Who was Rosetta “Mother” Gaston?
Rosetta “Mother” Gaston (1885-1981) was a community activist “who devoted her life to community work and teaching Black children about their heritage.” She founded Heritage House for the young and old of the Brownsville community, located on the third floor of the Stone Avenue Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Born in a tenement, Ms. Gaston had to leave school and go to work at age 14. She worked at a department store as an elevator operator for four decades, during which time she also went to seminars at what is now known as the Association for Study of Afro-American Life and History.
Mother Gaston envisioned an educational and cultural center for young and old, which would spark individual and community achievements by focusing on a common heritage. In 1969 she started the Children’s Cultural Corner out of her home, where she organized small groups of youth into classes to learn about their ethnic histories, the arts, and the humanities. This laid the foundation for the Brownsville Heritage House on the second floor space above the Stone Avenue Branch Library. It was the fruition of a 50 year dream.
Mother Gaston at age 96 transitioned a month before the Heritage House opened it’s doors in March 1981. That same year Stone Avenue was renamed Mother Gaston Boulevard, which runs from Broadway to Linden Boulevard, covering the communities of Ocean-Hill and Brownsville. A bronze statue was also erected in her memory in Brownsville. Last year, Groundswell and Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District along with other community partners created a mural depicting the likeness of Mother Gaston on the prominent corner of Mother Gaston Boulevard and Pitkin Avenue.