People think I’m crazy sometimes for trying to “do it all”. To be fair, I don’t do it all. No one can… or at least not the women of my generation. I’m inspired to do the things that other women did when I was growing up (and before). Not everything- I don’t want to live without the cell phone, never mind without modern washing machines, etc. I’ve been inspired by different women, for different reasons. Like my Nana…
My Nana, Violet Frances Striegel, was born in 1904. Her mother, Dorothy Von Lisk, married “unwisely” (she said he was a nasty drinker), later regretted her choice. She left her husband in St. Louis and returned to the family farm in Iowa after my Nana, her only child, was born. In those days, you didn’t have much of a choice. No woman wants to move back home with a baby, but it was just not okay to divorce. Four years later her estranged husband conveniantly died in an accident and made her an independent woman.
Grandma Striegel and my Nana went on a cruise through Alaska, where she met a fellow. My Nana wanted no part of a step-father, and her mother decided to say goodbye to the man, and continue on her way. They then bought up some land in the Ozarks and tried farming. This only lasted a few years, as they had one mishap after another. My Nana survived Typhoid Fever, after drinking tainted water. Her mom suspected there was foul play involved ( or fowl play- as in someone may have thrown a dead chicken in the well). The locals weren’t so happy with a single woman farming, and especially since they’d used her property for distillation (moonshine) purposes for a generation or two. My great grandmother was a teetotaler and godly woman, she chased them right out. Finally, when the locals burned their barn down they threw in the towel.
Grandma Striegel gathered up her assets, and bought tickets to LA. It was 1916, and Southern California was still relatively small, but the movie industry was exploding already. In 1915, David Wark Griffith’s epic “The Birth of A Nation” was released. Hollywood was up in arms, as the film was both a moving portrayal of the war of the states, and scandalous in it’s positive portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan. Grandma Striegel wasn’t interested in all that, she just wanted to farm. They headed out to LA by train, all their worldly goods in tow. In Cheyenne WY, however, they were robbed of their belongings. All the trunks just vanished. Grandma Striegel got over it, sold up the jewelry she was wearing, and some fancy things. She used the money to buy supplies and camping equipment. She and my Nana then left on foot, walking by night and camping by day. There were no great roads in those days, and no roadside inns who “left the light on”. This photo is of a road in 1916, in the San Bernadino desert area. They would have been almost to LA before they reached that road. In those days the roads were still being surveyed, and the American Automobile Club was just beginning to instal signs for travelers. These photos are of actual places that they walked through on their journey. They stopped every so often, built a fire, cooked some coffee when there was enough water and whatever they managed to catch on the trail. They finally reached LA late in 1916. My Nana lived at a boarding house so she could attend school in downtown LA. Grandma Striegel liked the San Bernadino Desert area, and bought up some land out there where she lived and farmed on her own.
So, while they were neither one of them great cooks, fashionistas or suffragettes (as was my grandfather’s relation and another inspiration, Florence Jaffray Harriman ), these ladies were a huge source of pride and inspiration to me. Because when the going got tough, they didn’t whine or give up. They just gathered up their things and kept on going. Every time. They were, to quote my daughter Syd, “tough as balls”.