Friday, March 26, 2010

Fearless Females: Education and the Women in my Family Tree

Thanks again to Lisa Alzo The Accidental Genealogist for the great writing prompts for Women's History Month!

None of my female ancestors attended college or held advanced degrees.  But most were literate and many were well-educated by the standard of their times.

My maternal grandmother Ruby Bolton Brown was raised on Unga Island in Alaska. Basically she was home schooled until a  Mrs Fletcher came to the village and became teacher for the children of those families employed by the Alaska Commercial Company.  Ruby's family moved back to San Francisco in 1904 and shared a house with her aunt Addie & uncle Billy Hawthorne and their daughters.  I am certain that Ruby, her sisters, and her female cousins would have all attended some kind of high school in San Francisco. However, I have not been able to find out exactly which school they attended.

Grandma Ruby wrote an excellent article in 1963 about her childhood on Unga Island for the Alaska Sportsman Magazine (now Alaska Magazine).  Her writing style is quite literary.   I am so thankful to have a copy of this article, which gives amazing insight into her life and the place she was raised.

My paternal grandmother Minttie Mae Bruton was likely educated by her father, Benjamin Benton Bruton, who was himself educated at a Baptist seminary,  just after the Civil War, and was a published author. BB Bruton became a Baptist minister (he presided over at least 20 marriages) and later a beloved & popular school teacher in Christian Co MO. Minttie Mae's brother James J Bruton b 1876,  her grandfather Thomas Bruton b 1811, and her great grandfather David Bruton b Jan 18, 1790 were also teachers. This particular branch of the Bruton family was well-educated and had a large number of doctors, politicians and educators in its ranks.

I never had the opportunity to meet Grandma Minttie Mae and have never seen any of her writing or letters, but I suspect she may have held books & education in high regard. None of her children went beyond high school, to the best of my knowledge, but several of her grand children and great grandchildren have graduated from college or university.

My maternal great grandmother Alice Miller was the youngest daughter of a Virginia lawyer, William Frederick Miller, who moved his wife & children in 1844 to Springhill, Livingston Co MO. As William was the only educated person in the settlement, he became school teacher in Spring Hill for a brief period, until a school could be built and another teacher could be found.  After the Civil War, William F Miller no longer practiced law; possibly he was disbarred for being a Confederate. At any rate, William F Miller became a tutor and then headmaster at a private school in Chillicothe, Livingston Co MO.  Great grandmother Alice was educated at her father's school, and at age 16, was deemed "qualified to teach school".  However, I don't know if she ever taught in her father's school or anyplace else.  She was married in about 1880 to Charles Albert Martine.

I have no information on the education of my  maternal great grandmother Mary Etta Kennedy but I do have a transcription of one of her letters (see one here), and she was obviously quite literate.

I have no information on the education of my paternal great grandmother Siloama Whitecotton. Most of her Thompson & Whitecotton kin could neither read nor write.

Likewise I have no information on the education of my paternal great grandmother Caroline Amelia "Cramelia" Frazier;  however she came from a Quaker family that was quite literate.  I have a number of examples of the writings of  her aunt Ann M. Frazier Way, who was a prolific letter writer (see one here), and also wrote poetry.  Quakers generally were literate & well-educated, so I am guessing this must have been the case with Cramelia.

Have a great day!


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