Gertrude Phin Ochs was born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was Gertrude's brother who introduced her to his friend, Jacob "Jack" Ochs, an American medical student in Scotland. On June 24, 1936 Gertrude married Jack.
Shortly after the birth of their first child, a daughter, Gertrude and Jack moved back to America. A son, Philip David was born in 1940. By the time her third child was born, Michael in 1943, Gertrude was thoroughly disenchanted with her husband and her life in the United States. Her current lifestyle was considerably more difficult then her comfortable life in Scotland had been and she blamed her husband.
In the meantime Jack Ochs had been drafted into the army. Gertrude and the children went to live with her in-laws which proved to be more unbearable than life with her husband. When her husband did return from the war he was a changed man: distinctly more remote and distant. He was institutionalized and diagnosed as a manic-depressive. This left the running of the family and the child-rearing almost entirely up to Gertrude.
It was Phil Ochs' mother who suggested he take music lessons. She also took charge of his education and she is responsible for his attending the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. But she wasn't a doter. Gertrude was initially opposed to Phil's desire to have plastic surgery to reduce the size of his nose. She eventually relented. She also opposed his decision to leave college to pursue a music career in New York.
Nevertheless, Gertrude Ochs stayed close to Phil and her other children. She attended Phil's solo debut at Carnegie Hall on January 7, 1966 as well as other of his performances.
On the afternoon of April 7, 1976 Phil Ochs went to visit his mother in Far Rockaway, New York. Together mother and son took a long walk by the beach. They talked extensively. According to one of Phil Ochs' biographers Gertrude "had not seen her son in such a peaceful state in a long time." Several hours later, Phil Ochs was dead. A victim of suicide.