Favorite Picture

Dorothy in Center, Left her grandmother (Eva) on right her mother (Helen)

The theme this week for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is favorite picture.  This fits in nicely with what I have been doing lately and that is posting pictures and telling a story to go with the picture.  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. [1] Eva came to the United States when she was almost two years old.[2]  Her brother John was born on the boat.[3]  Her first home in the United States was in Amana, Iowa.[4]  They spent a few years in Amana and then moved to Ottawa, Illinois where Eva grew up with her brothers and sisters.[5]   Eva grew into a young woman and sometime around 1896 she married Robert Bowers also of Ottawa, Illinois.[6]  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.[7]  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,[8] Helen in 1898[9] and Frances in 1900. [10]  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 kids.  She raised the three kids alone and I believe this made her a strong woman.

My grandmother and mother did not have easy lives and to survive all their trials and tribulations they had to be strong.  My grandmother died at age 82 and my mother at age 62.  I believe my mother’s early death was caused by some of the problems in her life.

Copyright ©2019 Gail Grunst


[1] Certificate of Death for Eva Bowers;  State of Illinois, Department of Public health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois, Registration Number 34633. Date of death: December 23, 1941; Place of death: County of Cook, City of Chicago.

[2] Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filbry, ed., Germans to America: List of passengers arriving at U.S. ports, Volume 34 October 1878 – December 1879; ( Wilmington, Delaware, Scholarly Resources,1993), Page 106.

[3] Ibid

[4] Conrad Reinhardt household, 1880 U. S. Census, Amana, Iowa; Roll 345; Family History Film 1254345; page 146D; Enumeration District 201; Image 0155.

[5] From family stories told to this author.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Quit-claim deed record from Robert Bowers and Eva Bowers, his wife to Alexena Bowers, City of Ottawa, County of LaSalle, state of Illinois; deed book 448, page 167.  LaSalle County Illinois Genealogical Guild collection.

[8] Eva Bowers household, 1900 U. S. Federal  Census, LaSalle County, Ottawa township, ED 76, line 37, page 6, dwelling 557, fmily124, National Archives film publication T623, roll 317.

[9] Delayed Record of Birth for Helen Bowers, State of Illinois, Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Statics, LaSalle County, City of Ottawa, State of Illinois, Date of Birth: December 3, 1898, Dated August  7, 1957.

[10] Eva Bowers household, 1900 U. S. Federal  Census, LaSalle County, Ottawa township, ED 76, line 37, page 6, dwelling 557, fmily124, National Archives film publication T623, roll 317.


Strong Women

This weeks topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is strong women.  I could not come up with one that I haven’t already written about. So I have decided to do a review of the strong female ancestors.  


The first person to pop into my head when I think of strong women is my Aunt Fran.  Aunt Fran was born in 1900.  She is my grandmother’s sister.  I knew Aunt Fran and adored her.  She was divorced and raised her daughter alone.  She worked sewing in sweat shops.  My grandmother said she was a tomboy.  She liked to go hunting and fishing with the boys.  She seemed to have an abundant of energy and worked until her death in 1971.  I consider her strong for being a single mother when it was frowned upon to be divorced.  I think she was strong because she had to work all the time and still she raised a fine daughter.  Click here to read more Memories of Aunt Fran.

Eva Bowers

Eva Bowers

The next person is Aunt Fran and my grandmother’s mother, Eva Bowers.  I think she was a strong person because she also raised her children without help from their father.  She worked all her life too. Click here to read more Great-Grandmother Eva.

Emma, Mom, Liz 1943

Aunt Emma, my mom, Aunt Liz 1943

Another strong person is Eva sister, Emma.  I picked Emma because she was married twice to two strong men and I think she had to be strong to cope with them, especially the first one.   Click here to read more Aunt Emma’s Two Lives.

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I think that my grandmother, Helen Desens, was a strong woman.  I think she was strong because in 1933 she had a son born with a mental disability.  There was not a lot of help in those days for those with mental disabilities.  She kept him at home and took care of him herself.  During this time the Great Depression was going on and my grandfather lost his business and they lost their home.  Then around 1940 my grandmother started suffering from kidney disease and finally succumbed to it in 1946.  I heard she had a great sense of humor and kept it during the tough times.  I never knew her, but picture her as a strong woman. Click here to read more Dear Grandma

I sure there are many more strong women in the family.  I think the women had to be strong to leave their country of origin to come to America leaving behind their parents, siblings, and friends.  Most had large families and took care of the children and house while their husbands worked.  Some lost children in childbirth or as infants and young children.  They had to be strong to survive it all.  I admire all of them and wish I knew more about them to tell their stories too. 

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst