Last night I went on a scavenger hunt for Frances Fenton. She’s my great-grand aunt, and all I had was a birth date for her. Nothing else. Ancestry.com wasn’t helping, so I turned to Google.
And boy, did Google have a ton of information. Not only did I learn when she died (Jul. 21, 1953), I learned so much more.
She went to Vassar. Then she taught at Mt. Holyoke, before going to the University of Chicago to get her PhD. She was involved in higher education her entire life.
She was married. Twice. Her first husband left her for one of his grad students at the University of Minnesota. That grad student became one of America’s premiere feminist scholars.
Frances’ second husband was part of the inaugural faculty of Bennington College, where Frances eventually became an assistant to the president over PR and fundraising for the university. As far as I can tell, Frances and her husband were living in Boston in the early 1950s, and Frances’ occupation was listed as psychiatry.
Why am I grateful tonight for Frances?
Because yet again I feel like one of my core values–education–is simply part of my DNA.
Because my family wasn’t picture-perfect. Since I started examining my family tree, I stumble on leaves of divorce on almost every branch. I always thought divorce just didn’t happen until, like, the 1970s. Maybe the 1870s…
Because when her husband left her for someone 20 years his junior, she went out and married a man 10 years her junior. Turnabout is fair play, my friends.
Because she always worked. As far as I can tell, she built a solid career.
I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes I feel like a bit of a black sheep in my family, what with my feminist leanings and such. But the more I get into my family tree, the more it’s clear to me that being a feminist is just what my people do.
I needed to learn about Frances this weekend. It really was perfect for what was ailing me.