If you're anything like me, you love reading about how women of the distant or not-so-distant past lived their everyday lives. The things they did to survive, the crazy risks they took, the sacrifices they made. What tales did you hear about your female relatives? If you knew them when they were alive, what did you admire about them? How do they inspires you in your present day life? This will be a new ongoing thread

If you're anything like me, you love reading about how women of the distant or not-so-distant past lived their everyday lives. The things they did to survive, the crazy risks they took, the sacrifices they made. What tales did you hear about your female relatives? If you knew them when they were alive, what did you admire about them? How do they inspires you in your present day life? This will be a new ongoing thread


[–] [Deleted] 23 points Edited

What tales did you hear about your female relatives?

I never met my paternal great grandmother (she passed away when my dad was little), but I heard stories about her, including one during WW2. My country was colonized by Japan during the last quarter of the war. My great grandfather was a wealthy merchant and Japanese officials were pretty much in good relationship with him; he was even friends with a high ranking Japanese official in the area. But every time Japanese soldiers showed up at his store, my great grandma and other female family members would drop anything they were doing and went hiding inside the swamp until those soldiers leave. Not just standing around, they submerged themselves in swamp water. Everybody knows no matter how good my great grandpa's relationship with the officials, the moment they lay their eyes on his female family members, those women would be taken and become "comfort women". They'd rather have leech suck their blood and risk encountering crocodiles than becoming sex slaves.

Thanks to that story I learned (from a very early age) that the world is a dangerous place for women, that no matter how good your relationship with someone is they can always stab you in the back and that SeX WOrK iS wOrK is total bullshit because men who deliberately using women for sex don't care about how they destroyed those women's lives through their actions.

Wow that is an amazing story, your great grandmother was incredibly brave.

My great grandmother was not respected by her husband, in laws, or even her children because she was an uneducated and superstitious housewife. When the regime was overturned her husband was terrified that he would be arrested for his prestigious title under the former government.

As years passed peacefully their family realized that all those hours my great grandmother had gossiped with neighbors, looked after their children, and regifted precious rations to someone who needed it more she had built so much goodwill that not a single person in the community was willing to denounce her husband, even though it would have won them prestige and material reward.

That is an amazing story. I hope the family gave her the respect she was due afterward.

Wow that's amazing, what a cool story of the subtle power women can command in difficult situations.

I can’t tell a really good story because it reveals my very unusual surname. But in the vaguest terms possible: a female ancestor of mine stood up to a mean bullying husband about a matter of inequality and won, at great personal cost. I’d not actually interpreted it in the light of feminism before seeing this thread so thank you!

In the not so distant past my mum had a terrible childhood, of severe neglect and physical abuse, she escaped at sixteen and stood up for herself and the people around her in low paid jobs and she was a wonderful caring mother to me and my sister despite not having much money (or sleep, with night shift work then childcare by day!) in our early childhood. Having seen the demons that abuse can leave people with I’m so impressed and grateful that she somehow passed on security and love to us and not the things that she grew up with. It gives me hope for the world that some people are able to end that kind of chain of violence, her brother sadly didn’t.

I don't know that much about most of my female ancestors other than most of them were establishment so did not have to work outside the home. My father's mother volunteered at the nearby hospital part-time once her children were grown. My mother's mother (widowed) was about to accept an administrative position at a university when she died. Her mother was known for supporting higher education. (My mother, her mother, and her mother all graduated from the University of Toronto.)

One great aunt was a debutante who came out at a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (Canada) with the Governor General, had a big society wedding, a divorce, then got a job as a single mother when her peers were mostly not in the paid workforce. That was considered adventurous.

Another female not-ancestor relative (Agnes Scott) was a gossip columnist in Ottawa. She was a poor cousin (her parents had died) who was smarter than she was attractive, and eked out a living going to events and writing them up under two pseudonyms. She later married for money. She gets written up in local history books because we need more women to write about.

One great great grandmother was a child star (Mary Ann Heron of the Heron family) from Ireland who was supporting her family in comfort by the age of six, performed male roles for her entire career (including Richard III at age nine opposite adults), then retired, much to her family's displeasure (they needed the money), when she married at age twenty-one. I think she's probably the most exciting one.

Then there was the ancestor who married her step-brother who was also (I think) her second cousin twice over. I gather the family did not support them marrying, so they had to live on a farm when first starting out before becoming solid middle-class city people.

Alas, a three-greats grandmother died at age thirty-eight after having thirteen or fourteen children. (I think they were middle-class given the family her husband was from.) And another female ancestor was separated from her husband (at a time when divorce was very rare and hard to get) and forced to live away from her four children, though they later joined her in England when they went to boarding school there. I don't know how generous her allowance would have been, but her husband was one of the wealthiest people in Canada at the time, so hopefully she wasn't too badly off.

I'm not sure how I feel about any of this. The problem with having lots of famous and/or well-off male ancestors is that the women tended to live in the shadows. As a result I tend to feel overshadowed by my family history, which hasn't always respected the women and got away with sometimes sidelining them. I myself ended up in the underclass (on disability) after being kicked out of the family for standing up for myself after being abused. I assume at least some women in previous generations were also abused. So many of them never married, and I'm not sure why.

Sorry no crazy risks here. Hopefully someone else had a grandmother in the French Resistance or something equally glamorous.

13 or 14 kids by 38. That's insane. I can't even imagine. You say no one took risks but one of your relatives separated from her husband and many of them didn't marry at all, those were all risky things for women, and sometimes still are! Don't sell your family short for their bravery in just surviving as a woman in the times and places they did, and don't sell yourself short either! Standing up for yourself is always brave, perhaps more so when you have more to lose.

I don't think the separation was her idea. It was an arranged marriage (they were cousins; his father was responsible for her and wanted to keep the money in the family; he was reluctant). I don't think it counts as taking a risk if you don't have a choice.

The single daughters all lived at home their whole lives. I don't know how happy they were, or bored, for that matter.

I know very little about my foremothers. My maternal grandmother died when I was three and I didn’t even know my paternal grandmother’s name until adulthood (father was adopted). All I know is my mother was the youngest of ten and Grandmother must have had a hell of a time raising all those kids on a tradesman’s pay with the Depression looming. I’ve never regretted not knowing her; she didn’t seem to be someone I would have liked at all.

Wow, those are some crazy stories, it's cool that your grandmother is still alive though

Yeah, there's more I was thinking about after I pushed send. But that's the gist. Tough ladies.

Both of my grandmothers are alive still, which makes me very very fortunate indeed.

My maternal great grandma was a suffragette. I never met her, and sadly my grandma died before I was born, but my mum says she was quite an intimidating lady! I am immensely proud of her, even though I don't know the details of what she did and how she helped the movement. My grandma (her daughter) met my grandad when she marched into his office in the military demanding equal pay for women, and my mum was one of the first female salespeople in the IT industry in the UK, so I guess the spirit runs strong in all of us!

Mostly working in factories and farms. One of them ran her own laundry business.

I don’t know very much about my foremothers beyond their names. Two of my great grandmothers immigrated from Poland by themselves as young women. I think leaving everything you know to start over on your own like that is kind of bad ass, but I’ve heard very little about them from my father as their English wasn’t good and my grandparents didn’t teach their kids Polish (and didn’t share family stories much). I remember being told as a teen that one of my great grandmothers attempted a self abortion of her 12th child (she was alright), but it heavily influenced my being pro choice.

Both my grandmothers were outspoken, no nonsense women and I definitely learned to speak my mind from both of them. I wish I knew more about them outside of their roles as grandmothers and mothers.

That's awesome. My grandma did the same thing but within the game country so had an easier time since she knew the language. But one day she just up and left and moved to DC and got a job with the state department or maybe it was the war department, I don't remember now. But she didn't know anyone so got a room at the YWCA and she would go out to parties with her roomates and that's when she met my grandfather who was in the military and was on leave. They got married like a month later at Treasure Island without any of their family or anything. They were married until my grandpa died at age 60, so probably close to 40 years. I think about that and how when I was that age I did similar things, moving across country when I didn't know anyone and whatnot, and how my grandma was so worried about me all the time lol. We share some personality traits in that sense, the independent-streak, that is, not the worrying.

This is my favorite real-life story from a female relative. My great grandmother told me this one, about when she was a kid. Great Grandma was born in 1917 and grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota, the granddaughter of Norwegian immigrants. She was one of five children.

Her brothers used to like to climb up onto the platform of the windmill. She, being a girl, was not allowed to climb up there. However great grandma was rebellious and mischievous in general. One day she got on the windmill platform by herself and started dancing up there! Her brothers snitched on her, and her father saw her and stood at the base of the windmill and said "[Her name], get down from there" calmly. She got down. I can't remember if she said her father gave her a whoopin after that or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

She also told me about a time in school (yeah, she attended a one-room schoolhouse) and her teacher asked her to say her ABCs. She didn't want to say her ABCs. So the teacher put her in the coal bin.

I'm a simple woman, as were all my foremothers, but I like these stories. It shows that people really haven't changed. Kids have always been brats (people seem to think that ancient kids were more obedient?) and women and girls have always resisted and resented the unnecessary restrictions on their freedom that men aren't subjected to.

I absolutely adore stories about mischievous children, esp girls. My mom's father's family were also immigrants to the US from Scandinavia, their family came from Iceland, Norway, and Denmark and eventually settled in utah and became Mormons. They were stereotypical meticulous note takers so they left a very detailed family history which my mom still has.

[–] mooncycle8 5 points Edited

I am going to brag a little about my grandmothers, because I am so darn proud of them and feel so lucky that they are the women I have had to look up to my entire life.

One of my grandmother left school after grade 11 to become a nurse - they were so desperate for nurses in those days. She grew up very poor with an alcoholic/abusive father and wanted to get out. She became a nurse and is still well known in our community for her commitment to nursing. Despite having retired a long time, she is still active in the nursing community and still goes by hospital to spend time with the seniors (all of whom are usually much younger than her) and is often found at community meetings to fundraise for new equipment, etc. She raised her kids more or less on her own, as my grandfather was bedridden with mental illness for much of his life. She is one of the strongest women I know and has continued to be a beacon of light, an example of unconditional love, and a reminder of finding joy in the smallest of things.

My other grandmother grew up the daughter of a doctor, so economically and socially very well off, though she was born into a family that did not see much value in women. Whilst her dream was to pursue music (she was quite successful and had scholarship offers to pursue music), she was basically told the only way she would be supported by her family was to become a teacher because girls didn't do music. So she became a teacher - she taught basically anything she could teach, including school. Then she married "across religious lines", marrying a Methodist as an Episcopalian - this was a big deal at the time. My grandfather got sick and died when she was in her early 40s and she never remarried. She continued teaching, and since retiring nearly 30 years ago has travelled all over the world and spends much of her time when not travelling sailing and hiking. Like my other grandmother, she is incredibly strong, and has been a teacher to me in terms of being grateful for the small things, to step outside of my comfort zone, and she has helped me develop my connection to Nature and Mother Earth.

Both of my grandmothers instilled the importance of being self-sufficient and educated as women, as had they followed the path expected of many women of their time, their lives would have looked a lot different as neither had husbands who could have supported them and their families "in the long run". They are both quite religious and their faith has been a big part of being able to carry on when the going got really tough. I haven't followed the same path of religion, but seeing the importance of religion to both of them is beautiful and as I have explored my own spirituality, it has opened the door for a lot of good conversations.

Aw, reminds me of my grandma and my relationship with her in a lot of ways. She was also self-sufficient but also deeply religious [catholic] but her husband converted for her bc there was no way she'd marry a non-catholic lol. She could be a little bull headed like me. She argued fiercely with me for the entire time my husband and I were engaged about having the wedding in the church but I hadn't been a practicing catholic in over a decade so it just wasnt an option for me.

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