Strong Women – My Grandma Susanne Teresa McLernon Anderson

I spent most of my life believing that my maternal grandmother’s name was Susan Theresa McLernon Anderson.  My mother named me and my youngest sister after her, and our names are Theresa and Susan, respectively.

Imagine my surprise when one of my cousins indicated that her name was really Susanne Teresa McLernon Anderson.  I remember my grandmother because we used to visit her when I was a little girl.  (I talked about my maternal grandparents here and our visits to their home in Princeton, Illinois, here.)

Susanne Teresa McLernon, circa 1892.

Here are some interesting facts about my grandmother.  She was born in February 1892 and was the youngest of four daughters.  Her parents were named John McLernon and Mary Ellen Long.  Her family home was at 560 Monmouth Blvd. in Galesburg, Illinois, and her father was a pharmacist.  She attended St. Joseph Academy in Galesburg, Illinios, starting in March, 1899, and graduated in 1908.  So, she attended school for 9 years finishing when she was 16 years old.

I did not learn that my grandmother was valedictorian of her graduation class until I became an adult.  I knew her as an older woman who had 10 children including my mother and her younger brother when she was well into her 40s.  My grandfather was a tyrant, and I remember all of us, including her, cowering whenever he was around.

Susanne McLernon Anderson as a young mother with Ruth, Jean, and John (circa early 1920s).

So, it was somewhat uplifting to me to know that she had a life and a mind outside of her life as the wife of a dirt poor farmer who was abusive to her and their children.

My mother believed that all of my grandmother’s belongings, including her original, handwritten valedictorian speech, was lost when her younger brother failed to keep up the payments on a storage locker where their things were stored after their deaths.

But, my sister has been in possession of what we believed was this document, now over 100 years old, as well as The Golden Jubilee book for her school (1879-1929).  The five-page speech has been rolled around an old candle for decades, and we are now trying to figure out how best to preserve this document as well as the few other pieces of stuff we have from her life.

Anderson Family, 1925.

I managed to get the document unrolled from the candle and have transcribed it.  It is not dated or signed.  After reading the transcription, one of my cousins questioned whether it might actually be a document written by one of my grandmother’s cousins – a cousin who became a nun.

Anderson Family, 1951.

We continue to research this, but I am leaning toward the fact that the document may actually have been written by an ancestor other than my maternal grandmother.

That does not take away, one bit, from the fact that this document is over 100 years old and brings to life the thoughts of another one of the strong women in our ancestry.

That’s enough to bring a tingle to my spine.

My Grandma Anderson, as I remember her, Christmas 1960.

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