Caroline Doebele Littlefield (1884-1957): Catherine’s mother


Known affectionately as Mommie, Caroline was the center of the Littlefield universe.  She inspired and encouraged her students, shared their intrigues and romances and thrived on the frenetic pace of the studio.  Her children, in particular, drew on her energy and unflagging support.  Caroline was raised by her German grandmother, who provided piano lessons but discouraged her youthful interest in dance.  After marrying James (Big Jim) Littlefield at age 20, Caroline indulged her theatrical ambitions.  During World War I, Big Jim joined the YMCA effort in Europe, leaving his young wife to raise their four rambunctious children by herself for a period.  A job in a dry goods store led to her teaching dance for a women’s music club, which in turn led to an appointment as ballet mistress for a local opera company.  She established a studio in the city and produced shows for theaters, clubs and charity events.  As her daughters developed into accomplished performers, Caroline took them to Paris each summer to study classical ballet with the expatriate Russian teachers, primarily Egorova.  By the late 1920s, Caroline ceded choreography to Catherine but continued to accompany on the piano, teach and direct in smaller venues.  Dancers fondly recalled her sense of humor and mischief, and most of all the glorious music she played.  For decades she staged shows in Catholic schools throughout New Jersey and formed close relationships with the nuns there, which endured until her death.  She was creative, resilient, ambitious and fiercely protective of her children.  The great tragedy of her life was that she outlived all but one of them.

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