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Posts Tagged ‘women; settlers; pioneers; feminism; identity; genealogy; family’

In my research thus far I have encountered a recurring and very frustrating obstacle that is the perfect subject for discussion in the days following International Women’s Day.  True to form, the same challenge is also found in J.T. MacMurchy’s article “The Shaw Family of Nearby Banks”.

Have you noticed that there has been very little discussion about a particular woman in Thomas’s life?  A woman who would have shared in, and contributed to his successes as an early pioneer?  If yes, great observation!  If no, you are one of many so don’t beat yourself up.   All too often the experiences and identities of early female settlers are mysteriously absent from the accounts of family (and arguably national) histories.

In MacMurchy’s article, Isabella Jordan is strictly identified by her relationship to Thomas, resulting in a string of elusive nouns including “bride”, “Mrs. Shaw”, “wife”, and “Mrs. Thomas Shaw”.  The latter is the most effective example of Isabella’s renaming as she has become an accessory to Thomas, the feminine form (or extension) of her husband.  Do you find this troubling?  I am baffled by this unfortunate tradition of renaming, and bemoan the fact that I must search for the identities of women using their husbands’ names.

IsabellaPortrait1

Isabella (Jordan) Shaw, date unknown

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