Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fearless Females - Day 13 - Marjorie Elizabeth Dean

Lisa Alzo, the Accidental Genealogist, started a blogging prompt-series in 2010 in honor of Women's History Month and our female ancestors. If you wish to participate, the prompts are here.

Moment of Strength: Share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

The Dean Family ca. 1908
James Louden Dean, Eva Maud Bean
Dorothy Irene, Marjorie Elizabeth and Kenneth Emery

In my last post I wrote about the illness and death of Eva Maude Bean, the mother of my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Elizabeth Dean.

The Dean family were farmers, James Louden having inherited the farm in North Hatley, Quebec from his father John at an early age. It was then, as now, primarily a dairy farm but also had a sugar bush, which means they produced maple syrup. Of course, a dairy farm isn't all feeding, milking and breeding cows, there is also feed to be grown. Four years after this photo was taken, when my grandmother was only eight, her father lost an arm in a thrasher and during his recovery she was at least partially responsible for changing his dressings. An eight year old girl on a farm didn't always get to be a child for long.

When Eva died, my grandmother was 12 with four younger siblings, the youngest, Lawrence Nimmo, was not quite two. Two of the middle siblings, Dorothy and John, were sent to live with Louden's brother Robert and his wife Georgia but my grandmother raised the baby.

As I said in my last post, my grandmother came from a generation who didn't talk much about their hardships as it would have been seen as complaining, so we don't know a lot about the eight years between Eva's death and Louden's remarriage to Lena Emma Hodge.  I can't imagine that my grandmother would have been able to go to school every day, but she must have continued her education because she was eventually able to attend High School.

There was a story that she shared with my mother about making meals for the men who came to help with farm work. In many farming communities, farmers will go in groups to help each other with big jobs like haying and thrashing, this was especially true in the days before they had the mechanical equipment that is available now. The work at each farm would take a few days, and during the time that a group of men were working a particular farm, that farmer's family would be responsible for providing the noontime meal to all the men.  When it was my grandmother's turn, sometime early after her mother's passing, she found a recipe for coffee cake, literally a cake with coffee in it. Unfortunately her baking experience was limited then and when the recipe called for 1 c. coffee, she put in the grounds. The men were very understanding and after the meal they told her that the cake was very good, but that next time perhaps she should leave out the grounds.

My grandmother may have had some help from her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Nimmo Dean, but we don't know how much because she never mentioned it to my mother. We only know from the 1921 census that Elizabeth, or Bessie, was living with the family at that time.

But no matter how much help she had, it could not have been easy being thrust into the role of caretaker and mother at the age of 12 on a farm in a harsh climate. The work must have been back-breaking and never ending and she must have missed her mother very much.

Looking at the photo of Eva and Louden's headstone, I began to imagine my grandmother and her family making the long trip from the farm to the cemetery over rough terrain in the cold of early March in Quebec. It must have been heartbreaking and frightening.

And her heartbreak wasn't over. In April of 1945 she would loose the little brother that she raised almost on her own. He was killed in action in Nijmegen, Holland just six weeks before V.E. Day.

Fearless Female - Marjorie Elizabeth Dean.

1 comment:

  1. The coffee cake story under other circumstances would be funny, but within the framework of this story, it just makes me sad to read of a young girl trying so hard to carry on in her mother's place. Writing about your grandmother was a good choice for the prompt.

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