Travel theme: International Women’s Day

Susan Forbes Nicholson Elder. Kirkcaldy High Street. circa 1940s.

Susan Forbes Nicholson Elder. Kirkcaldy High Street. circa 1940s.

I was really moved by the post in Northwest Frame of Mind blog remembering his grandmothers  for the International Women’s Day Challenge and it got me thinking about my own grandmothers – in particular Susan Elder, after whom I’m named.

Susan Elder was my paternal grandmother and she died on March 11 1950 – almost 12 years before I was born, and co-incidentally, on what is now International Women’s Day.

I know very little about my dad’s mum. He was only 17 when she died and I’ve never really asked him much about her, possibly because I’m not as close to him as I am to my mother, but also because I think I’ve always felt his sadness at her loss and I haven’t known how to ask.

I’ve always known I was named for her and until my mum gave me the photo above, the only picture I’d ever seen of my grandmother is this one, taken probably around 1914-15.

William, Susan and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

William, Susan and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

I’ love this photo. I love the tranquility and hopefulness of the three young faces. I know my great-grandmother had been a school teacher before she married, and I wonder if the book my grandmother is holding is somehow symbolic of the family’s love of learning – or perhaps a way of conveying gentility upon the children of a family whose father was “in trade.”

My grandmother was 22 when she married my grandfather in June 1923. On their marriage certificate, his occupation is given as “blacksmith”  – she apparently had none. In researching my family history, I’ve found very few female ancestors who did not have jobs at the time of their marriage, so I guess Susan’s family were sufficiently wealthy that she did not have to work in the mills and factories of Kirkcaldy.

Leslie family headstone, Dysart Cemetary, Fife, Scotland

Leslie family headstone, Dysart Cemetary, Fife, Scotland

My grandmother’s married life was not materially easy. She raised two sons in a tiny terrace house with an outside toilet, shared with three other families. Was she happy? I don’t know. I’ve spoken to an aunt and to one of my father’s cousins who remember her fondly, but I really don’t know what her life was like. I hope that when the photographer caught that image of a stern-looking woman with her head turned away from the camera that he was only capturing that moment – and that the beautiful, hopeful teenager of the second photo found happiness in her relatively short life.


6 thoughts on “Travel theme: International Women’s Day

    • Thank you. And thanks for visiting my blog. I really was inspired by your post. I’ve been thinking a lot about my female ancestors lately, frustrated because there is often less information available about them than their menfolk. It’s made me determined to share the stories I have so that my son will know a little more about where he comes from.

  1. Thanks. it’s so important to preserve the past – and ironically actually more difficult in our “electronic age.”

  2. I love that top photo, your grandmother looks like a woman of action, and even as she strides so full of purpose her mouth turns up a little. She looks like she knew how to laugh and did so often. And check out those shoes, sooo cool. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Fearless Females – Names and Naming Patterns | Shaking the tree

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