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A few weeks ago figbash gave a shout-out to ancestry stories with urban settings. I agreed with that idea, because all of the ancestors I've ever known were city people. My direct ancestry is exclusively urban, at least in the last 100 to 150 years. So today’s story is set right in the city. It’s the story of the tight bond between the women in my paternal grandmother’s family. It’s fitting today because this would be the 116th birthday of my grandmother’s Aunt Emilie.

Aunt Emilie was the only one of her generation I really knew on that side of the family; her sister, my great-grandmother, died when I was 15 months old. Aunt Emilie outlived all her siblings, her husband, her parents by many years, and died at 92 in 1989, when I was 14. When I knew her she was in her 80s (she turned 78 a few weeks after I was born) and she was one of the nicest, most pleasant people I’ve ever known, a real Victorian lady. Sadly, she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and every time she came to our house (and she came several times a year), she told us how lovely it was and how strange it was that she hadn’t been there before. It was my first experience with that kind of memory loss.

Emilie and me, 1983. My grandparents took us apple picking. I vaguely recall thinking the posed photo was cheesy and grimacing.
Somehow, Aunt Emilie managed to live on her own in this condition, a few blocks from my grandparents, for a number of years. Only as she approached 90 and living alone became untenable did she move into my grandparents’ house. At that time I was given her bedroom set, a gorgeous mahogany set from the 1920s, when they built things to last. Seeing it so regularly has given me reason to think of Aunt Emilie often.

As a kid it never really occurred to me to think of Aunt Emilie as anything other than a kindly old lady who had trouble remembering things. Maturity, and the appearance of a few gray hairs on my own head, cause me to remember Wordworth’s line: “The Child is the Father of the Man.” (Or, indeed, the Mother of the Woman.) We all start out young. Aunt Emilie was not born 80 years old. She wasn’t always the way I knew her. Once upon a time, she wasn’t even Aunt Emilie, she was just Emilie. To visit that time, we have to go back a century.

June 14, 1913, 100 years ago today, was not Emilie’s 116th birthday. It was her 16th birthday. She was not an old lady, she was just the fourth of five children, and youngest daughter, of Catherine and Fred in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

It was a busy time in Boston and the world. The Red Sox were defending world champions, playing their second season at Fenway Park and led by stars like Tris Speaker and Smoky Joe Wood. The following season they would call up a young left-handed pitcher from Baltimore named Babe Ruth. The team would win the World Series three more times between 1915 and 1918, then not win it again for 86 years. My grandfather, who died before the miraculous win of 2004, often expressed regret that he couldn’t remember the 1918 championship; he was 5 at the time. He had little patience for Emilie’s breezy statements that she had seen the Red Sox win the World Series all the time. They won six of the first fifteen World Series, from when Emilie was six to when she was twenty-one.

The United States Constitution was amended twice that year, the first Amendments since the Civil War Amendments of nearly 50 years earlier. The Sixteenth Amendment provided for a federal income tax; the Seventeenth Amendment provided for direct election of U.S. Senators (I’m so busy with Ed Markey’s campaign right now I’m ambivalent on that one!) The new President, Woodrow Wilson, was pressing for a slew of progressive legislation the likes of which I can only dream of today.

The mayor of Boston, for the second time, was John F. Fitzgerald, President Kennedy’s grandfather. The men in the family, good Democrats all, had voted for him. The women had not been allowed to. But on Emilie’s birthday, a century ago today, they could read in the morning paper that the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Woman Suffrage had reported favorably on amending the Constitution yet again to guarantee women the right to vote. To the chagrin of my urban Irish ancestors, they’d amend it to ban alcohol first.

Boston in 1913
Downtown Boston a century ago, 1913
In Boston, just blocks from the family’s new home, the Children’s Museum was getting set to open its doors. New York boasted of two magnificent new structures: the Woolworth Building and Grand Central Terminal. Boston’s Custom House Tower would not be completed for another two years. But that very week, Vince Lombardi was born in Brooklyn and Kaiser Wilhelm II celebrated 25 years on the throne in Germany, “25 years of peace,” as he said. Neither the Kaiser nor Emilie’s family an ocean away knew then that, barely a year later, Germany would be engaged in a horrific war of more than four years’ duration, nor that another one with even greater carnage and unspeakable evil would follow two decades later.

In June 1913 all that lay in the future, as did the police strike, anarchist bombings, molasses flood, flu epidemic and other things that would traumatize Boston over the next few years. June 1913 was a happy, busy time in the family’s life. In April of that year they had left their cramped apartment in a row house in Boston’s South End for a spacious new home in the “streetcar suburb” (though still part of the city) of Jamaica Plain. Between 1913 and 1924, when Fred died and Catherine sold the house, the family would have many, many happy memories in that house, and they would remain in Jamaica Plain for decades to come.

The happy house in Jamaica Plain; within 5 years all the empty space around it would be filled in
Emilie and her mother, Catherine, had a long streetcar ride from their new streetcar suburb that Saturday when Emilie turned 16. Just ten days earlier, my great-grandmother Lil had married the Lee of my very first GFHC diary. They had honeymooned for several days on Campobello Island, just past the end of Maine in New Brunswick, the same island where a rich young New Yorker named Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his summers. Now their ship was returning to Boston and, since the family didn’t have a car, Emilie and Catherine traveled to help them with their bags.

I’ll bet Lee didn’t know what he was getting into. The women in Lil and Emilie’s family were very tight-knit. They had a third sister, Kittie, and the three of them and their mother Catherine were inseparable. On top of that, Catherine’s two sisters, Maggie and Emma, already lived in the neighborhood and they had plenty of daughters. The women got together all the time and were known to one and all as “the girls.” They chatted, played cards, played piano, went to the theatre and their beloved beach as often as possible, and every Sunday put on fancy dresses and bonnets for Mass at the enormous Blessed Sacrament Church, which now is vacant and may be turned into condos. The mayor who followed Fitzgerald, the infamous “Rascal King” James Michael Curley, was a fellow parishioner who always made a grand entrance.

The three sisters: Emilie, Lil, and Kittie about 1909
Lil with Lee and Kittie, 1913. He got used to having her sisters around.
Lee might have liked it at first. Growing up, he had two sisters himself. But one had died when he was 13 and the other one had spent the last decade in a Vermont state hospital, where she would die in 1918. Marrying into Lil’s big family, with all its women, might have been a welcome development in his life. He and Lil had two sons in their first four years of marriage, making Emilie into “Aunt Emilie” for the first time at 17, and my grandmother was born a few years later. But Lee, in time, proved not to be a very good husband or father. He had a serious drinking problem and could not hold a job. Lil, over the years, increasingly sought refuge in her mother and sisters, and could always count on them to watch the kids or lend some money in times of need. Just as important, she could always count on them to have fun and forget her worries.
Lil with her firstborn and her brother Paul at the JP house, 1916
Each of “the girls” had a distinct personality. Catherine, the matriarch, was as calm as her husband Fred Sr. had been anxious. She was relaxed and friendly, and always believed that God would provide. She enjoyed life fully, taking pleasure in even the simplest things like her morning walk to buy eggs and bread at the corner grocery store. She also loved tinkering in the garden. After selling the house, she kept flowerboxes on all the windowsills in the apartment. As Catherine grew older, she loved to dress up for special occasions and often beamed in photos.

Lil, my great-grandmother, was more thoughtful and sober. The oldest of the three daughters, and the only one of her parents’ five children to have children, she had a lot of responsibility. Lee’s unreliability didn’t help. She was very kind and generous, and had a particularly close relationship with my father. She could tell a good joke (never too dirty) and had a lot of fun with “the girls,” but was always more serious than her sisters.

Lil, late 1910s
Kittie, the middle daughter, was the live wire in the group. Boisterous and outspoken, but never malicious, she could have everyone laughing within minutes. She had many, many friends in her youth but never married. She couldn’t imagine giving up her independence and changed jobs often. She was a top-notch stenographer and knew it. Once, when someone asked why he should hire her if she would just leave after a few months, she told him he could have a great employee for a few months or for no months. He hired her.

Kittie was the semi-flapper in the bunch, the first to introduce the family to jazz, the only sixty-something in Boston who liked Elvis Presley when he appeared on the scene. Always up for new adventures, Kittie often had to call her family for help with some problem. A kayak had smashed on rocks in New Hampshire. She and a girlfriend had gone to New York for a weekend of shopping and the brothers were not answering the phone. After her mother died, Kittie’s travels expanded. She went a number of times to Europe by boat and spent half the winter in Florida with her cousins. Everyone I’ve ever asked says, “Oh wow, just a lot of fun.”

Kittie in the early 1930s
Emilie was more reserved than Kittie and my father remembers her as being not as much fun. But she was always kind and polite and she, too, had a large number of friends and a lot of laughter with her mother and sisters. She was the only one of the three who inherited some of their father’s nervousness, but as the youngest girl she was a bit of an expert at pouting to get her husband Dick to do what she wanted, which might be Friday evening at the theatre, a weekend on Cape Cod, or a fur coat. He was such a happy-go-lucky guy that he didn’t mind much.
Emilie, 1920s
The bond between the women in the family was always much stronger than the connection they had with the men. Catherine’s sisters lived within a five-minute walk, but her brothers had for some reason all moved in the opposite direction, north. The pattern continued in the next generation.

Lil, Kittie, and Emilie had two brothers, one older (Fred Jr.) and one younger (Paul). Fred Jr. graduated from Boston College, then just blocks from the family’s South End home, in 1912. (Within a few months, the family would move to leafier Jamaica Plain and the college similarly would move to the tony suburb of Chestnut Hill.) Fred Jr. went into banking and soon moved to New York. His brother Paul graduated from BC in 1925, with Catherine selling the house and taking a job after Fred Sr.’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1924 to make sure Paul could finish school. Soon Paul moved to New York to join Fred. The Depression was tough on Fred Jr. and Paul, but they stuck it out in New York and got back on their feet. For many years they lived in adjacent buildings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The brothers were very close for all their lives, although they were twelve years apart and very different in temperament. Fred Jr., the oldest, had no interest growing up in playing with his three little sisters. He made his own way and was a bit of a loner. He never married, but doted on his dogs. My father’s first time in Central Park came walking those dogs on a rare visit to Fred Jr. and Paul. Paul, on the other hand, spent his childhood around the women in the family and their friends. He was very handsome and social and used to being the center of attention. He quickly became a ladies’ man and divorced more than once.

Paul and the girls at the beach around 1912: sitting is Catherine's mother, also Catherine; standing are Kittie, Catherine, Catherine's sister Maggie, Emilie, and Paul
Paul as a Boston College student, early 1920s
Fred Jr. in New York, late 1920s
As close as the brothers were to each other, they were not particularly close to their sisters and only a bit closer to their mother. That may have been because the girls were such an insular group, or it may have been due to some sympathy for their father. Fred Sr., was a stressed man. He worked hard to build an insurance sales business and constantly worried about money. He didn’t always know how to let his troubles go, and his daughters in later years would remember him as strict and austere most of the time. A heart attack claimed him at 60 in 1924. The daughters would say in later years that, had he lived, the onset of Depression certainly would have killed him.

A major exception to Fred Sr.’s stress was when the family went to the beach, which they did often. If they had to, they went to local South Boston beaches, but most of the time they headed for the wide open beach at Nantasket, where in time they rented a cabana for the season. They also like to row boats around any lake they could find; Jamaica Pond, with its boathouse a few blocks from their home, was a regular destination. Near the water, they remembered, Fred Sr. was able to leave his cares behind. He seemed to relax visibly and became a lot more fun to talk to. So much did he cherish the time at the beach that, despite his worries about money, Fred Sr. splurged on a car to get them there more easily.

Fred Sr. near the water he loved so much, winter 1905
Rowing on Jamaica Pond, 1915. Kittie's in the middle with the high hair, the rest are her friends.
After Fred died and Catherine sold the house, she moved into an apartment with her two still-unmarried daughters, Kittie and Emilie. A few years later Emilie married a wonderful man named Richard; Catherine and Kittie continued to live together for nearly two decades, until Catherine’s death in 1943, and Kittie lived in the same apartment alone for nearly another three decades until her own death.

Everyone adored Uncle Dick (who died before I was born), and it’s been speculated that my father was named Richard after him. My dad’s sister remembers fondly working downtown in the 1960s and stopping in at the Jordan Marsh department store, where Uncle Dick worked for 40 years, to say hello or have lunch. Sometimes to borrow a few bucks: he never said no to anyone!

Dick, too, must have realized pretty quickly that his wife would spend more time with her mother and sisters than with him. A generous, easygoing sort, he never complained.
Every morning he walked over the Washington Street El (which came down about 10 years ago) for his ride to work downtown. In the evening he took the Arborway streetcar (which I also saw in action in its last years; it was discontinued in 1985) home for a change of scenery. He spent many a year reading the paper in the corner while “the girls” played cards, getting up on occasion to refresh a drink.

Kittie and Emilie at Nantasket Beach, c. 1910
They still went to Nantasket Beach as often as they could, and had picnics at Jamaica Pond or Franklin Park. Once he paid for all of them, except my great-grandmother (who was raising three kids with a deadbeat husband) to spend a month in Florida. After that “the girls” started to travel more often, taking one major trip a year during most of the Depression. Finally, as the unemployment situation worsened in 1937 and 1938, Catherine said she couldn’t justify that extravagance and donated the money to local soup kitchens.

In 1942 all three of Lil’s children, Catherine’s only grandchildren, married. My grandparents’ wedding, in November, was the last of the weddings. “The girls” were dressed to the nines and Catherine held court at the corner table like a proud queen. It was to be their last big party as a group. Catherine lived long enough to see her first great-grandchild (my father’s cousin) the following June, but died in the fall of 1943.

"The Girls," November 1942: Emilie, Catherine, Kittie, Lil
Lil and Catherine (on the right) with Lil's daughter-in-law and her first grandchild, also Catherine's first great-grandchild, 1943
It was a tough loss for her daughters, but “the girls” carried on. My grandfather’s unmarried aunt, herself nearly 60, became their fourth for card games. Dick continued to mix the drinks, and Kittie always had a new joke. Lil and Emilie continued to go to Mass every Sunday morning, Kittie less so. Over time the card games and the weekly dinners moved to my grandparents’ place, where Lil was now living (Lee left soon after the three children were married off; he’d resurface from time to time until he died in a hotel fire in 1960). My father and his sister, speaking to me separately, both identified having “the girls” playing cards in the house or sitting over a three-hour dinner as defining characteristics of their childhood.  When my grandparents had their annual New Year’s Eve bash, “the girls” continued to be the life of the party for many years.
My dad comes home from Vietnam, 1968. Kittie is the shortest person in the photo' my grandmother is just behind my dad's arm cutting the cake
Time marches on. Kittie and Uncle Dick died in 1971. A few years later, in 1976, Lil died as well. We’ve often pointed to their deaths as the beginning of Emilie’s decline. I’m happy that my dad and his sister could fill me in on what things were like before, when Emilie was among a group of women in my family who shared a lifetime of laughter, love, and support.

Originally posted to Genealogy and Family History Community on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 08:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (29+ / 0-)

    "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

    by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 08:20:19 AM PDT

  •  "The Girls" were a given for many families,... (13+ / 0-)

    except that in mine the grouping crossed generations.  My maternal grandmother was the youngest girl in a large family, and because the parents traveled a lot her care often fell to her eldest sister.  In a sense then, she was raised with this sister's two daughters (of roughly the same age).  Years later, my mother, her mother, and these two nieces of my grandmother all devoted one luncheon a week to gathering in the tea room of a downtown department store.  As a kid, I found it difficult to follow the relationships!

    "There is no way to give to honest toil its just reward--its full share of all wealth produced--but by the full application of the single tax. And righteousness and justice require it to be done." --A. Moll, 1897

    by Zwenkau on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 08:59:48 AM PDT

    •  Yes (10+ / 0-)

      At an earlier time (1890s), Fred Sr.'s parents died within a couple of years of each other. He took in his two youngest sisters, who were children (some 20 years younger than he). His daughters grew up with them. When they married and moved to the country 40 miles away, they remained close with their brother's wife and daughters, but not really with their brother himself. Sixty years later Emilie and Kittie still saw them and their daughters regularly.

      "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

      by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 09:04:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a fabulous, rich story. (12+ / 0-)

    I'm jealous at the depth of your knowledge about your family, the details down to personalities.  Other than my mom and brothers, I was never close to my family growing up.  So I had the dates and the names, it's been hard scraping up the small bits of information about WHO they were.  And unfortunately, since it's the "scandalous" information that gets remembered the most, the good things about people don't as often get passed down.

    Terrific diary and photos.  The girls seem like people I'd love to hang out with.

    Thanks for posting.

    •  I've been lucky (11+ / 0-)

      My dad's sister (who has the originals of all the photos) has an interest in this stuff too. She was 27 before the first sister (Kittie) died, and as a girl she spent a lot of time around them as an honorary member. They used to congregate in her house in the 50s and 60s. She devoured their stories and was smart enough to ask them tons of questions.

      There are other people I don't know much of anything about, but I've been asking all the cousins, etc., who are still around and getting all sorts of good information.

      "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

      by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 09:45:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Family Stories (11+ / 0-)

      In one of the how-to books I have on genealogy there's a little pearl of wisdom.  The author observes that the stories that get passed down have some point to them that the teller wants to convey.  If it's in the realm of "Our family was high-born and important" then it might be embellished and ultimately become more fable than fact.  But if it's a "scandalous" item then it takes on the tones of a morality tale.  Whatever the case, the fact that it carries a message is what ensures that it will continue to be told.  And when that message seems no longer to be relevant to what the family is (or faces) -- then it will die with the last people to tell it.  

      So it seems to me that your family members may have wanted to warn against certain kinds of actions or behavior, or else some members may have had a tendency to vie with each other for status by playing "zero-sum games."  That is, if you lose then I win, so I'll be sure to play up any foibles you may have.  Which interpretation is correct is an interesting question that can be brought up with cousins.  Families are kind of like the classic film "Rashomon" by Akira Kurosawa, in which each character relates the same story in a different way.  Getting each cousin's "take" on the matter may expose new information of which you were not aware.

      "There is no way to give to honest toil its just reward--its full share of all wealth produced--but by the full application of the single tax. And righteousness and justice require it to be done." --A. Moll, 1897

      by Zwenkau on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 11:05:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know (10+ / 0-)

        if you're talking about conscious or subconscious directing of the narrative. I don't think all family stories are about the zero-sum games or the idea of an agenda. Some stories are told so a person can relive youth or try to make future generations understand who people were and what happened.

        For example, my mother died in 2000. When I have kids I'd like them to know about her, and it will have to be through my stories. I don't plan to slant the stories in a positive (or negative) way, I just want to create the most accurate image I can. Some subjectivity is inevitable but I'm not setting out to make a particular point.

        "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

        by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 01:33:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Palimpset" (6+ / 0-)
          Several historians are beginning to use the term as a description of the way people experience times, that is, as a layering of present experiences over faded pasts.
          I had to go look that up as I remembered it as the title to Gore Vidal's 1995 memoir. He said something to the effect that memory is a variable.

          While it's probably not unheard of that some would 'shade' the stories they pass along, I think most are telling what happened as they experienced it or how it was told to them. I have uncovered some things in my family that were not well known - and am let to wonder why they were not.

          As I learn more about their lives in the context of their society, I can make some guesses...but that's all they are.

          "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

          by brook on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 02:32:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Passing on knowledge vs. slanting stories (5+ / 0-)

          You make an excellent point, and it causes me to realize that I left out an assumption.  I was speaking more in terms of stories that span several generations.  

          As I write this, I'm thinking of a couple of stories in my wife's families that date back to Civil War times.  Those stories did have agendas, and thankfully they were positive.  One demonstrated the intelligence of a child who was a direct ancestor, while the other preserved the memory of a Christmas tradition from the Old Country that taught that hard times shouldn't dampen the joy of the season.  

          You'll naturally want to pass on your memories of your mother to your children; it will help them to better understand who you are, and who they are as well.  If well told, these stories might last long after we're all gone from the scene.  But many won't "make the cut" as time passes them from one teller to the next.

          "There is no way to give to honest toil its just reward--its full share of all wealth produced--but by the full application of the single tax. And righteousness and justice require it to be done." --A. Moll, 1897

          by Zwenkau on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 05:49:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This haunts me a little (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Zwenkau, edwardssl, Jim H, brook, klompendanser
            If well told, these stories might last long after we're all gone from the scene.  But many won't "make the cut" as time passes them from one teller to the next.
            There's the natural mortality angle, but I also hate things being lost to history. That's a big reason why I started to write down all these stories, which I now post here. I imagine some descendent reading them long after I'm gone, and having a better understanding.

            "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

            by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 06:16:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's the Official "Volunteer Call"! (7+ / 0-)

    Who's next to volunteer to host a Friday GFHC Group Open Thread?  We've plenty of dates to choose from.

    Current Schedule

    June 21  mayin
    June 28  klompendanser
    July 5     open for adoption
    July 12   open for adoption
    July 19   open for adoption
    July 26   open for adoption

    We seem to be on our summer schedules, so there's lots of open dates to choose from.  You can even choose a Friday (or any other day of the week, for that matter) in August if you wish.

    So who's ready to pick a date?


    p.s.  I'm going to be tied up quite a bit this afternoon, so it may (or may not) be until later this afternoon or early evening before I'll have a chance to come back and confirm all the dates you guys want to adopt ;-)

  •  Wonderful diary (12+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing the "girls" with us.

    It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~ Helen Keller

    by Pam from Calif on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 01:09:50 PM PDT

  •  Splendid. (10+ / 0-)

    This account really came to life. Thank you.

    You..ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes. -Mother Jones

    by northsylvania on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 01:15:43 PM PDT

  •  Fenway, thanks so much. (9+ / 0-)

    I really appreciated your taking  today's diary.  I was just in no condition to prepare anything.  

    I think it worked out well anyway - your diary was terrific, and certainly better than what I had in mind.  But what I had in mind will surface soon when I adopt a date, so you can't escape......

    What a true Bostonian you are.  "Fenway" indeed - no one could deserve that name more than you.

  •  Your pictures (7+ / 0-)

    always knock my socks off, fenway!  Liked the one of Fred, Sr. by the lake and all the the girls. My mom had 4 younger sisters - I can relate to the giggles and chatter after dinner etc.

    You've been really smart to pay attention over the years. That gives so much life to your narratives  - sometimes a problem for those who get a late start, or never paid much attention as it was happening. You use your 'gift' well and you see how much the rest of us enjoy it!

    "You're barking up the wrong tree. There's no cat up there." -Stella Adler via Holland Taylor

    by brook on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 02:49:04 PM PDT

    •  ^^this^^ (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fenway49, Jim H, brook, edwardssl, NonnyO, ladybug53

      Re the pictures ... I am drawn to the hats -- can't say whether I like the 1913 or the 1940s more, but I'd wear them all if I could.

      My grandpa always talked about "his girls" -- the 5 from his first marriage (including my mother), 3 daughters and 2 stepdaughters from his second marriage, and his third wife had a daughter from her first marriage ... my 3 uncles (mom's 2 full brothers and 1 stepbrother) were not lost in the shuffle, but they sure deferred to overwhelming feminine influences! Of course, in such a large family, there were ever shifting alliances, but mostly some powerful memories and fun stories.

      And fenway what a treat to get these stories from the city perspective -- my folks are all farm/small town, but the essence of "the girls" certainly is familiar to me.

      "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

      by klompendanser on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 03:23:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I like the hats too (7+ / 0-)

        And just the way everyone dressed. All the suits in the downtown Boston picture.

        The stories I've heard from my parents, grandparents, and those of their generation are full of subways, trolleys, buses, block parties, downtown shopping and theatre district forays, major league ballgames, getting the hell out of the city for a couple of days at a beach or lake.

        "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

        by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 03:50:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It was a cousin (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim H, brook, klompendanser, edwardssl, NonnyO

      A long-lost cousin who sent me the picture of Fred Sr. by way of confirming that we were in fact from the same family. Her mother was a first cousin to the sisters but they lived 20 miles away. I have plenty of pictures of him from my aunt, so it was easy to see it's the same guy. 10-15 years later he didn't have much hair left!

      "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

      by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 03:41:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Beautiful diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I'm a transplanted Vermonter who will always feel that at heart I'm still a Bostonian. So, your detailed descriptions and wonderful photographs transported me in space and time. I had colorful relatives most of whom I didn't get to meet - rascally great uncles, one of whom was in Vaudeville, a beautiful great Aunt who died in childbirth - but you have painted such an evocative picture that my own family story, hazy as some of it is, has come out of the mists a bit for me today.
    Thank you for this.

    •  For that I'm happy (7+ / 0-)

      Hazy indeed. I've learned, just in the last year or so, about a beautiful great-aunt of my mother's who died in childbirth. I've also learned, just in the past couple of weeks, that she had a daughter, who must have died as a child around the time of WWI. I can't find any trace of her after 1917; her father and brother lived alone in the 1920 census.

      Love that dirty water! BTW, my great-grandfather mentioned in this diary was from right next to Woodstock, Vermont. He left there as a young man in about 1909, but his family went back to the earliest English settlement in the area in the 1760s.

      "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

      by fenway49 on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 06:14:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for a great diary.  My wife has collected and preserved a lot of letters, diaries and photographs of her family - which go back to when her great grandfather fought in the civil war, and later became a school teacher on Nantucket, and then in Medford.

    Right now she is sending out a daily email to a slew of cousins and relatives - even 3rd cousins - with the daily diary of her great aunt, whose two children both died before their second birthday of something that today would be quite curable - some type of lactose intolerance it seems.

    The Diary is from her time at the family house in Medford in 1913, and we are reading it day by day in her emails (i.e today we read June 14, 1913) - from the birth of her daughter to the various types of foods and efforts at weight gain.  What strikes me in the daily excerpts  are the rich visits and social interactions  - almost every day walks, visits, or calling on someone.  Doctors come and go.  Her husband takes a boat to New York.  The visits seem so prevalent because they had no TV or other individual entertainment so they socialized.

    Jane (the infant daughter) dies at about 14 months - so it is a sad time - but she references many historical events also.  The Boston trolley strike.  The 1912 presidential primary in Pennsylvania that Teddy Roosevelt won.   It adds a richness to be so close to family history.

    For myself, my fathers side of the family is not traceable beyond my grandfather who came from Russia, and my grandmother whose relatives were mostly killed in Germany.  My mother's family has stories and recollections that go back to palestine in the 19 century - but these are just names and dates  and a few stories - nothing really personal.  

    I think the personal connection back over the years is wonderful.

  •  Very enjoyable post (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brook, klompendanser, ladybug53, Jim H

    It's amazing you are able to go back 100 years with such great detail and pictures. Thanks!

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