This week’s theme is “Strong Woman.” I’ve found it difficult to choose who to write about this week. So many of my female ancestors travelled 100s of miles, from state to state, from country to country. They lost children and husbands to disease and war and though their husbands were the ones who often had the official title of farmer, we all know that “farmer’s wife” is a 24-7 occupation in itself.
Around the mid-to-late 19th Century, women on my mother’s side of the family started leaving home to work, instead of living with their parents until marriage like before. My 2nd great-grandmother Georgianna Sawyer left her parent’s house at the age of four to live with relatives John and Sarah Getchell according to her daughter Lily Sawyer Pray. She was born in 1841 to Robert Sawyer and Louisa Andrews in the town of Wales, Maine. Aunt Lily said Georgianna left because her mother was ill and then ended up staying with the Getchells in Brunswick through high school because the “schools were better.” She must have had a talent for studies because she graduated from Brunswick High School in 1861 with honors. She spent the next few years teaching in Massachusetts before returning to Brunswick where she met her future husband James Wingate Pray. They married in 1865.
My great-grandmother Mary Ellis Pray was born to James and Georgianna in 1866 then the family moved to Bath, Maine when James got a job with the Bath Daily Times. A son James was born in 1870, but lived only a year. Aunt Lily was born in 1873 then three years later her father James W. died of tuberculosis, the “family curse,” that also killed his mother and several siblings. Georgianna was again in charge of supporting herself plus two children.
I only have slight glimpses into what daily life was like for Georgianna after losing her husband. In the 1880 census, her occupation is “keeping house” but in the 1900 census, it is “dressmaker.” Her obituary mentions nothing about her work, only her participation in the First Baptist church. Somehow she insured that her two daughters not only finished high school; they then went on to graduate from Colby College.
Georgianna lived to the age of 81, dying in April 1923. She is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, next to her husband, son and daughter Lily.