Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day – a celebration of motherhood.

Today is Mother’s Day here in the UK.

To mark this day, I thought I would share a few words about three amazing women in my tree.

Ann Bowers

Ann Bowers (1843-1889)
Ann Bowers (1843-1889)

Ann Bowers was born in 1843 in Wicken, Cambridgeshire. She was penultimate of the eight child of Henry Bowers and Ann Bailey.

Marrying labourer James Simpson Bishop in 1860, it wasn’t long before she began their family with the birth of their first child Ann Elizabeth Bishop in 1861. Over the next 26 years she bore another 17 children. It appears that two of these children died in their infancy.

Ann, who must have been exhausted from her continuous pregnancies and looking after an army of children, eventually succumbed to pneumonia in March 1889 and died aged 45 years. Her youngest child was just 2yrs old.

With a total of 16 living children, their labourer father would have struggled immensely to provide and care for them had it not have been for Sarah Farby (née Bowers) – Ann’s married and childless sister.

Sarah Bowers

Sarah Bowers was Ann’s (above) older sister. She married George Farby but the couple never had any children of their own. However, they lived close to the growing Bishop household and therefore Sarah helped Ann to care for her children, and upon Ann’s death in 1889, Sarah was there to help care for the children – the youngest, George Juble Bishop, being just 2yrs old.

As the family grew up and started having their own children and grandchildren, Sarah continued to care for them – earning herself the affectionate name of ‘Granny Farby’. She died just under 2 months after the death of her husband in 1920.

Sarah Elizabeth Giddings

Sarah, born in 1852, was the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Giddings of March, Cambridgeshire. The stigma that accompanied this fact will have worked against her and her mother from the moment that the pregnancy became known.

Sarah Elizabeth Giddings (1852-1925)
Sarah Elizabeth Giddings (1852-1925)

Sarah didn’t just face this hurdle in life – when she was 21 she lost her mother (aged 41-42yrs old). The following year (1874) she married James Martin and the couple bore their first child that year. In total, they had 12 children, but sadly, Sarah was to outlive 6 of her children, and 2 of their spouses.

Son Herbert died in a horrific train accident in France; Albert died in a German hospital; her daughter Emma and Emma’s husband both died in 1917 – leaving their orphaned daughter Mary.

Sarah’s 11yr old son William Martin died after an accident whilst working on a horse and cart in 1890;  her daughter Mary died on her day of birth in 1886; and her son Percy died within the first year of his life.

Sarah died in 1925 – a mother and a grandmother.

A life consumed

The ‘White Plague’, ‘Consumption’, ‘T.B’, Tuberculosis.

If you’ve been researching your family tree, you’re bound to have stumbled across some of these phrases as causes of death (i’d only not seen the ‘white plague’ term before, but I’ve seen the others too many times).

Although it wasn’t notifiable until 1912, Tuberculosis was probably the cause of one-third of disease caused deaths in the nineteenth century. That’s quite a claim.

Environments with poor ventilation, overcrowding and people with poor nutrition (including the drinking of infected cows milk) were all susceptible to the disease. However, improvements in housing and nutrition halved the number of deaths by the end of the century.

Within my own family, I have found cases where it has claimed my ancestor’s lives: a 35yr old Henry Bowers of Wicken, leaving his young wife with a hungry family of eight young children; two children both under the age of 1 year of James and Mary Martin of Little Downham – (another daughter died aged 9yrs from Scarlet Fever, and James himself was killed by a train not far from his house).

If you’re interested in reading more about poverty and disease (such a jolly topic i know!), i recommend getting hold of a copy of Rosemary Rees’ Poverty and Public Health : 1815-1948 (Heinemann Advanced History S.)

More on Tuberculosis at Wikipedia