She was born in Detroit, Michigan to Prussian immigrants in 1888 the youngest of 5. I’m not sure how much school she had, but she wasn’t college educated. At 22 (circa 1910) she married a man named Edward, a china packer, and they too stayed in Detroit. They had 3 daughters. Their marriage would last about 10 years before she would file for divorce (something that was seriously frowned upon in that time period). Edward, who was a kind man – he cried as hard as the kids did when the family dog died – had a Jekyll/Hyde personality when he drank. Which was often — and during Prohibition. Anna would lock herself and her daughters (the youngest still an infant) in the bedroom because of his antics, which would include chasing her around the house with a butcher knife. When he would pass out, she would gather her kids – even in the dead of winter – to catch the streetcar to her mother’s house. As a woman of the 21st Century, I can totally understand how this would constitute a divorce.
Back then, it wasn’t seen that way. As a Lutheran, she was thrown out of the church of her youth due to the divorce. She moved her daughters in with her mother and got a job at Chrysler on the assembly line, putting arms rests in vehicles. In the 1920’s, the kind man down the street named John, married her. They had no children together, but had a happy 30+ year marriage.
Anna was the most beautiful Gibson girl and was quite the pistol. Once she got an idea in her head, there was no stopping her. Rumors spread about how she drove half way across the south with a shotgun in the back of her car for justice on someone who did her loved one wrong (it worked out okay in the end….I’m sure the shotgun helped things along…..no one was hurt). She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind in an era when it was derogatory. As passionate as she was, she loved hard too. All who knew her spoke of her kindness and she helped people out whenever they needed it. Even when her ex-husband Edward was sick with the flu, Anna would stop by his apartment to bring him soup and make sure all was well. She was a loving grandmother to all 7 of her grandkids. She was always entertaining people and had a large group of friends that would meet in her home for cards every week.
Anna died from breast cancer in 1961 at 72. The funeral director made the comment to her family that in all his years he had never seen so many people turn out for a funeral. The doors were bursting at the seams.
Why all this? Anna’s middle daughter was my grandmother.
I found a bunch of old family photos – a lot of negatives from the 1950’s that were hers, too – and decided once I had my house I would put these photos in frames and display them. I’m still getting around to it, but I came across this photo (which now graces my mantle) that really struck me:
I don’t know who took this photo, when, or why, but it seems to sum up her personality. I love how most photos of that time are very serious and formal — she clearly is not! Classy, sexy, and not afraid to wear a weird hat! ((There is another pane to this, a picture of her with a girl, who I imagine is a friend – I cropped it out for continuity)). I showed it to a friend of mine who said she can see some of my facial features in her. I don’t see it, but it made me smile nonetheless.
Some other Anna pictures: