Monday, March 16, 2020

Strong Female Ancestors for Women's History Month

I have found no new photos of any of my grandmothers since the time I made this collage a few years ago.  It seems grandmothers' photographs are hard to come by.  I believe each of these ladies were strong women:  character, morals, determination, abilities and capabilities, and for some, physically strong, as well.  Didn't they have to be strong when they lived during times when women labored in so many different ways to care for their families and were responsible for so much?!

Left to right, top row, bottom row
Audrey Meinzen Doyle, Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen, Mary Thompson Bickerstaff, Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen
Beulah Gerner Doyle, Elvira Bartley Gerner, Tressa Froman Doyle, Elizabeth Laws Doyle

These ladies are my mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and a great-great-grandmother.  The top row is my maternal line, the bottom, my paternal line. Here are briefest of histories of these ladies, their personal women's history, if you will, from between 1845 and 1997.

Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, 1915-1997, my  mother
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Lived through the Great Depression
▸ Graduated from high school in 1933
▸ Graduated from nursing school in 1937 and worked as a nurse for a year
▸ Married, birthed and raised three children
▸ Lived through World War II
▸ Lived as a widow for 10 years

Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, 1892-1973, my maternal grandmother
▸ Learned to read and write
▸ Married, birthed and raised four daughters
▸ Supported her husband's barber shop by washing and drying the towels
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Lived through World War I and World War II
▸ Worked in a bakery to earn money to put her youngest daughter through college

Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff, 1872-1940, my maternal great-grandmother
▸ Learned to read and write
▸ Lived through World War I
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Married, gave birth to nine children and raised eight
▸ Buried one child

Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen, 1852-1920, my maternal grandmother
▸ Immigrated to the U.S. as a young girl (after the Civil War)
▸ Married, gave birth to 15 children and raised 12
▸ Buried all but six of her children before she died
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Lived through World War I

Beulah (Gerner) Doyle, 1881-1913, my paternal grandmother
▸ Learned to read and write
▸ Married and gave birth to twins

Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, 1854-1943, my paternal great-grandmother
▸ Learned to read and write
▸ Married and birthed 16 children and raised 14
▸ Lived through the Civil War, World War I, and most of World War II
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Was a farm wife and a midwife

Tressa (Froman) Doyle, 1867-1936, my paternal great-grandmother
▸ Learned to read and write
▸ Married, gave birth to and raised three children
▸ Raised raised grandson
▸ Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic
▸ Lived through World War I

Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle, 1845-1910, my paternal great-great-grandmother
▸ Could read and write
▸ Married and gave birth to 14 children, raised 11
▸ Immigrated to U.S. by herself with three little children (to meet her husband)
▸ Lived as a widow for two years

Looking at these brief statements about my foremothers one might think that their lives consisted of being born, learning to read and write, marrying, giving birth to children, and surviving wars and pandemics.  Knowing a little about the times in which they lived and knowing a little more about the lives of each, it's certain that they lived rich, full lives.  They all managed their homes, preserved and cooked food, cared for their husbands and children, and some, if not all, were involved in serving and working together with their neighbors, friends, and relatives. 

I'm of the opinion that one cannot change history.  We can view it from various perspectives.  We can edit out or ignore the parts we don't like, or embellish those we do.  We can research it in more detail.  But I believe the past is fixed, unable to be altered or changed in any way.  There are plenty of people who bemoan the limitations of women in the past.  But how can we compare their day with ours?  Times, circumstances, and the environment were different.  Desires and expectations were different.  Their lives were what they were.  I believe they have a right to be honored for who they were, whether they did great or small things by the world's standards.


Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 



  1. Well written, glad you shared. Gives another perspective and makes one wonder about one's own predecessors. My paternal grandfather made it through 3rd grade, I know that. He was a short man with stocky build. Maternal grandfather I believe was more educated. I know he was in WWI, became a telegrapher for the RR, Married my grandmother who had 2 daughters, and had one of their own, my mother. Grandma had come down from Alaska to Tacoma, WA to go to academy... where she met her older siblings for the first time. Her mother had met her father in Kansas, and come west. She left him with the older kids, and went off to Alaska … gold digging for a richer husband? Brought the first cow to Skagway. I think chickens too. Ran a boarding house there.

    1. Thank you, QuiltGranma. Oh, how interesting you family sounds. And how sad that she left him and the older children and went off to Alaska. But it sounds like you know a lot -- stories and details -- about this line of your ancestors.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...