Sunday, 11 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 10, Strong Woman

We don’t all have a well known inspirational woman in our family trees. We can’t all lay claim to Florence Nightingale, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst or Joan of Arc. But within all our trees there are some pretty amazing ladies, I’m sure.

Who do I choose to write about this week ?

One of my pioneer great great grandmothers who came with their husband and children to take a chance on a new life; a better life, in a country so far away from England it was hard to comprehend ? They had no idea what the land was like, whether the earth was arable and whether they would be able to grow the crops they had always grown. Many of them had not seen the sea or lived near to it; yet they were prepared to travel over it on a cramped, leaky sailing ship for about three months – and give it a go. Not like now, when we plan our holidays and escape through colour brochures and online.

Or my great great grandmother who left her apparently unhappy marriage in New Zealand and took her youngest three children to start a new life in Australia ? Not just leaving behind her husband, but ten other children, her mother, brothers and sisters. Why not just move away to another district ?

Perhaps my great grandmother’s cousin, whose family had joined the Mormon Church and emigrated from Wiltshire to Utah ? She married at eighteen to a church elder thirty five years her senior; becoming his fourth wife. Did she know that two of those wives were still alive, that one had left him, but the other was still married to him ? She stayed. When he died, and the laws of the church had changed and disinherited her for not being his legal wife, she contested his will. Argued for her share AGAINST her children – and WON.

Or my great grandmother, born in Marlborough and raised in the Horowhenua, who left school when she was about 14 to help at home with younger siblings or with her older, married sister's new families. Then married four years later and began her own family, passing on all her domestic skills to her daughters.

What about my grandmother whose childhood family life was not so dissimilar to some we see on the news today ? She still took a chance, married and made a successful family for her children with values and traditions which have been passed on to her children and grandchildren.

Then in my daughter’s paternal family; what about her 8xgreat grandmother, daughter of the Ewen (Dubh) Cameron 5th Lochiel and 17th chieftain, from his 3rd marriage. Married aged about 15 to a Campbell. The two families did not always get along. How did she feel as a pawn in her father’s powerplay ? One of her sons was Colin, the Red Fox of the Appin Murders ‘fame’.

Or her 5xgreat grandmother who came to Australia with her family as shepherds and never spoke a word of English in her life. Gaelic, through and through. She endured the dry heat of what is now the ACT and likely pined for the cooler climes of the Highlands. Who brought with her five sons and six daughters, but not one son married to carry on the name.

Or her 3x great grandmother who gave birth to twins in the workhouse when she was nineteen. Named their father on the bastardy bond and returned to work as a domestic servant until she was able to remove the surviving child from the workhouse and provide a home with her new husband five years later.

So you see, it is too hard to pick one. If not for these women though, the wives of bakers, farmers, millers, shepherds and labourers, we would not be here. 

It is time to remind women everywhere that we HAVE a voice, that we ARE strong. All of us, in our own way. That we CAN do anything.

But also, remember that not all our problems are the fault of men. There ARE good men in the world, there always have been. Men who want better for their children, who are willing to take on the child of another man and raise it as their own, who are gentle and caring. We should NOT let society and the media tell us otherwise. We should have some faith in humanity as we stand up for each other.

You don't need to be a tall poppy, and an inspiration to the whole human race, you just need to be the best YOU that you can be. Who knows, maybe someday someone will look back and say "I just want to be like her."

Here’s to STRONG women
May we KNOW them
May we BE them
May we RAISE them.

We are the grand daughters
Of all the WITCHES
You were never able to burn.

I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman.
-Helen Reddy

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