Strong women

This week’s post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks talks about strong women to honour International Day of the Woman.

A much loved brother-in-law once said about our family, “A matriarchal family….ya think” suggesting that we were raised by a society of strong women. It’s true, my mother, Joan Miller (nee Dunn) was raised in an dysfunctional family but choose to be strong and raise her 8 children with all her heart and soul. My grandmother, Bethel Miller (nee Jerry) had an alcoholic husband who she divorced in the early 1960’s. She also had 8 children that she reared while working and striving to make ends meet.

But the strong woman I’d like to talk about today is Hannah Cranston (nee Rhodes). I don’t know a lot about Hannah. Family lore says she came to America in the 1830’s with her parents. Her mother was supposed to have died on board the ship. The family ended up in Detroit, Michigan. When Hannah was 22 she married 39 year old James Cranston who had land across the river from Detroit in Canada West[1]. James purchased land in the Talbot Settlement and had completed the required duties on the 9 March 1847[2]. Hannah and James went on to have 3 sons and a daughter.

Pic_James Cranston_Hannah Rhodes_Mary
James Cranston with wife Hannah Rhodes and daughter Jane. Jane was born 1863 so this picture might have been taken around 1870ish.

I had no idea of how strong Hannah was until I found a copy of her husband’s obituary. James died 26 October 1890. His obituary states,

“In the winter seasons he cleared his farm and in the summer sailed upon the lakes in order to provide provisions for the following winter.”[3]

Do you know what that means? While he was off making money, Hannah was left to do all the farm work. That meant she took care of 4 children, 3 horses, 2 oxen, 2 milk cows, 5 head of cattle, 7 sheep and 12 pigs, not to mention 10 bushels of fall wheat, 20 bushels of buckwheat, 15 bushels of corn, and 20 bushels of potatoes.[4] Can you imagine picking potato tugs off 20 bushels of them? Oh, and make 50 pounds of butter too. Her children would have helped but she was responsible for making sure it all got done.

Hannah Cranston was a strong woman to get all that work done. Some of it was hard physical labour but it really was a matter of survival. The work had to be done so she did it.

[1] Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940″, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 April 2016), James Cranston and Hannah Rhodes, 1850.

[2] Ontario Land Records; Fiat 5144; Microfilm 1,318,224; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Death; Obituary; James Cranston; The Amherstburg Echo, November 7, 1890 – pg. 6; viewed May 15, 2016;

[4] 1871 Agricultural Census; ; Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Microfilm C_9890; image 423; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and 1871 Livestock Census; Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Microfilm C_9890; image 430; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


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