Friday, March 25, 2011

Keep on Shining Through……

What makes a woman emotionally strong?

Here at 4gaby this question is one that has been asked many times. Usually our
answers include character or will power--don’t know we are right, but you only
have to look at the depth of the essays written on the website to know there is
strength in all of us. It is well known that the stereotypical woman is supposed
to be weak physically compared to a man but emotionally, I feel, they are by
far the stronger sex.

My final confirmation of this came this week. I came to learn the true strength
that a woman can display in the face of adversity. After tracing my family tree
for the past three years, I discovered that my late maternal grandmother,
Alice, had endured terrible circumstances during her early married life. Somehow, she managed to keep the people she loved free from the pain of this and she carried these tragedies with her silently to her death in 1980. They sat buried and I uncovered them. I am not sure how I feel. Am I betraying her by making them known, or would she have wanted me to tell, maybe finally allowing the truth to be heard? I chose the latter option, feeling that such a strong woman’s plight should be heard by those who loved her and those who could be inspired by her.

My grandmother was married at the tender age of 22, in 1922, to a man who was suffering from TB after the trenches of the First World War. Two years later on January 9,1924, with one baby girl aged 1 year old, her husband died and her baby, Joyce, died just 3 days later on January 12. There were both victims of TB. She was 6 months pregnant at the time, and alone. She had just lost the love of her life and her darling baby. It happens, you might say, but in 1924 the world was different, especially in post-war England. She gave birth three months later in a London Lying-In hospital to Winifred Mary on April 16, 1924. After this, she went to live with her cousin, a blind veteran, and became his care
giver until his death.

No trace of Winifred could be found in the public records after her birth, she
just seemed to disappear. I searched and searched but could not find her. I assumed, due to the extreme circumstances, that she was given up for adoption, or even worse, had suffered the same fate as her sister. This was not so, as I found out this week. Winifred appeared again on a 1980 death certificate of my grandmother’s sister, Lydia. She was the person who registered the death naming herself as her niece. She had not only lived but was obviously close to her family roots. So the questions are; why did she not live with my grandmother? And who brought her up? I wonder, was the pain of losing her family too much to bear, or had Winifred settled somewhere and it was better for her to stay where she was? We don’t know that yet, and we are hoping to find Winifred alive today, although she will be 87 years old, to give us answers. 
My grandmother went on to raise six more children (one of whom was mentally impaired), alone, their father lost to the war once again. My mother was child number six and never knew her father as he died just after her birth. The pain Alice must have endured is inconceivable. She never uttered a word of her story to any of her children, let alone tell them they had an older living sister from a first marriage. I was the one who broke the news to my mother, and now, with her permission, I have a task to do. I have to find Winifred and finish my grandmother’s brave, sad story. I hope that I can for her sake. She was strong enough to carry on with life, being that kind, quiet, genteel woman I loved, and now I need to honor her and show her family not only how strong but how amazing she actually was.


  1. I can't help but think that the journey is as much for ourselves as to find out "the story." I once had someone ask me why I was so interested in the family's past, that it really couldn't mean much to me, but I look at it this way, the love transends. My Mother was loved by her Mother who, in turn was loved by hers, and it's like a fine chain coming to rest with me. I'm part of it all whether I can see it or not and it strengthens me. I hope you find your answers.

  2. I love genealogy. At first there was that hope of some incredible relationship to royalty. But the love of history and the love of a good story is what has really touched me. And along the way I've been reminded that life and it's tragedies and triumphs are not new. My great grandmother lost her husband when she was pregnant with their last child. She raised four children alone and my grandmother would tell me stories of how they were treated - sometimes with kindness and sometimes with disdain or cruelty. I think the stories serve to remind us of what we have been and what we can be. Like Mary, I hope you find your answers.

  3. I have found this blog via your comment on the BMB Mums Abroad page. What a story you have uncovered. Family histories often seem to be full of strong, strong women. I agree, we are the stronger sex.

    I'm a Brit, living in the Midwest. Been here for 4 years. I love it, but I also love Blighty, and we've been trying to return back for the past 2 years (credit crunch didn't help the job market much).

    I didn't know NC counted as a southern state. But then 4 years ago, I wouldn't have even known where it was at all!


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