Many unsung female heroes have crossed my path. I haven’t known any famous people, so all the heroes in my life – male and female – are unsung.
I’m going to break the “Two-For” rule today and write about just one of my unsung female heroes, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Morrison. I know her only through names and dates on the written page and a plain rock that marks her grave in Spears Graveyard, but she is my hero.
Mary Morrison (17??-1781)
I know few details of this Mary Morrison’s life. I don’t know if she had a bubbly personality or was a negative person. I only know her from the circumstances of her life.
She was born in Scotland, probably on the Kintyre Peninsula in 1732. She married John Morrison from the same place. They came to America, lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to North Carolina in the 1760s.
Mary and John had nine children. John died in 1777. Tradition tells us that he was ambushed by Tories not far from his and Mary’s home. Knowing that he would soon die, he wrote his will in August of 1777 and died less than a week later. From John’s will, we know that Mary was expecting their last child at the time because he made provisions for the unborn child.
Sadly, Mary died early in 1781, leaving her minor children in the care of relatives. We also know that when Mary was sick and writing her will that one of her daughters was very ill and it was uncertain if the daughter would survive that illness.
What a hard life Mary must have had! I hope she had joy in her life.
I marvel at how she left Scotland for the great unknown American frontier. She left a place on the sea for a new life 200 miles inland in the backcountry of North Carolina where the woods and meadows were filled with all sorts of wild animals about which she knew little or nothing. She must have feared every day for disease or injury to herself and her family.
I live on land today that has been passed down from generation to generation from John and Mary. I came to feel a real kinship with Mary a few years ago as I worked in our vegetable and flower garden.
I practiced organic gardening, much as Mary would have in the 1770s. I imagined Mary growing some of the same vegetables and varieties of flowers on this same land. I enjoyed the butterflies, writing spiders, hoppy toads, dragonflies, birds, and box turtles that visited the garden, and I liked to think that Mary did, too.
As I was always on the lookout for copperhead snakes while in my garden, I can’t help but think Mary kept an eye open for them, too. One of the earliest things my parents taught me was how to distinguish between a copperhead and a non-poisonous snake. I feel sure that was an early lesson Mary and John taught their children. Also, how to identify and avoid poison oak.
I can imagine Mary showing her children how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, bite the end of the stem off, and suck in the sweetness of the flower.
When wild passion flowers sprouted in her garden, I hope she left them to grow, bloom, and produce lollypops.
When the wild orange butterfly weed bloomed in sunny spots in the yard, I hope Mary showed her children the black, yellow, and white-striped caterpillars munching on the green leaves, and I hope she knew to tell them that those caterpillars would one day be transformed into brilliant Monarch butterflies.
Mary did not have benefit of a tractor to till her garden, comfortable 21st century clothing to wear in the summer sun, or an air-conditioned house to retreat to when the heat and humidity got the best of her or when her back ached or blisters rose on the palms of her hands.
I gardened because I wanted to. Mary gardened because she had to. If deer trampled her corn or raccoons raided her apple trees, it could be a matter of life or death for her family. When it happened to me, I just got mad and bought corn and apples at the supermarket.
When the deer and raccoons decided to eat all the plants in my garden, I raised the white flag of surrender and stopped gardening. Mary didn’t have the luxury of stopping. In fact, she probably didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a single day of her life. She could never stop working hard or worrying about her family.
My heart breaks to think of her on her death bed in March of 1781, writing her will, and wondering what would become of her orphaned children.
When I get to Heaven, I will sit down with Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Morrison and hear all about her life and her garden.
Grandmother, you’re my hero!
Until my next blog post
Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. I learned about her prompts in her January 8, 2019 blog post: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646.
I look forward to seeing what Rae has in store for us in April. If you’d like to participate, visit her blog and tell her you’re interested.
Let’s continue the conversation
In the comments section below, tell me about one or two of your unsung female heroes.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.