This is Emma Josephine Penney, my maternal grandmother. In this HS graduation picture I think she is beautiful and I want to believe she had hope and optimism for her future. But her life was difficult. As a child growing up on a dairy farm in Sagus, MA, the second to last child in a family that had more than one death of a child, her father was a strict patriarch. As a grown woman, she faced single parenting during the depression when she and my grandfather parted ways under unpleasant circumstances.
Born February 15, 1893 (later in life she insisted her birthday was really Valentine’s Day), she rarely used her first name, always went by Jo Penney (where my name Penney Jo came from. Born on my paternal grandmother’s birthday, I was named after my maternal grandmother). She lived to be 105, dementia making her last decade unpleasant. She hated, and rarely went to, doctors. She grew roses, veggies and everything, and when she turned 100 Boeing Aircraft Company sent a representative to her party to present her with a t-shirt and pin because she had worked there for decades. She saw women get the vote and volunteered at the voting polls until she couldn’t.
As a child I didn’t know her well, but as an adult, I admire her stamina and intelligence. I think of her as Febuary draws to a close, it was “her” month. And as March, Women’s History month, begins, I think of many of the women in my family lineage and wonder who, what, she, they, would be if they lived in today’s world.