Virginia, The Original Recovering Cinderella
Growing up, I was lucky enough to get to know my Great Grandmother. She lived with my maternal grandparents whom I spent a lot of time with. Her name was Virginia but I called her “Mom” because that was what my grandmother called her, and I was too young to realize why that was confusing. She died when I was in junior high, before I was old enough to appreciate the opportunity to spend time with her.
She was an incredible cook and would make the best chicken and dumplings that you have ever tasted. She would roll the dough out and cut it into strips that she would set all over the kitchen and dining room to dry out before cooking them in the aromatic broth. It was my favorite dish as a child and she taught my mother how to make them.
When I was in high school, I wanted to learn more about her. I knew she had three children…my grandmother had a twin brother (a rarity in 1922) and she had a younger sister. I would often hear my grandmother speak of another aunt but she didn’t refer to her as her sister. I asked my mother about it one day and she told me what she knew of the story.
My grandmother grew up in Kentucky. She learned to cook at a young age and as was the custom of the time in the early 1900’s, she married very young. I believe she was 13 or 14 years old. As my mother recalled, my grandmother married the son of the wealthiest man in town who also happened to be the judge in town. She had three children fairly quickly, two boys and a girl.
Unfortunately, her husband had a habit of beating her. The beatings got progressively worse over the years. One beating was so bad, she almost died. She went to her father-in-law and begged him to let her divorce her husband; she feared he would kill her. Her father-in-law told her that he would give her a divorce but she must leave town AND leave her children behind.
I cannot imagine the angst that my great grandmother went through. She was still very young. I do not believe she had any family support. She was essentially the property of her husband with no financial means or choices. I do not know what her final breaking point was but I suspect it was a beating that made her realize she wouldn’t survive another one. In the early 1900’s, Virginia was granted a divorce in the state of Kentucky.
With no financial means and a necessity to leave town, Virginia relied on the only skill she had, her cooking. She managed to get transportation from Kentucky to Missouri whether it be by train or riverboat by procuring a position as a cook in exchange for her transportation. She settled in Missouri and managed to get a position as a cook in a restaurant.
She met my Great Grandfather, married and had three more children. I do not know at what point she reconnected with her adult children. I do know that her daughter moved to Missouri and they had a relationship. I know that she knew at least one of her sons later in life.
When I think about the difficulties I faced in my own divorces, it pales in comparison to what my Great Grandmother endured. Yet, she did what she had to do to survive. She used the gifts and talents she had to create a new life for herself amid what must have seemed like insurmountable odds at the time.
Virginia refused to accept being beaten to death by her husband as her fate. Whether it was a strong will to live or just plain stubbornness (which I believe I inherited from her), she created a new life on her own terms even though it came with a high price. We ALL have the ability within us to do the same, regardless of our circumstances. We have the power to change our own lives, our own destinies. What will your great grandchildren say about the one you created?
Hi! I’m Keri Lauderdale Olson, also known as Recovering Cinderella, www.recoveringcinderella.com. I am not a therapist (although I can probably use one) or divorce professional. I am simply a woman who has lived through divorce and wants to help support other women through their own divorces with honesty, humor and a healthy dose of reality. Sign up for my newsletter to get the latest information on my online courses, private support group and blogs!