So March is Women’s History Month
and yesterday was International Celebrate Women Day. I am very FOR this because 1) I am a woman and 2) I love women. So I thought I’d spend some time this month talking/writing about awesome women that I know or know of. My family is about as Matriarchal as you can get. The women in my family run the show. As it should be. So, I thought, there are no better two people to start with than my Great-Grandmother, Anna, and my great (as in amazing) Grandmother, Lilly.
Grandma Anna, grew up in Jämtland, Sweden
and around the age that I was learning algebra and the extensive suckitude of middle school, Anna was spending her summers alone on the top of a mountain taking care of her family’s goats and and making cheese. When she was 18 years old, she packed up all her stuff into a trunk I could fit into – which is not that big when you consider it was EVERYTHING SHE OWNED- and got on a boat to America all by her bad-ass self.
On the way to America, she met a nice guy named Nels and they got along really well (You can maybe see where this is going.) After making it through the Anna goes to live with her sister in Northern Minnesota (eh!). About 7 months after getting to Minnesota, her son Eddie was born. (Whoops)
I discovered this in Middle School when I was doing a Family History project (did everyone do one of those?) The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, Mom. These dates are wrong, it says that Eddie was born in 1913, but says Grandma Anna and John got married in 1914.
Mom: Um, yeah… no… that’s right.
So, Anna was all like, “I can raise this kid by myself– no problem!” until a nice guy named John noticed how awesome she was, and decided she liked him too. She and John got married and bought a Homestead (and if you don’t know what that is because you never read the “Little House” books by Laura Ingles Wilder first of all– what is wrong with you? and second of all, you should look it up.) So then one day Nels showed up at the farm– POTENTIALLY AWKWARD– and he actually worked for John and Anna on the farm for a while before going off to to California to seek his fortune.
Anna raised 7 kids. I mean, I guess John was there too, but whatever. She lived almost entirely off the farm. For some extra money she built a coffee house on the edge of their property and ran it by herself. Then after John died in the 1940’s she RAN THE FARM herself. (That’s a lot of work!) So then after a while Nels came back. So she married him, because, I mean, why not? She had a silver wedding anniversary with each husband, and after Nels died she lived by herself until she was 95 years old. She told fart jokes that I can’t repeat because half the joke involves her Swedish accent. She was good with money. She did everything she ever set her mind to. She lived to be 99 years old.
So one of Anna’s daughters is named Lilly is my grandmother and the heritage of awesome gets passed on.
Grandma got a full scholarship to St. Olaf. She raised 5 kids. She and my grandfather moved a lot and the first thing she always did in a new city was walk or bus herself to the public library and get a library card.
There was one exception to this. In one town she went to get a library card, like she always did, and on the card she signed her name “Lilly Karolina Hutchinson” because.. well… that was her name. But this was the early 1960’s and the librarian told her that she had to sign it “Mrs. Warren Hutchinson” and she basically told them (in a very polite way of course) to eff off and walked out of the library. She wasn’t just her husband’s wife– she was her own person.
No matter where they lived, Grandma’s house was always the place all the kids wanted to hang out. She could feed a dozen extra kids on a moment’s notice. She ran a boarding house to make extra money. Everyone was always welcome at Grandma’s. She invited college kids to Thanksgiving dinner if they couldn’t get to their home. She learned Spanish. She passed on a wealth of Swedish traditions to her 5 kids and dozens of grandchildren that have stuck with us all our lives. She read all the time. She gave me books. She loved everyone. I’m pretty sure that if she were still alive, we would have a conversation something like this:
Me: Hey Grandma, I love girls the way most girls love boys.
Grandma: You know I have your piece of hardanger* done, whenever you find a nice girl to marry.
She taught me to be grateful for what I had and to give back when I can. She filled me with belief that I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do.
I come from a long line of strong women. I am proud of them. I like to think they would be proud of me. In any case, here’s to you Anna. And here’s to you Lilly. And all the strong women of the world.