Monday, March 22, 2010

Catching back up with the Women's History Month questions. Some of the questions are things that I have no clue how to answer, so at this point I'm just picking through them.

Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

My mother and my grandmother are/were both excellent seamstresses. Grandma made quilts; Mom made most of my clothes when I was small, plus clothes for my dolls. She sewed my wedding dress and three bridesmaid dresses and then whipped up a lovely suit for herself to wear to my wedding. Nowadays she sews projects for the grandkids.

Here's a picture of me and my mom together in matching dresses that she made.

Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out?

Ten years or so ago, my grandma Martin found two pictures while she was rummaging through things, pictures she didn't remember ever seeing before but was sure they were of her mother Fannie Martin Weaver as a young woman.

I still remember how pleasantly surprised I was by these pictures--almost all of the pictures of Great- Grandma were taken when she was in her middle years, and she was in poor health for many of those years, with what may have been epilepsy, so to see her as a young woman with a mischievous twinkle in her eye was a delight.

I should add that we don't know 100% for certain that this is Fannie, but Grandma was very sure, and comparing these photos to other photos of her, it seems very likely. The second picture looks very much like my cousin Krista, another of Fannie's great-granddaughters.

This is not one of the official Women's History prompts, but in looking through the old photos in my computer files just now, I was struck by how many pictures I have of my female ancestors with their sisters. I know that several of my ancestors, including my mother, have/had very special relationships with their sisters, so I thought it would be nice to show some of the other women in my family.

This is my great-great-grandmother Frances Lesher Weaver (on the left) with her sisters Elisabeth and Susan.

This is my great-grandmother Velma Collins Clark (far left) with her sisters.

This is my grandmother Mary Fenton Clark (second from left) with her sisters Helen, Esther and Florence.

This is my grandmother Martha Weaver Martin (in the center) with her sisters Carrie and Edna, and their parents Noah and Fannie Weaver.

This is my mother Lucille Martin Clark (second from left) with her sisters Kathy, Charlotte, Molly and Carol.

And here is me and my sister Jenita on my wedding day...

...and on hers.

It's a great thing to have a sister or two. Or four!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whassup with me.

Todd is downstairs watching a DVD of "How I Met Your Mother," and I am up here surfing around and actually feeling like writing, which I have not in several weeks.

I can't remember if I ever mentioned it before, but spring is hard for me, for some reason. I just do not like most things about spring, especially the capri pants. This is what I look like in capri pants:

The left image is me, the right image is my reflection in the mirror at the clothing store, and I am shouting that I do not like capri pants and wagging my finger to emphasize the point.

My brain slows down when spring arrives. I don't know if it's the pollen phlegm or what, but I always go into a mental coma. I feel like I'm coming out of it today, hence the ability to blog-write.

In spring, the neighbors and their kids and their dogs come out of winter hibernation at the exact same time when I start to feel the need to open windows and let in some fresh air. But opening windows also lets in the neighbors/kids/dogs noise, too. Winter is so nice and quiet!

On the bright side, my tulips and daffodils have nice green shoots poking up, which the bunnies are already sampling. My chives and parsley are looking very promising, too. One thing I do love about spring is the GREEN of it all.

I cooked a recipe from a book tonight. Not a cookbook, but one of those novels with recipes included, which I have found can be pretty hit-or-miss. The book was American Cookery by Laura Kalpakian, which I really enjoyed, and the recipe was a simple pork chop thing, which would have been better if I hadn't overcooked them. I do that a lot with chops and steaks, it's frustrating.

All you do is season the chops with salt, pepper and cumin, brown them and cook them with garlic and orange marmalade. I added a tiny slurry of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and cornstarch, shaken up in the empty marmalade jar. It definitely had promise.

I bought some Skechers Shape-Ups on Sunday, since I needed new walking shoes anyway, and these are supposed to tone your legs and butt, improve your posture, increase your IQ and make you ten years younger. Lots of promises on that shoebox!

They came with an information booklet and a DVD to show you how to walk in them, which seemed like overkill to me.
I think I must walk pretty well already because I haven't had any problems with them so far. They have a rounded sole that replicates the feel of walking on a soft surface like sand, which is supposedly more of a workout for your legs. I find them very comfortable so far, but I don't look any younger. Darn.

That's it for now.

Ladies' lunch.

The Women's History Month prompt for today is an intriguing one.

If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

I would love to have lunch with my grandma Clark who passed away in October. I lived far away from her for most of my life and I feel so strongly that I did not get to have enough time with her.

I would have her come to my house, which is something she was never able to do, and I would make lunch for her. Just something nice and simple, maybe beef barley soup and wheat bread. Wouldn't that be lovely!

It's also interesting to think about what famous female I would want to have lunch with. The first person who comes to mind is Dorothy Parker--except I wouldn't want to have lunch with her, just be one of the crowd at the Algonquin Round Table on a day when she was at her wittiest. Say, a spring day in 1922. I'd have a famous Algonquin popover and a Manhattan. Or two. She'd have scotch.

Grandma and Dorothy Parker--you couldn't find two more different women, that's for sure!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Catching up.

This has been an odd week, I have just not felt like sitting at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. But here are a few of the Geneablogger prompts for this week that I've been meaning to address all week.

What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

I come from a very religious family. My mother and both of my grandmothers are/were Mennonite. Three of my great-grandmothers were Mennonite, and one was Baptist. These were women who were in church every Sunday, who cooked for church meals and for members in crisis, who sewed quilts and taught Sunday School. So yes, they served their churches, but not from the pulpit or from the front of the church, but quietly in the background, the way women have served the church for two thousand years.

Here is my grandma Martin with a church sewing group...Grandma is third from the right.

Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Two of my great-grandmothers lost their mothers at young ages, and had a hard time adjusting both to the deaths and to the step-mothers who came along afterward. I don't have my Family Tree Maker software set up on this computer, so I'll have to come back and add some of the names, dates and ages when I can get to them.

My great-great grandmother Mary Ziegler Lehman died at age 25 giving birth to her third child, who also died. She was buried with the baby in her arms. Here is Mary:

Mary's daughter Anna, my great-grandmother, was very young when this happened, and never really adjusted to her father's re-marrying and having three more children with his new wife. She never had a good relationship with her step-mother.

The only pictures I have of Great-Grandma Anna are from late in her life. Here's a scrapbook page I made, showing my great-grandmother Anna Lehman Martin with her son, my grandpa Ira Martin, her granddaughter (my mother) Lucille Martin Clark, and little old me, her great-granddaughter, at about age three.

My great-grandmother Velma Collins Clark also lost her mother at a young age. Family lore has it that Velma's mother killed herself with poison, overwhelmed and overworked.

Velma resented her new step-mother so much that she moved out to work as a hired girl as soon as she was old enough. This was one of the few jobs available to rural girls then, living with other farm families and providing extra help for other overwhelmed, overworked women with too many kids to take care of. I believe all of my great-grandmothers, and quite a few of my great-great aunts, spent time working as hired girls before marrying.

Velma ended up working for the Clark family, and caught the eye of their son Lewis. They got pregnant, and got married--in that order, I imagine it was quite a scandal--and then lost the baby girl Velma was carrying, either at birth or soon after. They had four sons after that.

Here is Great-Grandma Velma later in life with her husband Lewis and their first grandchild:

Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

My mother worked several different jobs when she was young, including waitress at Howard Johnson's and grocery clerk. She was a stay-at-home mom when I was small, and then worked as a teacher's aide, and then as an aide at a nursing home. At about age 40, she went to school and got her LPN and has been a nurse ever since, working at several different nursing homes.

My grandma Mary Clark was a one-room schoolhouse teacher for several years before and after she was married. When she and my grandpa split up, she ran a nursing home and then became an LPN. She worked at a hospital for years, and then worked at a nursing home for many more years, and didn't retire until she was well past 70.

My grandma Martha Martin never held a job outside the home that I know of, but spent most of her life raising eight kids, which is the hardest job I can think of. I love this picture of Grandma Martin, surrounded with kids, but with a real look of contentment on her face:

Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

My grandma Mary Clark spent fifteen years in an unhappy marriage to my grandpa, scraping by with a very difficult man in a very impoverished life. She finally took it upon herself to leave him, build her own home, go to school, get a nursing degree, and finish raising her five kids on her own. I have tremendous respect for her strength and courage.
Here is Grandma with her hard-earned nurse's cap:

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Today's Women's History Month prompt from Geneabloggers:

March 7: Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen.

My mom is an excellent cook. My favorite of her recipes is her whole-wheat crescent rolls, which I just searched my kitchen for and cannot find; I know it's tucked into a cookbook somewhere. I've only just become comfortable with yeast baking and haven't tried making her crescent rolls for myself, but someday I soon as I find that recipe! There's just something about the smell of yeast and flour that says "home" to me.

I don't remember either of my grandmothers cooking much, although I know they did. When we would visit my grandma Clark in Missouri, she was often working nights while we were there, and so there would only be one or two "big" meals that I can recall, with all the family together, or as many as could cram into her tiny eat-in kitchen. Here's a picture of a meal from the mid-1980's; pictured are my sister Jenita, my dad, my cousin Marissa, my aunt Mary, my cousin Dan, and me and my brother Jeremy with our backs to the camera. Grandma loved having a table full of grandkids.

I don't have a picture of Grandma Clark in her kitchen, but here she is looking fetching in a hostess apron, gathering up Christmas bows to re-use them, no doubt. This would have been Christmas 1972 or 1973. My aunt Gwena is at the bottom admiring her new sewing box.

I remember more meals at Grandma Martin's table, since we lived closer--we had holiday meals at her house until the extended family outgrew the house and we had to start meeting in the church basement for get-togethers. But I don't remember anything specific that she cooked.

Here's a picture of a meal in Grandma Martin's kitchen, probably around 1975. Pictured are my uncles Ron and Larry, one of my twin cousins (either Darrel or Dennis, but who knows which?), my mom, me, my dad, my uncle John and my aunt Molly. It looks like we're eating assorted casseroles, with peanut butter and homemade jam for the kids.

Here's Grandma Martin in her kitchen in the early 1980's with three of her many grandbabies: Melanie, Pamela, and Michael. With eight kids and sixteen grandkids, I think Grandma must have spent the larger portion of her life in that kitchen with a baby on her lap and a pot on the stove.

I think I need to get a picture of my mom in her kitchen, and maybe some shots of the family crammed around her dining room table next time I'm home, don't you?

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Today's Women's History Month prompt from Geneabloggers:

March 6: Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.)

When I got married, my grandma Clark gave me several family dishes, and this was one of them, a small glass jelly dish. It belonged to my great-grandmother Velma Collins Clark, and is one of the possessions I take extra-special care of.

Here is Great-Grandma Clark with her four sons in the early 19-teens. She would have been in her early 30's here. My grandpa, Marion Clark, is the boy with the giant britches right in the middle of the picture.

One interesting thing she and I have in common is that we share the same birthdate: October 22, although I was born two years after she passed away.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Today's Women's History Month prompt from Geneabloggers:

March 5:
How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?

I told how my Martin grandparents met in my last post. On the Clark side, Grandma's parents bought a farm right next to my Grandpa's parents' farm, so they were neighbors. Grandma's sister Florence married Grandpa's brother Elmer, so I guess it seemed like a good idea for Grandpa and Grandma to hook up. I would love to know how that happened, though--he was twenty years older than her.

My parents met at a corn-husking party, in college. They both went to a small rural Mennonite college and I guess that was the kind of thing rural Mennonites did for fun in the late '60's while everybody else was listening to Jimi Hendrix and smoking pot.

Anyway, they were in a group of kids walking across a field, and my mom stepped in a hole and almost fell. My dad grabbed her arm and said, "Guess you fell for me, huh?" And the rest was history. They've been married for 40 years.

Here's a cute picture of Mom and Dad as newlyweds:

Thursday, March 04, 2010


I have been looking everywhere because I know I have a picture of the four generations of "Maes" from my post below...of course it's nowhere to be found! Ah well.

Today's Women's History Month prompt from Geneabloggers:

March 4: Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

I have dates of marriage for most of my ancestors, but I don't know too many details about any of the weddings. I suppose the most I know is about my Martin grandparents--they met when Grandma's friend married Grandpa's brother, and Grandma and some of her friends took a trip out to visit her. Grandpa's parents invited the group to their home for dinner, and that was how Grandma met Grandpa.

They were married January 21, 1943, and I believe they had the longest marriage of any couple in my family: 66 years.
Here are Ira Martin and Martha Weaver on their wedding day:

I've mentioned before that since most of my family was Mennonite, and the ones that weren't were dirt-poor, we have a scarcity of fancy wedding portraits in my family! Here is the only one I've got...these are my Grandma Martin's parents, Noah Weaver and Fannie Martin, who were married November 26, 1908:

In their church at that time, young people could dress "fancy," I believe, until they officially joined the church. I remember Grandma telling me that her parents dragged their feet about doing so! No wonder--they were handsome people and looked very nice dressed "fancy."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Today's Women's History Month prompt from Geneabloggers:

Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern.

I don't share a first name, but I do share a middle name that has gone through four generations of females in my family. My grandmother's name is Martha Mae; my mother's name is Lucille Mae; my name is Janelle Mae.

Knowing that I would not be having any kids of my own, I asked my brother to consider giving his firstborn the middle name "Mae" if she turned out to be a girl. She did! Now we have Natalie Mae in the fourth generation.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Women's History Month.

I've been out of town for a few days (more on that later) but I was catching up on my forums this morning and found some very interesting blogging prompts for the month of March, which, as everyone knows, is Women's History Month. You didn't know that? Neither did I!

I'll have to combine the March 1 and March 2 prompts, since I was in a car all day yesterday and in no position to blog.

March 1's prompt:
Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about?

I can't say I have a favorite, but each of my great-grandmothers interests me for various reasons. If I could only pick one to resurrect and have a chat with, it would probably be my great-grandmother Emma Shank Fenton. She is the subject of one of the most vivid stories in the Fenton family, one that was obviously told over and over to her children and grandchildren, and told to me about ten years ago by her daughter, my great-aunt Helen.

Emma and her husband and two small children, plus her husband's father, were traveling across the West in the 19-teens looking for a place that would be better for her father-in-law's health than wet Missouri. They were living in Wyoming where Great-Grandpa was working on Buffalo Bill's ranch.

Two-year-old Helen and four-year-old Lewis were playing Sunday School one bitterly cold Sunday morning, and Helen fell off her little stool and landed against the red-hot woodstove, burning her face and her eye badly.

Great-Grandma put Vaseline and egg whites on Helen's eye, bundled her up and carried her, took Lewis by the hand, and walked across the frozen Bighorn River to find Great-Grandpa and someone who could provide a wagon to get Helen to the doctor. Oh, and did I mention she was pregnant at the time?

This is a woman I would love to have known.

March 2 prompt: Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

Since I was just talking about Great-Grandma Emma, here's a picture of her with her husband Clyde Fenton, and Lewis and Helen, during the years they spent traveling through the West. This was in Nebraska, and yes, they were living out of a tent. The picture was taken around 1913-14.