Favorite Picture: Three Generations 1938

Eva, Dorothy, Helen

I have many favorite pictures so it was hard to pick just one. This happens to be one of my favorite pictures because it is three generations of strong women.  The picture  was taken in 1938.  From the left is my great-grandmother, Eva Bowers, my mother, Dorothy Kaiser (age 14), and my grandmother, Helen Kaiser nee Bowers.  I think the picture was  probably taken in front of my great-grandmother’s place in Chicago.  By 1938 my grandparents were living in Villa Park, Illinois and this is not their home.  I wish I could have been in the picture to make it four generations, but I was not born yet and by the time I came along, Eva had already passed away.  I never knew Eva, but heard a lot about her from my mom and grandma.  Eva was born in Heidelberg, Baden, Germany to Johann Konrad Reinhardt and Anna Maria Schwebler on February 14, 1877. Eva came to the United States when she was almost two years old. Her brother John was a baby. Her first home in the United States was in Amana, Iowa.  They spent a few years in Amana and then moved to Ottawa, Illinois where Eva grew up with her brothers and sisters.  Eva grew into a young woman and sometime around 1896 she married Robert Bowers also of Ottawa, Illinois. The family story is that Robert and Eva ran off to Chicago to be married.  I have never been able to find a marriage record for them in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. According to family stories, Robert’s family never accepted Eva as his wife or acknowledged that any of the children were Roberts.  I started to wonder if they were ever really married and that is why Robert’s family didn’t want anything to do with Eva or their children.  However, when Robert’s father died, Robert and Eva as his wife signed a quit-claim deed to a piece of property to Robert’s mother.  I was told that if they were not married, Eva would not need to sign the quit-claim deed.  Perhaps they were married somewhere other than Chicago.  Robert and Eva had three children, Ralph born in 1897, Helen in 1898 and Frances in 1900.  Shortly after Frances was born Robert left Eva.  Again family stories say they were divorced, however I have never found divorce records for them.  In 1900 Eva was on her own and had to make a living for her and her three children.  She raised the three children alone in a time when there was no financial support for women. Robert did not have to pay child support and there was no welfare. Eva relied on family to babysit her children while she worked. She worked a milliner and seamstress for many years. She moved to Chicago away from her support system in Ottawa, Illinois. There were probably better job opportunities in Chicago. She had a couple of long relationships with men, but I can find no proof that she married them. She always kept the surname Bowers. Eva passed away on 23 December 1941 in Chicago, Illinois.

My grandmother married in 1923 to Fred Kaiser. Because of her upbringing with no father in her life, she was determined to have a long marriage and raise her children in a home with both a mother and father. She had my mother in 1924, a son in 1930 that lived only 11 days, another son in 1931, and a stillborn son in 1933. The son born in1931 was premature, weighed 4 lbs 2 oz and fit into the palm of her hand. She had a strong belief in God and I am sure that is what got her through those years in the 1930’s. Her premature baby boy survived and died at 80 years old. Grandma witnessed the depression during the 30’s and WWII. She was a true homemaker of the day, a good cook, seamstress, and housekeeper. She had a successful long marriage that ended in October 1980 after 57 years with the death of her husband. She only lived four months after the death of her husband and died at age 82 in February 1981.

My mother’s life was probably the easiest of the three. She married George Manfroid in 1945 and had two children. She was also a homemaker of the time. The depression of the 30’s affected my father’s family more than it did my mother’s, because of my father’s experience it made him determined that his family did not go without. He bought things that they really could not afford. My mother was the one that tried to keep things in check and watch the money. They were always living paycheck to paycheck. My mother was the worrier and this bothered her a lot. In spite of my father’s foolish spending, they were happily married. Once my brother and I were old enough she went to work. She worked part-time as a cashier for Walgreens, and went to night school to learn bookkeeping. She then found a job working as bookkeeper for Slater’s Shoe Store. This was a huge help to their financial situation. My mother was healthy during her life time, but not my father. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1967, my mother took good care of him through his treatments and worried she might lose him. He survived it and lived another 17 years. In 1984 he was diagnosed again with cancer this time with lung cancer, and he only survived a couple of weeks after diagnoses. My mother who had never been ill with more than a cold, died suddenly three years later from a brain aneurism.

All three women had their trials and tribulations and managed to stay strong and keep going in spite of them. In-between the hard times were good times too. My grandmother looks so happy in the picture above. They all had a hard life, but it was also a good life. I think for all of us life is full of those hard times, but it is our faith and family that get us through those times.

Week 3 Favorite Picture 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Copyright © 2022 Gail Grunst

2 thoughts on “Favorite Picture: Three Generations 1938

  1. I have also had trouble finding records (particularly marriage) for people in Chicago, even in the 20th century. I have to wonder if missing records have to do with graft in the clerks’s office. I would assume that Eva and Robert did have a legitimate marriage.

    It is an interesting image, as your mother and Eva seem so serious and Helen is laughing. I like their dresses – very cheery.

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