International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. And that's why today I want to celebrate an amazing ancestor of mine.
Anna Maria (Mary) Warner was 44 years old in 1779 and the mother of 10 children ages 4 to 19. Her husband Isaac Vollick had been imprisoned three times by patriots for his loyalty to the British King. After Isaac joined Butler's Rangers and was forced to flee to Canada, Mary was left with her ten children, six of them small.
Mary continued to aid the British, and in the summer of 1779 she and the children were taken from their home at North River New York by American patriots. As Mary and the children watched, the patriots torched their log home and it was burned to the ground. With only the clothes on their backs Mary and the children were marched 80 miles north through the forest and abandoned.
They were left in destitute circumstances, having no food or shelter. Mary's youngest child was only 4 years old. With her children in tow, Mary made her way through the wilderness to Canada and finally reached Montreal. There they received food rations, lodging and blankets and for the next 3 years Mary and her younger children lived in desperate conditions, dependent on the British Government for food, clothing and shelter. Her three oldest sons left - two to join their father in Butler's Rangers, the third boy heading back to New York.
Finally in 1782 Mary was reunited with her husband and older sons. They settled in the Niagara area as impoverished Loyalists. Niagara was a wilderness and those Loyalists who agreed to settle there were still dependent on the Government. They had nothing - their homes, land and possessions were all left behind in New York and other states.
Mary and her husband carved out a new life in this wilderness. They survived what became known as "the Hungry Year" when food was in short supply, government rations had dried up, and the settlers ate bark from trees to survive. Many died but Mary and her family were among those who lived.
Mary is my hero. She kept her children alive in the most difficult of times. She carried on each day with strength and determination. And I am privileged to have some of her DNA, some of her genetic material. It is from other strong women such as Mary that I descend. I salute them all.