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.