As a devotee of PBS, I am often exposed to the same ads a little more frequently than I deem absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, there is one ad (for Ancestry.com) that always brings a smile to my face with its tagline: “Who are the strong women in your family?”
First of all, I come from sturdy pioneer stock on my mother’s side, and my dad’s mother was raised by a single mom who not only owned and managed a boarding house, but also made sure her talented daughter received piano lessons. And that’s just two examples.
So the obvious answer - at least for me - is “All of them!” (Don’t ask me to rank them. It’s impossible.)
My female forebears weren’t only sturdy mentally, but also physically. When I was born I had four great grandmothers, one of which had been born in 1866. I used to think of her as a Baby Boomer like myself; it was just a different war: the Civil War! When I got married, I still had two of those great-grandmothers: the oldest (the afore-mentioned Boomer), who hung around until she was 106, and the youngest, who only made it to 90!
My mother had serious health issues while I was growing up, so - to give her a break - I was shipped off to my maternal grandparents every summer, where I spent my days tagging along with my grandma (and being a nuisance) as she did her daily chores. On any given day her activities might include doing the laundry by hand, gardening, sewing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and canning on a wood cookstove - all without running water, or electricity (until my grandfather finally lost his battle with the REA to keep the hated power poles out of our peaceful valley.)
Not that her life improved all that much after we got electricity. She did appreciate the convenience of an electric iron (as opposed to having to rotate the two cast irons that had to be heated on the wood cookstove), and she REALLY enjoyed the diversion provided by the electric radio! Otherwise, we carefully stowed the kerosene lamps where they could be retrieved in case of expected power outages, and Grandpa secretly enjoyed the new yard light. But not much else changed. Oh, wait! We did eventually add a small, older model refrigerator with an even smaller ice compartment to the kitchen, which never adequately replaced the need for a root cellar. But Grandpa really did like ice cream, so the infrequent dessert was welcomed by all (and who needs ice cubes, anyway?)
Another notable female relative was my dad’s Aunt Esther, who married one of her high school students (which cost her her job in those days) and helped him manage a hard-scrabble dairy farm in eastern Colorado while raising three sturdy sons, and caring for her aging mother-in-law (another of my great grandmothers) all from a wheelchair (she had MS). I was truly in awe of her. And one of those sons still owns and manages that dairy farm. (We also have strong men in our family!)
So now we are up to my generation and I am actually a great-grandmother myself - five times over! The girls range in age from 9 to 4 years and my first (and so far, only) grandson was born just this last August. (See September’s Trail Talk).
Not bad for a lonely only child!