When I think of inspirational women, my grandmother Marie Anne Lacaille is right up there with the best of them. Over her lifetime, which spanned the 20th Century, she had to adapt to many personal, environmental and social changes, from homesteading on the prairies to navigating city life and a whole lot in between, so she left us an amazing legacy to learn from!
One of the most challenging times for her was as a young woman – wife and mother – during the horrendous drought years of the 1930s, when farm crops were nonexistent and famine was rampant. She took it upon herself to become her own cottage industry in order to feed her family. Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Work of Her Hands: A Prairie Woman’s Life in Remembrances and Recipes, which speaks of her courage and ingenuity:
Some of the family didn’t know what to make of my grandmother. My mother remembers a few comments among the Fradette wives. “Why is she making all that work for herself?” they’d say. French women didn’t do what she did, even in the worst of times. Traditionally, on the farm, they were expected to be good wives, which meant waiting on their husbands, caring for the children, sometimes ten or more, and tending to homemaking duties – cooking, cleaning and gardening. Few took on producing butter and cream as an industry. Some traded eggs for store credit but few turned it into the weekly business my grandmother made of it. They started tisking a little when she took up raising turkeys to butcher and sell in the late fall, though many of them reserved one or two from her flock because they knew she would grow them lovely and fat, and perfect for Christmas dinner. And they simply could not understand why she would work like a hired man in the field stooking wheat and pitching hay.
Chapter: “Everybody just try to survive”
My grandmother modeled fortitude, determination, creativity and loving care for her daughters and granddaughters so very well. When I look around and observe my mother, my sisters, my aunts and female cousins, I see those qualities sparkle in each of them. And so, her legacy continues …
I hope, dear Gramma, you are looking down on all of us with pride. Thank you.