Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thinking about the women in my ancestry

I sat in church this morning wondering which woman I should write about with a biography and commentary for the next Carnival of Genealogy, and thinking about the role women play in our ancestral stories.

I wrote a post in 2006 about my mother (which I will save for Mother's Day, I think) and my grandmother, Emily Kemp (Auble) Carringer.

I could choose my paternal grandmother, Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver, for whom I have extensive memories and stories from her children. Or her mother, Julia (White) Richmond, whose main claim to fame is here extensive New England ancestry.

I could choose Della (Smith) Carringer, about whom I have written extensively and am transcribing her 1929 Journal week-by-week. I have a lot of memorabilia and ephemera that she collected.

I could choose Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith, who came all the way across the country - from the Buffalo area to San Diego - in her lifetime and experienced the sorrows of her husband's early death and several of her children, and the joys of the lives of her surviving children. I know a lot about her husband's life, but not as much about her.

I could choose Abigail's mother, Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux - another woman who left the Buffalo area as a young mother and died in Kansas. I have a lot of info about her English husband but don't have much information on her life.

There are many others of course - Polly (Metcalf) Underhill who hid the family possessions in the War of 1812 in Aurora NY, Tabitha (Randolph) Cutter who was an obstinate rebel during the RevWar in Woodbridge NJ; Molly/Mary (Hoax) Carringer who settled in the wilderness of Mercer County PA and raised a large family; Ann (Dudley) Bradstreet who was New England's first poetess; the brave women on the Mayflower in 1620 who came to a wild place and braved the winters and the sickness and survived to raise families - Susanna (--?--) (White) Winslow comes to mind.

Half of our ancestry are females who succeeded in their life's work - they survived childhood, married a man who provided for her, had children that survived her, ran a household (cooking, cleaning, weaving/sewing, gardening, healing, nursing, teaching, loving, scolding, encouraging, grieving, hoping, waiting...) in sickness and in health, and tried her very best to please her parents, satisfy her husband, raise her children, help her neighbors and serve her church and her community. If she died young - and many did in childbirth or home accidents - then her husband usually found another wife to help raise their children. If she lived to an old age, and was widowed, she was often dependent upon her children or the town for her livelihood.

The only lasting record for a woman's life well lived (at least before the 20th century) were usually lines in census records, entries in the family Bible (did it survive?), perhaps a mention in the county history and a cold stone in the cemetery. Hopefully, her children or grandchildren remembered her, wrote about her, and honored her.

Here's a cheer and a toast to the amazing women who gave us life!

The woman for the Carnival? I'll think about it some more. You'll see it soon.

1 comment:

Janice said...


Thank you for the lovely tribute to women.