Thanks to these creative ladies

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. For my great, great-grandmother Suzy - it was a love of painting which she passed on to my great-grandmother Betty. I cannot claim to have inherited the painterly eye that these two shared - but my love of photography and writing no doubt stems from their ability to find new ways of expressing themselves and their view of the world. 

Spending their summers first on Block Island and later in Sweden, Maine - these strong, intelligent  women shared their gifts in a way that our family still enjoys on a daily basis generations later. 

They were travelers, explorers, teachers, students, mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends and I am so grateful that my story emanates from theirs. This Mother's Day - let's remember the women who came before and honor their stories.

These women ...

Searching for the stories of women in history always adds an element of difficulty – but it’s the kind of difficult we should embrace. Yes – their names change more regularly and there tends to be less documentation of their lives the further back we go – but in the end, where would we be without them?

As a holiday storm bears down on the East Coast I find myself snuggled under a blanket, scouring Ancestry.com for more links to my family history than any sane person might be willing to uncover. I never liked puzzles as a kid – something about all the patience involved with the hours upon hours of staring at seemingly unrelated pieces… just ask my cousin Danielle – she was always the puzzle pro! But there’s something about following the branches of my own family tree that never ceases to engage me in an ever-unfolding story. When I come across a ‘wall’ in the search as I did today when trying to find more details about my great-grandmother Helen – I’m reminded that this is just another opportunity to talk with my own grandmother over Thanksgiving about what she remembers of her mother-in-law and see where that might take us.

While Helen’s story is on-hold until my own grandmother can shine a light into the proverbial darkness, I was able to follow the line of my other great-grandmother, Frances, on my mother’s side of the family back a few more generations to a certain Ellen who in one fell swoop – changed the futures of her family. Born in Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland – Ellen took a chance on a ship bound for the other side of the ocean. Whether on purpose or by chance, she ended up in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada and eventually married a man who hailed from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. How these two met and decided to create a life together is a story I can only hope to uncover at a later date, but what I find equally compelling is that in one generation – Ellen changed the path of her family – a path that through her daughter Barbara, and her daughter Frances, led to my grandmother, mother, and on to me. I won’t romanticize the journey – perhaps it wasn’t a move made by choice at all. But the point here is that five generations of women are linked by Ellen’s journey – and there is something truly special in that – no matter where the story takes us next…
(Originally written on November 27, 2013)