When I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I decided to focus on direct ancestors, with the occasional foray into collateral lines. This is one of those weeks. While I have no shortage of strong women (this week’s theme) to write about from my direct lines, there’s a group of woman I came upon in my research for whom I have particular admiration.
Agnes Florence Prowse was born on August 5, 1872 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She was the youngest of the 12 children of Joseph Jarvis Prowse (the brother of my 2g grandfather, Samuel Prowse, 52 Ancestors #4) and Agnes Rider Jarvis (the niece of my 3g grandmother, Agnes Rider).
Agnes had an older sister, Elizabeth Prowse, who was born in 1864. Following the death of her sister-in-law in 1889, Elizabeth moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, to care for her brother Isaac’s two young children. In 1894, Elizabeth, like many unmarried women of her generation, made her way to Boston to seek employment.
In 1896, Agnes, age 23 and unmarried, gave birth to a daughter who she named Bessie. In 1897, Agnes left Bessie in the care of her brother Phillip and joined her sister Elizabeth in Boston. In 1900, Agnes and Elizabeth were working as servants in the same household in Boston.
By 1906, Agnes had reunited with her daughter back in Charlottetown. In 1911, Agnes and Elizabeth were running a small boarding house, in a home that they rented. Bessie, then aged 15, lived with her mother and aunt.
By 1921, they owned a larger house on Euston Street in Charlottetown, which they also ran as a boarding house. By this time, Bessie had begun her long career as a teacher and was living with her mother, aunt and 5 boarders, all male.
It can’t have been easy raising a child as a single mother in the early 1900s in Charlottetown. She clearly raised a strong, independent daughter. Bessie became a teacher who was much loved by her students and was an active member of the PEI Professional and Business Women’s Club, including acting as President of the club for several years in the 1960s. Bessie never married and had no children that I know of.
Unlike many in her immediate and extended family, who had long detailed obituaries, Agnes’s death warranted barely a mention in the local paper.
To Agnes, Elizabeth and Bessie – you may not have left descendants, but know that you are not forgotten.