On this Mother’s Day 2012 my thoughts have turned to the women in our families who were not mothers.
Today motherhood is a choice, many women both married and unmarried live fulfilling lives without children, but what about our ancestors. In the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth marriage was the norm and children were Social Security. For women without children the end of life was often difficult. I like to find the stories of these women in our past and be sure that they are remembered
Here are two very different stories from my husband’s side of the family.
Amy and Jessie Martin:
I have written before about Jessie and Amy Martin. They were born in Michigan in 1873 and 1881 and moved to Oregon with their parents. They spent decades as schoolteachers in Oregon. The end of life was very difficult for them. They struggled with financial hardship and poor health, as Amy wrote in a letter to my mother-in-law in 1959, “There were so many things she would have liked to do but lack of money was the drawback for all of us.” They both passed away in the Methodist home in Salem, Oregon, Jessie in 1959 and Amy in 1982.
Eliza Jane Cole
Eliza was born in Ireland in 1870 and came to America with her family in 1873. The family moved to Nebraska and then to Oregon. Eliza became a Seventh day Adventist Minister. She married for the first time at the age of 50 to George Thorpe. I believe it was the first marriage for George as well. Eliza seemed to thrive as a minister and was well cared for by the Adventists. She was visited several times a week by her niece and nephew. A letter to my husband’s grandfather from Eliza’s nephew states, “We see Eliza once or twice a week. She always speaks so fondly of you. You know, of course, that she has not been in her own home for this past year. The conference has substantially increased her allowance and that plus rental from her home leaves her well provided for.” Eliza died in Vancouver, WA in 1955.
There are many more examples on both sides of our families. This is a busy time in my life and I have had little time for research. I expect things to slow down a bit in September and I also intend to find out about these women’s lives and bring them back, if not to life, to remembrance