Malva Andre

Malva Andre (1889-1959) was the daughter of a Jewish dressmaker/herbal medicine-maker from Bohemia and a Roman Catholic artist from the South Tyrol. Her nomadic parents lived in Heidelberg, Germany at the time of her birth; four years later the family immigrated to the US, settling in Chicago. Growing up in a creative environment, Andre learned artistic and vocational skills from both of her parents. As a single mother raising three children, she used those skills as well as inner strength to survive despite a physical disability which grew worse with each year.

Though she held a day-job as a stenographer, Andre painted and wrote poetry (including published works). Besides taking the stage at poetry readings, she organized cultural events for Chicagoans for many decades. She was an active supporter of veterans and Native Americans and staged benefit shows to raise funds for them. Deeply committed to helping the disabled, Andre helped organize the Illinois chapter of the Shut-In Society and founded the Iola Cheer Club, a source of joy for scores of individuals in hospitals, orphanages and settlement houses.

Why this stop? As a child and then again as a single mother, Andre lived in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood near the Green Line Austin stop.

Get involved—Neither the National Shut-In Society nor the Iola Cheer Club exist today but there still are plenty of lonely people in need of encouragement and joy. You might know one of them personally—perhaps a relative or neighbor. Give them a phone call; send a card. How might you use your vocational skills to enliven the lives of homebound folks? Think about it…

Connect—Andre’s artist father specialized in religious art and used family members as models for his paintings. Little Malva can be seen holding a lamb in the nativity painting at Nativity of Our Lord Church in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Go to Notre Dame of Chicago Church (near Southwest Side/University Village) and look up at the dome and you’ll see teenage Malva (in blue) as Mary, Mother of Jesus.