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March 2, 2015

Women's History Month: Who's Your Heroine?

March is Women's History Month so let's talk about the heroines in our family trees. Do you have a female ancestor who inspires you or who achieved success in the face of hardships? Or perhaps one of your ancestors was the first female to do something quite amazing or unheard of in her time.

Women's History Month: Who's Your Heroine?
My Grandmother Ruth Simpson 1894-1985
I have several female ancestors whom I admire. One is my maternal grandmother. Ruth Simpson was born in 1894 in Kent, Ramsgate England. She was a pampered and somewhat sickly child who was called Dolly by her family because she looked like a little china doll. A timid woman, Grandma Ruth was not one to take risks or seek adventure. 

But at the age of 19 she left the comfort of her home, left her friends and family, to follow her fiance to Canada. Grandma was terrified of water so this was a very brave and large step for her to take. She was also used to being cared for and pampered but starting a new life in a new land required her to be strong. 

Soon after their marriage in Toronto Ontario in 1914, she and her husband moved to Guelph where they began family life. Grandma had two daughters in quick succession and settled down to be a homemaker. After her third daughter was born in 1923, Grandfather bought Grandma a small store so that she would not be bored. Grandma ran the tiny Tobacco Shop for several years then decided she wanted to have fewer headaches than being a female business owner in 1925 gave her. She applied for, and got, a job selling high-fashion women's dresses in a large department store. Sadly her husband (my grandfather) died when Grandma was only 45 years old. She had to survive on her own.

My mother, aunt and Grandmother in the 1970s
That terrified her but she did it. That's what I admire the most - that as frightened as she was, she drew a reserve of strength from somewhere and did what had to be done. It was WW2 and she soon met Sam R.,  married him and moved to Ajax where she got a job in the Munitions Factory in that town. 

When  Sam died some 10 years later, Grandma moved back to Guelph and got her old job back in the dress department. And yep, you guessed it - she met and married Fred B. She was 62 years old at the time of her third marriage. 

After Fred died Grandma moved in with her two eldest daughters. After a few years in an apartment they sold all their possessions and started traveling around N. America in a Winnebago. She and my mother and aunt were written up in two driving/touring magazines where they were featured as "The Merry Widows" who took a Mechanics Course and did their own repairs as well as driving all over N. America and into Mexico. 

My Grandmother Ruth is my heroine. Who is yours?


Carol said...

Enjoyed reading this very much!

Dana Leeds said...

I would love to read more about "The Merry Widows" and their travels. I see why you admire "Dolly" so much. An incredible story and a beautiful lady!

Anonymous said...

I have an ancestor 'aunt, who was abused by her father and had a child by him. He was executed, but she went on to marry and have a large family. She is my hero.