Anne’s story 1922: Background and beginning

Adam, c. 1912

My mother’s story began in 1922. In fact it began a bit before – let’s say September 1921. That is when her parents were married.

Adam, age 35, was a World War 1 veteran who, like many other vets after the war, was having trouble finding suitable employment. He was from a family of Scottish origin who had spent a generation or two in Ontario before moving to the west coast around 1908. They were proper Presbyterians.

Florence, age 35, was a stenographer and independent-minded woman from a family of Irish-English origin who had also spent a generation or two in Ontario before going west and arriving in Vancouver around the same time. She was the middle of three sisters. Their father was rarely heard to speak a word and it seems that the women in the family ran the show.

The women in the family all became Christian Scientists and Florence’s life took some paths that were well suited to Mary Baker Eddy’s philosophy.

Florence and Adam eloped, both age 35. They crossed the US-Canada border to get married in September 1922 in Bellingham, Washington. Florence later told her grand-children that she made sure that Adam believed in divorce before she married him, and she married in Washington state because the divorce laws were more liberal than in Canada at the time. That turned out to be quite prescient of her, or it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe revisionist history. We (her grandchildren) thought it was pretty funny because grandmothers were supposed to give you more traditional advice about marriage being forever.

Soon after the marriage, Florence got pregnant. By June 1922 she was 7 months along and undoubtedly “showing” – thus the only photo of that period has her hiding behind a large rock. She still hadn’t told her parents. Her beloved mother died in early 1922, never knowing that Florence was married and pregnant. Hmmm.

On August 1, Anne was born in Seattle. She weighed 11 pounds and Florence was an average build and only 5’2″ on a tall day. She remembered the doctor declaring that “she’ll never bar that baby alive!”

The story gets a bit hazy here. The only source of information over the years was Florence, as mother and grandmother. What we later viewed as eccentricity,, was undoubtedly full-blown mood disorder, and by the time I knew her, she was understandably defensive of her fleeting marriage, divorce, blindness, poverty, religious beliefs and mental illness. The story was interesting, to say the least.

Into this inauspicious situtation, Anne was born.

The first sign of marital discord might have been the naming of the child. Florence registered her as Julia Shirley (Julia after her own mother, Shirley for unknown reasons). Adam had been out of town and, upon return, expressed his objections. The baby’s name was then officially changed to Julia Anne (Anne after HIS mother!) and she was evermore known as Anne. The baptismal status was another issue – father was a staunch Presbyterian and wanted proper christening, but mother was an avid Christian Scientist who did not believe in christening infants.

This mismatch was soon exacerbated by Florence’s mental breakdown. The circumstances were less than ideal – broken marriage during a time when marriages were supposed to endure, unemployed father, overworked mother, post-partum hormones gone awry. The result was that the marriage never recovered, Adam went to California, Florence was hospitalized, and Anne was put in foster care.

The details are not known now, as almost all of the participants are dead. Suffice it to say that Anne lived in a foster home as a toddler. The foster parents took her for the photographs below, which were sent to her mother who was residing in a mental hospital near Vancouver. Look at the detail, the concentration, the intelligence that this little child shows! And look at that haircut!! 89 years later, the hair is similar although it doesn’t stick out in the back like this.

13 thoughts on “Anne’s story 1922: Background and beginning

    • I feel like Charles Dickens, with the responsibility of providing a weekly serial chapter read by thousands. (I recently read a novel based on Dicken’s marriage – Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold.)

  1. With the participants almost all no longer alive, the scope for speculating on “why” is unlimited. So, with apologies to Anne if I am totally misled by my imagination, I speculate.

    I see a possible problem with being brought up without brothers in a family where “father was rarely heard to speak a word”. Florence may have expected the same of her spouse. Is it possible that Adam disqualified himself by actually expressing opinions, on the naming of his daughter, for example?

    Or, given Florence’s “prescient” pre-nuptial divorce-facilitation planning, perhaps she wanted him only briefly. Specifically, for the mechanics of starting a child, cheerfully or otherwise. She always seemed to me an almost irrationally independent person. I fear that Adam may not have thought very deeply about all this beforehand. But that is not unusual, even in today’s far more informed and sophisticated world.

    But….. having known Florence, and having never met Adam, it is possible that I am unreasonably giving Adam the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Dear here and anon:

    That is a very novel thought – it has NEVER in my considerable years occured to me that Adam (my grandfather) ever had an opinion of merit! That is quite interesting.

    Based on your response and what I do know, one might conclude that you were a grandchild of Florence as well, which would make you my sibling. I wonder which one you are! I wonder if the others will reveal themselves. Also, we should alert Florence’s great-grandchildren to this source of family history.

  3. I am also hooked.

    Interesting, my grandparents on my father’s side had a similar journey. Grandfather ‘s parents emmigrated from Ontario to North Dakota, grandmother recruited from Cape Breton to teach school school in Saskatchewan. Grandfather’s family was given land to homestead in Saskatchewan, my grandparents met and married, although they never divorced, but my grandmother crossed out the word “obey” in the marriage vows, my grandfather never or very rarely spoke, my grandmother was quite outspoken and was from a family of 3 daughters.

    Also I attended the same teachers college as my grandmother.

    Look forward to the next episode. Clare have you thought about submitting a prospectus/storyboard to Mastepiece Theatre? You should watch Downton Abbey, might give you some ideas.

    • I remember that you had grandparents in Craik, Saskatchewan, but I don’t recall knowing that they had come via North Dakota as well. Whereabouts? My grandmother lived in/near Osnabrook and Soper.

      We don’t have a TV and I haven’t figured out how to (a) do streaming TV or whatever it is called on my computer, and (b) expand the 24-hour day to give me time to watch it. And there is no sign of retirement on my horizon! [I think there is a blog post lurking here. Thanks for the idea.]

  4. OK slow down — while this maybe the story of Anne there needs to be a whole prequel on Florence which I have frequently claimed I would write.

    As I remember the tale of Anne’s birth the doctor said that only one of them would live through it.
    As I remember the tale of Florence and Adam’s elopement they went to Bellingham not Blaine.
    As I remember Florence made Adam promise to divorce her if it didn’t work out on the way to Bellingham.

    Maybe they got married to get Adam into the US — Florence had become a naturalized US citizen in North Dakota (I saw the record). Why why why didn’t they tell anyone? Were married women not allowed to work?

    prophecy not prophesy

    I believe that Sarah Fraser ran that family and was not fond of Florence, or perhaps any woman. I believe that Adam was engaged to another woman in Ontario throughout the war.

    As for Here and Anon, I think the fact that Adam couldn’t find work was the key factor. When Florence had her full blown break with reality in Seattle Adam could not take care of her or Anne in any way. and probably slithered away in horror at the situation.

    I didn’t know that Florence’s father was so unassuming; in fact I thought the three girls were unnaturally attached to “Daddy” and that was the issue with men.

  5. A blogger always hopes for such an impassioned comment, so thank you for your corrrections, conjectures and comments.

    You are absolutely right about the Blaine/Bellingham error and I’ll correct it as soon as I finish this reply. I agree that the Florence prequel is needed and I await your installments. I had finished Florence’s photo album and was going to start Anne’s, so I decided to do this instead.

    You are, of course, also correct about prophecy/prophesy. That was quite interesting to me. I NEVER knew of the parallel to advice (noun) and advise (verb) and will not forget it now.

    As to your other suggestions, they are interesting and worthy of endless discussion

    It was Mom (Anne) who said that, in the time she knew him, she scarcely ever heard her grandfather speak more than a few words at a time.

  6. Yes well i too am feverishly awaiting the next installment so get to work, Tell NR that you look nothing like Florence, young or old but I must say that Anne’s lovely baby hairdo looks familiar.

    I think that they eloped and hoped that Sarah Fraser would let Florence move in with them but apparently not.

Comments are closed.