Grand Traverse Women Ancestors, Introduction

Cherry Cabin
Alice Ida Smith Hopkins’ Cherry Cabin advertisement in Traverse City Record-Eagle, 1939

The peculiarity of telling a woman ancestor’s life story is real.  It is kind of like a puzzle with many pieces permanently missing.  Right up until women started working in large numbers what they did and thought day-in and day-out was typically not captured.  So the puzzle contains few personal pieces in which to construct a life story.   Yes, likely birth, marriage, children, death, maybe a few photos, maybe church attendance, maybe social clubs, but typically not much more.  In effect, the muted gender, at least until recent generations.

Once women start working outside the home, go to college, take more regular photos  the puzzle pieces start filling into a reasonably full life picture.  Still not likely inner-thoughts but at least the active expression of one’s self.

Nonetheless, to cover 6 generations of women connected to the Grand Traverse region one must traverse the muted generations.   So what to do?

Context becomes an informer, a revealer, adding exciting puzzle pieces to these women’s stories.   Not only context based on where they lived but the closeness of resources, such as family, friends, communication, transportation, education, stores, medical care, churches.  Also context based on their health, what was happening with other family members, financial comfort or not, conveniences or lack thereof, and especially cultural norms.  In addition, context arising from external challenges such as wars, lands opening for settlement, local economic changes driving required action.

Ultimately the Grand Traverse Women Ancestor blogs are not so much about telling their personal stories as it is about establishing a sourced, detailed context for their lives and then exploring the known opportunities and challenges each woman faced.   In addition, contrasting their individual stories across generations and time allows us to observe what circumstances and changes may have influenced their lives, differentiating their options and decisions from each other.

Though somewhat controversial this is also as much as possible an unfiltered view of each woman with the understanding that polished stories provide unrealistic, maybe even unobtainable, perfection, in effect an unattainable myth.  Life is messier than we sometimes would like it to be.  Allowing for this messiness provides a better guide and ability to understand drivers for those who care to learn from others more than be awed by their adherence to the straight and narrow.  So messy it is.

©copyright 2018 by Elizabeth Scott Wright

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