My grandmother, Mary Catherine, born in 1898, left school after eighth grade. One of her first jobs was to mount women’s combs on cards. She married my grandfather, a widowed lawyer with a toddler son, at age 22. She had seven children, four sons and three daughters; she raised her stepson as her own. Tragically one daughter died before she was two. Her husband died when she was 40; her children ranged from 17 to 2. She had lost her parents the year before.
My grandpa was a lawyer, but had been in bad health for 10 years. There was no insurance. When they opened his files, they found stacks of unpaid bills that he never tried to collect because his clients were too poor. The Social Security Act was passed in 1938, shortly before my grandfather died. I know she collected something later. She collected rent from three small apartments in Brooklyn, but the apartments were the source of endless headaches. She owned the house, but I am not sure it was paid of. Grandma worked part-time in a laundromat.My mother was 17; she gave up her college dreams and worked as a secretary. All the 7 kids helped support the family as they grew older.
Grandma was a very loving, giving single mother; all her children turned out well–two lawyers, two teachers, a nurse, a social worker, a computer programmer. She was always there to help out when babies were born, when someone was sick, when someone was in crisis, when someone need a kind, gentle, loving listenender. Her oldest graddaughter, I always loved spending time at her house. She was greatly loved by all her daughters-in-law. Christmas at Grandma’s house was a joyous celebration with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. When she was older, she visited from house to house, always there to listen, always there to help, never there to tell tales.
A very religious women, she was empowered by her deep faith. A lifelong Democrat, she voted in the first election open to women. A self-educated woman, she read newpapers daily and was always ready to discuss world events, sharing her well-informed opinions. I could tell her things I couldn’t tell my parents. She lived long enough to know all 4 of my children. She was a devoted, attentive grandma. All our lives, all 31 grandchildren got a birthday card from grandma, with a $1 enclosed, a widow’s mite. Her cards were never late.
When she died at age 86, she had 31 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren; most of them attended her funeral because they had loved her so much. She is my heroine, inspiration, and role model.