Friday, March 11, 2016

Fearless Females - Day 11 - Eva Maud Bean

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.

Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Amelia Hodgson Bean, Sylvia Emelia Bean, Eva Maud Bean

My maternal grandmother's mother, Eva Maude Bean, died just over 100 years ago on February 28, 1916, at the age of 41. She suffered from what was then called creeping paralysis. Creeping paralysis is most commonly defined today as Multiple Sclerosis but my mother believes, from my grandmother's description of her mother's symptoms, that Eva may have had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

During Eva's lifetime, creeping paralysis was diagnosed as female hysteria and treated as a mental disorder, all in Eva's little head. Isn't it sad and frustrating that 100 years later, things haven't changed all that much. Think of a woman being asked if she has PMS if she isn't all sunshine and roses or the way women with Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia have been treated because doctors didn't understand their condition or of all the women with heart disease who's symptoms are dismissed because they are women.

Eva's illness and death greatly affected her family, especially her five children. It couldn't have been easy for those little ones, who ranged in age from 2 to 12 at the time of her death, to watch their mother deteriorate little by little until she died.

As it went with her generation and hardship, my grandmother didn't talk much about her mother's illness or death. There is one story that she told my mother. We don't know how close Eva was to death at this point but she was either unable to walk or almost unable to walk when she was taken to her brother's home in the next village for treatment by a mesmirist. She was absolutely convinced that this treatment would cure her. My grandmother didn't know what the mesmirist did because although she and her eldest brother went along they were sent upstairs during the "treatment". When the "treatment" failed to cure or even improve her condition, Eva was devastated and had a complete breakdown.

Although there was no way that Eva could have been cured of her illness, even today, it is the way she was treated by those around her, including her own husband and family, that make her story important. Eva and Louden's youngest child was conceived when she was already very ill with greatly decreased mobility. If Louden had truly believed that she was suffering from an illness she could not control, I wonder if Lawrence would have been born. Obviously the prejudices of the time affected everyone.

It is so important that we learn this lesson 100 years later. If someone we know is suffering with symptoms we cannot understand or relate to, that does not mean they are not real. If a physician, who after all is just a human with specialized education and training, cannot give a patient a diagnosis, that does not mean their suffering and symptoms are not real.

In Sunday's post I will share more about the effects of Eva's death on her family, especially my grandmother.

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