Aviation/ Quartermaster in Charlestown, South Carolina on October 7, 1918. On June 15, 1920, he married Ethel Task in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In the first years of their marriage, Frank worked as a mechanic with Ford Motor Company, until his father-in-law helped him acquire a garage in Brookline, which operated until 1929. He then went to work for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as an insurance agent until his retirement at age 65. During World War II, Frank served as a Technical Sergeant in the 3rd Battalion Headquarters, 26th Infantry of the State Guard of Massachusetts. An active member of Temple Mishkan Tefila and later, Temple Emeth, Frank also volunteered for the Jewish Memorial Hospital. FA died on October 13, 1990.

Ethel Task Altman (October 7, 1898-May 1982)

Ethel Task Altman (ETA) was born in the South End of Boston on October 7, 1898. Her father, Phillip, was a Russian immigrant, and her mother, Mamie, was from Poland. Phillip Task owned a Tailor’s shop on Washington Street in Boston with his father and brother. ETA was a high school and business school graduate. She was an active volunteer with the City of Hope organization, the American Jewish Congress, and the Sisterhood of Temple Emeth. ETA died in May 1982.

Barbara Altman Spiewak (February 11, 1923-November 9, 2005)

Frank and Ethel’s daughter, Barbara Altman Spiewak (BAS), was born on February 11, 1923. As a child, her family moved from Dorchester, Massachusetts to Roxbury, Massachusetts, where she attended the William Lloyd Garrison Grammar School. BAS graduated from the Girls’ Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts in 1940, and went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Library Science from Simmons College, graduating in 1944. Her first job was the Boston Public Library, and in 1946 she became the assistant librarian at the Simmons School of Social Work. Later librarian positions included those at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Beth Israel Hospital, Grahm Junior College and Forsyth Dental School. After a brief courtship, BAS married Murray Spiewak (1906-1985) on December 10, 1972. They had no children together, although Murray had children from his first marriage. BAS died in 2005.

Stanley Altman (January 13, 1927-November 24, 1956)

FA and ETA’s son Stanley (SA) was born on January 13, 1927. He graduated from Boys’ Latin School in Boston and later from Bowdoin College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1947. SA died suddenly from a heart condition while studying Judaic Studies as a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City in 1956.


  1. Materials from the collection.


June 25, 1897
Frank Altman (FA) born in Newark, New Jersey, to Nathan and Fanny Altman.
October 7, 1898
Ethel Task [Altman] (ETA) born in the South End of Boston to Philip and Mamie Task.
August 12, 1918
FA enlists in the United States Navy.
October 7, 1918
FA discharged from the United States Navy.
June 15, 1920
FA and ETA marry.
February 11, 1923
Barbara Altman [Spiewak] (BAS) born.
January 13, 1927
Stanley Altman (SA) born.
BAS graduates from Girls’ Latin School, Boston, Massachusetts.
BAS graduates from Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts.
SA graduates from Bowdoin College.
November 24, 1956
SA dies while studying at Columbia University in New York City.
December 10, 1972
BAS marries Murray Spiewak.
May 1982
ETA dies.
Murray Spiewak dies.
October 13, 1990
FA dies.
November 9, 2005
BAS dies.


0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)


The Altman and Spiewak Family Papers primarily document the Altman family of Boston through the lens of Barbara Altman Spiewak. Frank and Ethel Task Altman raised their children, Barbara and Stanley, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Barbara was a graduate of Simmons College and was a librarian in the Boston area. This collection includes Frank Altman’s Navy records, baby books, yearbooks, family photographs and a memoir written by Barbara Altman Spiewak. It also includes a memoir written by Robert Spiewak about Phillip Spiewak, Barbara’s father-in-law.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Barbara Altman Spiewak.

Processing Information

Processed by Mary Chen and Stephanie Call, 2012

Guide to the Altman and Spiewak Family Papers, P-831
Processed by Mary Chen and Stephanie Call
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States