Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Women's History Month - my four great-grandmothers #womenshistorymonth

My thanks go to Shauna Hicks for her thoughtful post on her four great-grandmothers for Women's History Month and her inspiration. Thanks also to Shauna for the link to the Australian Women's History Forum and the history and information found there, well worth a read.

So I was fortunate to know two of my great grandmothers, both on my maternal side. Unfortunately, I didn't know either of my paternal great grandmothers but have gleaned some information about their lives that I can share with you.

Annie with her parents
Annie & Dorothy May
Firstly, Annie Jacintha Mary Elizabeth Antoney, my maternal grandmother's mother. Annie was born on the 24th June 1879 in Mackay, Queensland the third child and first daughter to Joseph Antoney and Elizabeth Hannah Young. Annie married John Douglas Thomas on the 18th May 1897 in North Eton, Queensland and had three children, the eldest being my grandmother Dorothy May. Unfortunately, her husband developed consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis and died on 30 January 1907. So with three young children to support Annie married Gilbert Samuel Colin Letona Birkbeck in Mackay on 17 Feb 1909. There were three children from that marriage. 

I knew her as "Granny Birkey" and as a strong disciplinarian - probably because she had to be at times in her life. Annie was widowed for a second time in December 1947 and lived until 11 November 1960, she is buried in the Gympie Cemetery.

McCann family 1903
Secondly, Catherine Eunice (Kitty) McLaren, my maternal grandfather's mother. Kitty was born on 20th December 1866 in Taranaki, North Otago, New Zealand the fourth of eight daughters of Hugh McLaren and Jean Douglas. She came to Australia with two of her sisters in around 1890 (I can't find a record for her arrival) and married George McCann in Lismore, New South Wales on the 19th April 1893. Kitty and George had seven children and my grandfather George Douglas (Doug) was the fourth child and first son of the marriage.
Kitty 1938
The family moved to Murwillumbah in around 1909 and the last child was born there in 1911. I am unsure of exactly when the family moved to Brisbane bu believe it was around 1915 as my grandfather was apprenticed to a saddler in that year in Brisbane.

Kitty was widowed in September 1937 and lived at her home, Denmora, in Cowlishaw Street Bowen Hills until her death in January 1961. She is buried in Toowong Cemetery with her husband. I remember her as Granny McCann and also smelling of violets, she always wore violet perfume and often a bunch of real violets.

Thirdly, Mary Cameron, my paternal grandfather's mother. Mary was born in Glenmore, Ardnamurchan, Argyll, Scotland in 1835 the sixth of eight children and the second to be named Mary to Dugald and Christian Cameron. She emigrated with her parents and siblings first to New Zealand in 184o and then to New South Wales. I have been unable to track their arrival in Australia ( another one who obviously swam) but the family appears in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales with their daughter Ann's marriage in 1845. Mary married William Connor at Barties Farm near Hinton, New South Wales on 19 July 1853. The family moved to the Clarence River district with William's extended family in ca. 1861. Mary and William had eleven children, five girls and six boys. Two of the girls died within their first year and Mary's last child was stillborn in 1870.

Mary was widowed in 1875 when William fell off his horse in Pound Street, Grafton and her sons William (Willie) died in 1880, James in 1880 and John in 1887. So Mary, who was unable to read or write, was left with little or no money a leased farm and three unmarried children. I don't know what actually precipitated her distress, other than her extreme misfortune of losing her husband and sons, but Mary was brought up before the Magistrate on the grounds of being of "unsound mind". The following are extracts from the Clarence and Richmond Examiner:

11 September 1880
Grafton Police Court - Monday, September 10th -
M. Connor v. A. Connor, a charge of assault, was dismissed.  M. Connor arrested on a charge of being of unsound mind. Was remanded for 8 days for medical treatment.

21 September 1880
M Connor was committed to the hospital for the insane at Gladesville.

4 April 1885
Before the Police Magistrate and Mr. W. Blackman. J.P.
UNSOUND MIND - Mary Connor, on remand, supposed to be of unsound mind, was ordered to be forwarded to the hospital for the insane at Gladesville.

Saturday 4 April 1894
Before the Police Magistrate. and Mr. W. Blackman. J.P.
Mary Connor, on remand, supposed to be of unsound mind, was ordered to be forwarded to the hospital for the insane at Gladesville.

Saturday 28 April 1894
Grafton Police Court on Tuesday, before the P.M. Mary Connor, Mary Jones and Thomas Fadden, deemed to be insane, were, on the certificates from Drs. Houison and Hood ordered to be forwarded to the Hospital for the Insane at Gladesville.
Callan Park Ward c 1910

Mary did not return to Grafton after the 1894 committal and died in Callan Park Lunatic Asylum on 26 January 1910. Her cause of death was "senility of unknown duration" she is buried in Rookwood Cemetery. I often think of Mary, alone at Gladesville and Callan Park hospitals and know from experience that her stay would not have been a pleasant one, I hope Mary found some respite there.

My fourth great grandmother, is my paternal grandmother's mother, Dorothy Oswald. I know little about Dorothy except what I have found during my research. Dorothy was born in Cramlington, Northumberland in 1855 to Joseph Oswald and Rose Wood. She was the fourth child of six children, four girls and two boys. She arrived in New South Wales in 1858 with her mother and siblings, her father having arrived a year before to find work and establish a home in Newcastle.

Fact sheet, AEC - 1903 Election
Dorothy married Emanuel Vero in Newcastle on the 20th June 1874 and there were nine children of the marriage, one being my paternal grandmother Dorothy Vero. 

I think Dorothy must have been forward thinking as both she and her daughter Dorothy enrolled to vote in 1903 when the Commonwealth Electoral Rolls were established when voting was not compulsory. I like to think of her having the right to vote in Australia, a right she would not have until the age of 30 in 1918 in England. 

Dorothy was widowed in 1905 and died in December 1944 in Wickham, New South Wales. She is buried in Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle.

So thanks again to +Shauna Hicks for the inspiration to write about my four great-grandmothers. It has made me think about them especially the two I did not have the chance to know. So like Shauna all four of my great-grandmothers survived their husbands and lived to old age.  I wonder what parts of them have traveled down the lineage? Perhaps strength.

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