Matrilineal Monday – Nancy Terry

Some time between 1878 and 1881, John Irving and his wife, Nancy Terry, left Nova Scotia and took up farming in Manitoba. They had three small children in tow, and Nancy would have eight more in the next sixteen years. Then when Nancy was fifty, she gave birth to their last child. Her name was Edith Gertrude, for the daughter who died in 1901 when she was fourteen.

In some ways, Nancy had it a bit easier than Agnes. She and John had a two storey house, with eight rooms. They lived closer to town. (The Dunns lived in Oakville, about 25 kilometers outside of Portage La Prairie. Kemnay, where the Irvings lived, is only ten kilometers west of Brandon.)

John died in 1909 in Victoria, BC and Nancy and the younger children returned to the Irving farm in Kemnay. (The farm was likely run by George after John left in 1908.)

Nancy’s children were:

George William – (b. 1874 – d. 1966)
Catherine (Cassie/Casey) Jane – (b. 1876 – d. 1962)
Jennie Ann – (b. 1878 – d. ????)
John Robert – (b. 1882 – d. 1962)
Martha Angelina – (b. 1885 – d. 1966)
Edith Gertrude – (b. 1886 – d. 1901)
Mary Agnes – (b. 1888 – d. ????)
Elizabeth Maude – (b. 1890 – d. ????)
Mabel May – (b. 1893 – d. 1984)
James Albert – (b. 1894 – d. 1955)
Frank Sterling – (b. 1897 – d. 1918)
Edith Gertrude – (b. 1904 – d. ????)
(In the 1911 census, there is a phantom son. He is indexed as Earnest on Automated Genealogy, and in the original the name is pretty much a scrawl with the dates too blotchy to read. He does not appear in any other census, or in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Index. Little Edith is not enumerated. There are other mistakes, so it seems likely that the enumerator hastily scribbled something down and later added “son” instead of “daughter.”)

Matrilineal Monday: Agnes Irving

In keeping with my Ten Things for the Tenth Month theme, every Monday in October I am going to feature a woman in my family tree who had ten or more babies. I have a lot of respect for these women, and the difficulties they must have had carrying and raising so many children.

My third-great grandmother, Agnes Irving married George Dunn in 1885, and bore eleven children in 14 years. In 1891 they were living in a three room wooden house with three children as well as George’s brother James and someone I am almost certain is Agnes’s uncle Adam. How cold it must have been in the winter, with the Arctic wind blowing down across the prairie and getting in through cracks they could never find.

Agnes’s children were:

John Henry (b. 1885 – d. 1885)
Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1888 – d. ????)
Cassie – my great grandmother (b. 1889 – d. 1947)
William (b. 1890 – d. ????)
Frank (b. 1893 – d. ????)
Ross (b. 1897 – d. 1985)
Frederick (b. 1900 – d. ????)
Emmanuel (b. 1902 – d. 1988
Albert (b. 1904 – d. 1911)
Lawrence – (b. 1906 – d. 1990)
Wesley (b. 1909 – d. ????)

Wednesday Women’s Work – Annie Sophia Lloyd, Tailoress

According to the 1891 Census, seventeen year old Annie Sophia Lloyd was living in Bentinck, Ontario with her aunt and uncle, Jane (Devlin) and Simon Young. Annie was around the age where if a girl was a spinster and there was someone else keeping house, she could take appropriate work until she married. Simon was listed as a tailor-cutter, and Annie as a tailoress. At around 50 years old, after working as a tailor for at least 20 years, Simon’s eyes were surely becoming weak from concentrating on tiny stitches day after day and he needed an extra pair of hands to help him with his business.

I wonder why and how Annie ended up living with the Youngs. I have a strong feeling that Jane was my third-great grandmother Mary Devlin Lloyd’s sister. Simon and Jane had only one child, their adopted daughter Margaret. Mary had at least eleven children and five or six of them would have been living at home in the late 1880s, so maybe Jane wrote to her to see if she could spare someone interested in learning a trade.

Annie would be home in Mulmur by 1892, and die of heart failure caused by rheumatism.

Wednesday Women’s Work – The Square Deal Shop, Whitby, Ontario

Mary Helen Steffler was about 18 when she took her first job, shop clerk at The Square Deal Shop in Whitby, Ontario. The Square Deal was also run by a woman – Mrs. Campo.

I had no idea Canada Dry was such an old brand.

(Mary Helen was my second cousin, three times removed. We both share Thomas Moran and Mary Meagher as ancestors. The photo is from the image archives at the Whitby Public Library.)

Wednesday Women’s Work – Postmasters in Saskatchewan

Every time I use search engines to look for the Hassan family in Saskatchewan, I get a ton of hits because of the town of Hassan (which has nothing to do with that family). This is one of the Hassan (town) tidbits I picked up while searching Our Roots.

From the book “People Places: Saskatchewan and It’s Names” by Bill Barry:

HASSAN (a name of biblical origin) post office near Sturgis had just two postmasters during its thirty-five years, but both of them served twice. Sarah Dorothy Seddon was in charge from 1932-41 and again in 1944-45; Constance Ellen Shauer held the post office in 1941-44, and again from 1945 until it closed in 1967.

Like Hassan, PLAIN VIEW (north of Melville) was an all-female office. Julia Strevell selected the name after her home in Plain View, Nebraska, and served for the office’s first two years (1904-06). Elizabeth Pekar sorted the mail for almost forty years, and her daughter-in-law Nellie Pekar took over and served until the office closed in 1969. That represents sixty-five years without a male postmaster — a genuine oddity.

Also consider that according to the 1906 census, Julia and Elizabeth were married women when they worked in the post office. Women working after marriage was not common in the early 1900s but it happened more than we think. They didn’t just go to work in large cities, but in frontier farm areas too. The men were needed to work the land, and old restrictions loosened in new places.

Wednesday Women’s Work – Hazel Webb Dunn, Hairdresser

Hazel Lenora Mae Webb Dunn was the wife of my great great grandmother Cassie Dunn’s little brother, Emmanuel (also called Manuel). She was born in 1909 and grew up in High Bluff, Manitoba. In her late teens, she went to Winnipeg to become a hairdresser.

The 1920s must have been an exciting time to be getting into hairdressing, because of the bob. When bobbed hair first became popular, there was nowhere for women to get their hair cut. The salons at the time provided services like marcel waves and styling, but since women generally didn’t cut their hair there was no call for someone to do it. Then the bob hit the scene and women showed up in droves to barber shops. At first the men didn’t know what to make of it. Some were uncomfortable sharing a masculine domain with girls. As these things usually go, money won out and a lot of barbers were happy to cut hair for women. Then the salons realized they’d like to make a buck, and trained women to cut hair, too.

There was new technology, too. Hairstylists were competing to create a method of permanently curling hair.

Eugene Suter curling a woman's hair

(Photo of Eugene Suter, using a heated curler machine designed by Isidoro Calvete. Courtesy of Isidoro’s son, Louis, from the wikipedia article on perms.)

This is an early 1920s permanent wave machine, designed by Isidoro Calvete. I can’t imagine the patience it would have taken to be the hairstylist winding the hair on the curlers while making sure that each cord stayed untangled, or to be the woman sitting there with all of this equipment on her head, worrying about urban legends that a friend of a cousin got electrocuted by one.

In 1929, Hazel moved to Manitou, where she opened her own business. I wonder if it was a hair salon and if it was, how many permanent wave machines she had to set up.

Hazel passed away on July 24, 2005. Her obituary can be read here, on the Passages Manitoba site.

Miserable Specimen of Degenerated Humanity

This piece from the “Town Topics” column of the June 1, 1898 issue of The Portage La Prairie Weekly Review is pretty shocking to my modern eyes. It isn’t just because of the amount of editorial bias (so tabloidy!) but also its placement, wedged in between a blurb about Dan Godfrey’s band playing in Brandon (a rare musical treat!) and the growth of settlement north of the railroad line.

A wifebeater from McGregor, named Jukes, was brought down to the jail here on Tuesday morning to be put in 30 days. This miserable specimen of degenerated humanity is getting off very lightly, thanks to the magistrate at McGregor. About a year and thirty lashes might have some impression on him.

In 1898 it was still considered acceptable for a man to chastise or discipline his wife, but to beat her was beyond the pale because it conflicted with Victorian sentimentalities about marriage and proper behaviour for a gentleman. Only someone vulgar would beat a woman, and likely the writer of this piece felt themselves to be much higher class than the jailed Jukes. There was also the recent legal precedent that wives deserved the same protection that the law would give anyone outside the family who was attacked.

I can hope that everything worked out for the best with Mrs. Jukes, but for most women it didn’t. Often men who were taken to court for wife beating blamed their wife for getting the law involved, and would beat her again. If he were the sole earner in the family, she would go without while he was incarcerated. In that regard, things aren’t that different today.

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