Week 10 – Strong Woman

This week’s prompt is “strong woman”. I am surrounded by strong women. From my mom and sister to my aunts and close girlfriends – I am fortunate to have such women in my life. The ancestor I have chosen to write about this week is my third great grandmother, Anne Whittle.

Anne was born 27 November 1851 in Dean Mill, Halliwell, Bolton, Greater Manchester, England to James Whittle and Elizabeth Whittle (nee Crompton). There was a mill in Halliwell called Dean Mill that was built in 1831. The mill owners also built housing for their employees. James was a cotton spinner, so it is not much of a stretch to think that he worked for Dean Mill and it seems likely that the Whittle family lived in company housing. Prince Albert visited the mill in 1851. I wonder if James had the opportunity to meet him? Or maybe at least see him walk past?

Anne married Alfred Marsden sometime in the fourth quarter of 1871. Like her father, Alfred worked in a cotton mill. Their first child, James Herbert, was born within their first year of marriage. A daughter, Annie followed 7 years later. I wonder why there was such a gap? Were there miscarriages? Most families of the period were having children every year or two.

Alfred died in 1883, leaving Anne with the two children to raise. James was 10 years old, and Annie was only 3. How Anne must have struggled! It must have been so difficult trying to care for and find a way to provide for her children while mourning her husband. Perhaps James was able to help out by getting work in a mill. Plenty of children worked in mills at that age. Maybe Anne worked in the mill. Though, with a three year old at home, it’s more likely that she took in laundry or sewing to make a little money.

Many women (and men) in that situation quickly found a new spouse. Anne did remarry, but not for another 6 years. Anne married a widower, Edward Houghton Heyes in 1889. Edward had 6 children ranging in age from 10 to 20. Their mother had been gone for 10 years. I wonder how they felt about their father remarrying?

According to the 1891 UK Census, 5 of Edward’s children lived with the couple. One of the daughters had married, and her husband and 6 month old son lived with them as well. Where were James and Annie? James had left the previous year for the United States. Eleven year old Annie was living with Anne’s brother, Robert, and his family. In a previous post, I mentioned that the family story was that James did not get along with his step-father. Did Edward mistreat his step-children? Why was Annie sent to live with her aunt and uncle? I can’t imagine a mother wanting to send her young daughter away while she raised the children of another woman.

In 1901, two of Edward’s children from his first marriage were still living in the household. Anne and Edward had added 3 more children of their own by this time. James was married and raising his family in the United States. Annie was enumerated as a ‘visitor’ in the household of Emma Kay. Emma was Anne’s widowed sister. So, in 1891 Annie was living with her uncle, and 1901 finds her with her aunt. Was she just visiting Emma, or did she get bounced around between her aunts and uncles?

Edward died in 1908, and Anne was once again a widow. The children she had with Edward were 17, 15, and 11. The 1901 census shows Edward was a grocer, draper, boot, and shoe dealer. It also states he was an employer. Presumably, Anne was left in a better financial state this time around.

On 09 October 1913, Anne arrived in Boston, Massachusetts with her youngest daughter, Vera. The ship record shows they were going to visit James and his family in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Interestingly, the ship record also shows that Anne had visited the States before for a period of 3 years. Specifically, she had visited Providence, Rhode Island, where James had lived before moving to Jamaica Plain. In 1920, Anne is enumerated on the US census and is living with her daughter, Edith, in Boston. Her youngest daughter, Vera, is living down the street with her husband and infant son.

In 1930, Anne was enumerated with James and his family in East Providence, Rhode Island. Annie was in Beverly, Massachusetts with her husband and children. Edith and her family were living in the nearby town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Vera and her family were also in Massachusetts, in the city of Worcester. Norman and his family had relocated from Bolton to Queensland, Australia.

Anne died 18 April 1937. She was buried in a plot purchased by her daughter, Annie.

I wish I had the opportunity to know Anne. She seems like she was a remarkable woman. The courage and strength it must have taken for her to uproot her life and move halfway across the world at nearly 62 years of age is really something. I’ve done a bit of traveling, but I’ve never lived more than 20 miles from the place I was born. My mom and I will be visiting England in a couple of months, and are both looking forward to seeing the places Anne lived and spending a couple of days walking in her footsteps.