I have been giving the women in my life much thought this month since it has been Women's History Month, and feel very honored to be a descendent of every one of them. Each had their strengths and their moments of sorrow, their triumphs and their stories that they would rather not be passed on to their children's children, yet each shared passions and laughter, and joys and reflections that I only can guess at years later.
I wish I had the opportunity to sit down with each and every one of them to bask in their beauty and to ask a million questions about their lives.
I would ask my grandmother Flora Maude McDaniel about all the children she lost at such young ages and how she was ever able to survive those losses. I would ask her about the baby who died in her arms as she proudly snuggled him in his blankets in the wagon on the way to visit relatives, only to find that he was gone to the angels by the time they had arrived to show him off. Or how do you ever possibly survive the grief of watching your youngest daughter die after burns survived from parching corn. One moment is joyful, the next is tragic. And yet, I have photos of her full of life and laughter. I could learn from her.
I would ask my grandmother Jettie Weaver Raley to share with me all of the wisdom she gathered in her quest to learn about our family history. She was the first family scrapbooker, my creative mentor, and the cook I wish I could be. I would ask for some tips and pointers, and guidance in all matters spiritual.
I would ask my great-grandmother Julia Schnacke to teach me some German that she so famously saved to speak in front of my mother and the other cousins whenever she did not want them to know what she was saying. I would ask for her recipe to her home-made brew that she and my great-grandfather, Conrad drank every day since it seemed to help them to live a full life. I would ask her about any special stories she could share about our ancestors, my mysterious people.
I would definitely want to meet and talk with my great great grandmother, Caroline Susan Martin, and her mother, Susannah Young/Jung, my namesakes. One born on a farm in Warrick County, Indiana, and the other born in Germany in 1838. There is very little I know about either one of them, except that Caroline was a very good singer, and that she was willing to go against the will of her father to marry the man she loved. Her father eventually gave in and allowed her to be married in the parlor of his home instead of at the farm of her sister, and I really admire that love that persisted through 5 boys and 1 daughter and appeared to be very happy. I would like to know the secrets of that happy marriage, the traits of a firm, determined woman.
I would like to meet the woman I know as Martha Ann Cozart, a woman by name that has always been fascinating. My paternal great great great grandmother. She married a man after he had served in the Civil War, gave birth to 9 children, and lost her husband too soon, with young children still in the house. She remarried, and eventually lived with her oldest daughter in Lockport, New York, due to a debilitating illness that changed her life and the lives of those who cared for her. I would love to sit down with her and ask her about her first husband, one of my great brick walls, a man who just came onto the scene out of outer space. Martha came from quite a family, and I would love to hear all about this infamous Cozart clan, and hear about her viewpoints, and also to hear what she would have to say about her children.
Another woman I would really like to talk to is my great great grandmother, Deborah Ann Cannan. She died when her son was only 2 months old. He was raised by a good woman that he always called Mom, but he never forgot who his biological mother was. I would like to know how she felt to be such a new mother, to be a new wife, how it felt to be in love, about her parents, and a million other questions.
I would also like to talk to my great great grandmother Fridolina Eastleigh who was raised in Germany in the middle 1800s. She and her husband were so determined that their first son, Richard would not be born in the religious environment of the day that they crossed the border so that he would be born in Switzerland. What an adventure! I would ask: When did you go to Switzerland? Why did you decide to do this? Were there any problems? What was it like? And I would want to know all about the process of crossing the ocean with a small baby, since they had my great grandfather in New York less than 2 years later. So much I would like to ask her.
Just a few of the women in my life, traversing through my veins, and women I admire. There are more to be certain- each with their own stories to tell, and I wish that I had a day to spend with each and every one of them. Women of virtue, of strength, of faith, of determination. What lessons to learn from them, and what lessons to pass on to my daughter, and the women to come.
Spend a day with the women in your life. You might be surprised about what they have to say.