.Assisgnment :NEW Options Class
Shelton State Community College
A Study of the influence of the matriarch on the Female Descendants
1. What are the ways each generation of women is like the preceding generations?
2. What do those of the same generation have in common?
3. How do economic and sociological forces impact upon the implied and expressed values that have been passed down?
4. Are those values changes or diluted by marriage?
5. What compromises are made?
6. What are consistent themes running through the 7 generations I have known?
7. How much of this is part of “Southern” tradition and how much is family teaching?
8. What is the incidence of divorce in each generation?
9. What is the effect of newer family structures like families living together without marriage in the family patterns?
10. How do the comformists relate to the non comformists?
11. How are the cousins alike and how are they different?
Annice Deane Barton was born October 15, 1913, the eighth child in a family of nine children. In the rural community of Ralph, Alabama, her parents were known as good neighbors and neighborhood leaders. Her father served as Democratic Beat Committeeman for 65 years and as local constable almost as long.
They lived on the Barton home place so other relatives came back to visit home long after the previous generation had passed away. There were always extended family- cousins, aunts, and other relatives dropping by. Mollie Cork, Annice’s widowed grandmother and her unmarried daughter had come to live on the farm as well and a small house was built for them in the side yard of the Barton house.
Annice Deane Barton and Lawrence Graham were married in 1934 during the depths of the Depression. When I was born in 1936 I was part of the first generation to be born in a hospital. My grandmother Barton had often served as midwife, but my parents wanted hospital care.
As many families trying to get by during the Depression (my parents thought of it in capital letters) we lived in multiple family groups for several years. We lived with both sets of my parents’ families according to where my father could find work.
When a job for my father opened up in Tuscaloosa, we moved to town and family members moved in with us. My father’s two single sisters, a widowed sister and her two children, and my mother’s brother were part of the family group at various times. As some married, others came to stay until they could make it on their own.
Many important social skills are learned in the crucible of necessary togetherness. Little privacy means that each member carefully respects the tiny space each other carves out. Too personal questions remain unasked, and advice and judgments are kept to a minimum to reduce conflict. When discord arises a cooling off period is followed by working out manageable coexistence. These skills are taught to succeeding generations.
We grew up sharing our home with others
In 1941 my father was hired to work in a government shipyard in the war boomtown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Men job hungry from the depression poured into a town with little housing available. They “boarded” with local families during the week and saved precious gas for visits home on weekends.
. In addition to caring for her three young children, my mother cooked and did laundry for the boarders. She bought the first new washing machine in the neighborhood with her earnings and the family enjoyed new found prosperity.
In 1945 we moved back to a little frame house built from used lumber on the family farm. My father bought back part of the farm my grandfather lost when his business failed and provided his parents with the house in which they had raised their children. They were there when they died many years later.
My father worked in town and my mother handled the details for the farm while caring for her four children. She fed the animals, did the milking, chopped firewood, and did equipment and fence repairs. Her father in law who was in poor health, came down and entertained the younger children when she had to work outside.
After my first husband left me pregnant with one child I moved back in with my parents and siblings. The house was too small, but they made room. With their encouragement I went to the University of Alabama and received a B. S. in 35 months. They provided room and board and child care. I rode to Tuscaloosa with my father as he went to work and walked from downtown to the University. They have never complained about the added expense or the crowding. The only cash they paid toward my college education was the $15 for my diploma. My siblings helped, too, often buying clothes or shoes for my daughters.
My mother and her mother in law were good friends. When Grandma had a stroke, my parents left their home to live with her. Any family would have cared for her well and all did help to care for her in other ways. She was the first of four sick people my mother would care for during her middle years, after her children were gone. . She taught, ”Family takes care of family.”
Her many years of communal living showed her how to cope in many difficult circumstances. She was 62 when my father died but continued to work outside the home until she was almost 70.
It is never easy to live in multifamily homes, but there are positive aspects, too. Children have much love and support from all ages. Everyone is needed and no one feels unimportant. This background probably influenced the values and priorities within our family and still impacts the younger generations.
As long as I can remember there have been at least 3 generations living on this farm. There are now 5 generations in four households. Three of our children have lived on the farm since getting married. Some were in the house with us, temporarily, during times of difficulty.
Perhaps this is why members of our family are in contact at least weekly and with our mother more often. We take turns buying groceries, taking her to the doctor or family events, and helping keep her place up. One year for her birthday, her girls-daughters, granddaughters, and little ones, painted and redecorated her mobile home. New carpet, curtains, and furniture made it like new.
My mother has given all her property away to her family. Her home is in my sister’s name and she and my father had us all choose the area of the farm we wanted to inherit. Upon his death she deeded it to us. We honor her by providing any-thing she mentions she likes and she has no fear of being neglected. Her grand-children take her on trips and vacations. Sometimes she babysits, but only if she volunteers.
My parents totaled 16 brothers and sisters between them. Marriages averaged 48 years including widows and divorces. Several couples had more than 60 years together. In my generation 60% of cousins stay married to first spouse. In my children’s generation fewer remain with their first spouse. We think that is a remarkable record. In my grandchildren’s generation there are more divorces and one unmarried couple living together.
When an unmarried granddaughter had a baby the whole family went all out in support of the young mother and child. There were some suggestions, a little advice, but no judgments expressed. Mother and child have a mobile home next to the parents and near me.
Mama Annice, our matriarch, grows more frail in her 84th year. She lives alone a few yards from family members on each side of her. She still bakes cakes to give away and makes quilts for new babies. Our family had six newborns in 1996. She reads 2 or 3 books a week and can discuss Danielle Steele with granddaughters or Charles Swindoll with sons-in-law.
Her church and community call her Mama Annice and she does much of her church work through telephone contacts. She established the precedent of providing food at the church after funerals or buryings. Now it is accepted and the whole church helps out.
My sisters and I find our lives colored by the examples of our parents and grandparents. Hospitality, community service, family loyalty, and shared civic responsibility are values seen in every generation.
Our children reflect newer sociological values. Some social drinking is allowed now and different family styles are accepted, but not encouraged. Achievement in careers, education, assertiveness, and independence are mingled with traditional values passed down.
. The echoes of my grandparents’ words are heard in my grandchildren’s methods of teaching their children. Sometimes the exact words may be heard. Half the members of the younger generation are as active in church as their parents have been. Others are less committed. here is a great deal of family pride in our young people and an unusual amount of acceptance between generations.
Outsiders say we are strong women. We are soft spoken, generally, but are not intimidated by people or circumstances. There is little tolerance for whiners or for those who do not do their share. We accept non relatives into our families and expect openness and respect in return. We are seldom disappointed.
I’M PROUD TO BE ONE OF MAMA ANNICE’S GIRLS