Tough women – Mabel Fanny Earley

I’m doing a mini-presentation to family this weekend on (mainly) solving the mystery of a previously unknown great-grandfather on the Stevenson paternal line. The DNA matching we have pinpoints the family but there were 4 brothers and any one of them could have been the father. My catchy title for the presentation is “Who Do You Think He Was?” The photograph is from one of London’s “lying-in” maternity hospitals in 1908, where my husband’s great-grandmother gave birth to a son in December of that year. The pregnant, unwed mother made the trip from rural south-west Scotland to London when heavily pregnant, possibly to partake of the “modern” facilities at the Queen Charlotte Hospital in Marylebone. The hospital allowed unmarried mothers to give birth there if this was their first child. Presumably this was more support than she may have been given by remaining in Scotland. After the birth she remained in London for several years, working in domestic service as a cook in a private household. Her young son spent some time in the care of a children’s home or school about 15 miles from where she was working. It’s impossible to document what their life must have been like at that point, but eventually she was able to take her son back up to Scotland where her father and stepmother lived. She eventually married and had at least two more sons. I’d love to post a photograph of this tough and resilient woman, Mabel Fanny Earley, but unfortunately there don’t seem to be any in the family. A DNA match in Canada who was essential to the discovery of the father has sent me a fabulous photo of the 4 brothers and their parents and given me a lot of information on the family. I will post those after I have shown them off at the weekend. These kind of discoveries are why I love what I do.Midwife at another London lying in hospital, 1908

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