7 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 3 - Tough Woman

It's only January 6th, 2015, but I'm so excited about this challenge that I'm already doing Week 3's one.

This week the challenge theme is "Tough Woman"

Week 3, Tough woman — Who is a tough, strong woman in your family tree? Or what woman has been tough to research?

I think most families are made up of tough women, matriarchs who run the family no matter who is supposed to "wear the pants". You hear a lot of stories about mothers or grandmothers who had to be obeyed no matter what. So many women I could have written about - one of my grandmothers, or perhaps my great great grandmother (who apparently was a "tough old bird"), but as I started typing, the Tough Woman who really stood out was...

My Mother
My mother was a tough woman. She grew up in North East England in one of the famous port, coal mining and ship building areas of the UK. Born in 1935, she was only young when World War 2 commenced. She passed away in 1996.

The area where my mother's family lived suffered many bombing raids due to its significant role of building new ships and repairing damaged ones: BBC Legacies page

During the war she and her brothers were "evacuated" to the country. One family story was that her younger brother hated it and ran away back to the city.

I don't know how long the evacuation lasted, but apart from that, my mother and her brothers also stayed with their Aunt Meg for some time during the war (this according to some letters from 1942 written by my grandfather to this Aunt Meg)

In one letter it says "I am pleased to hear that Pauline's head is nearly better, let us hope that it will be completely better by the time I hear from you again"

Mum's father was in the RAF - how "tough" would it have been - father away, mother still in Sunderland, and being hurt in some way that it warranted being mentioned in a letter?

Another letter says "So Maureen has been to see the children, I hope that she did not fight while she was there or I would never forgive her if she did".

Apart from what that says about the family dynamics, it seems that my Mum didn't get to see her Mum (Maureen, who I was named after) much during this part of the war.

In 1944, when Mum was just 9, a telegram was sent to the family - her father's plane was missing and after about a week a letter was received saying that he was now presumed dead.

A tough blow. I'm not sure how the family coped after that. It must have been hard.

When Mum was 17 she left NE England and headed for London to work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney. A young girl, hundreds of miles away from home.

She must have been tough though, 'cause by the end of that year (she was 18 by then), she was on a ship to Australia, venturing into the unknown to go and live with an uncle she had never met.

Just before she turned 19 she joined the Australian Army where she trained to be a Nursing Orderly. A tough occupation.

It got tougher though - during her service they thought she had TB and sent her to the Repatriation General Hospital in Corcord New South Wales. She was there for nearly a year. Mum didn't have (and never had) TB, but apparently that wasn't enough to get her back into "active service". Tough nut that she was, she kept her medical studies up during her stay at the Repat Hospital and progressed up the Nursing Orderly levels.

She was discharged as Medically Unfit from the Army in July 1956.

And this all before she was 21!

As I said, my mother was a tough woman.


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