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For better or worse—and usually for the better—mothers are the individuals who have the greatest influence over our early lives. Anna Rosenbaum had a mixed influence on her famous daughter Ayn Rand. Ayn was born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905 to a middle-class Jewish family. The family found its future and fortunes destroyed by the 1917 Communist Revolution. Fortunately, young Ayn was able to escape and make her way to America, leaving behind a repressive dictatorship and a collectivist culture that oppressed individualism.
What do we know about the mother whom Ayn left behind?
1) Anna Rosenbaum has been described as a graceful and pretty woman. She loved to host parties and dinners for middle-class elites, often with musical entertainment.
2) But Anna was a social climber, excessively concerned about status and the opinions of others.
3) Anna had a domineering personality and was the mover and shaker in the family.
4) Anna would urge Ayn to try to get along with others for the sake of getting along, even if it meant Ayn had to pretend, something Ayn was never wont to do.
5) Anna had religious inclinations, in sharp contrast to the secular soul that Ayn had from her earliest days.
6) Anna didn’t take much interest in politics until the Communists took over Russia, which made the evils of unbridled political power impossible to ignore.
7) But Anna wrote to Ayn, then living in America, that every individual “is an architect of his own fortune” as well as “the maker of his own happiness.” Anna expressed a desire to visit the promised land to which her daughter had fled.
8) Ayn apparently modeled some of her negative characters on her mother. In We, the Living, for example, the mother of the heroine, Kira, bore an unmistakable resemblance to Anna at her worst.
Barbara Branden quotes Ayn Rand saying about her mother, “I disliked her quite a lot. We really didn't get along. She was my exact opposite, and I thought so in childhood and now.”
Ayn was able to reject the negative characteristics of her mother, Anna. But when Ayn was spiritually starved in Soviet Russia, she asked her mother do everything possible to get her out of the country and to America. Her mother threw herself into the enterprise, no doubt suspecting that she might never see her daughter again.
So we can at least thank Anna for saving her daughter from a likely death in a totalitarian hell and giving the world Ayn Rand!