In honor of Women’s History Month the #52Ancestors prompt this week is “Strong Woman.” It is impossible to choose the strongest woman in a family, as strength comes in many forms. In contemporary American culture it is easy to focus on women who show their strength as they venture outside of traditional female roles. However, I also admire the strength it takes for a woman to fulfil her traditional female roles. Rachel Ann Mayer, the eldest daughter of my 4th Great Grandparents, exemplified both.
Rachel Ann was born to George Mayer and Ann Yost on 9 February 1829 in Bugyrus, Ohio, USA. In April 1844, after moving to Nauvoo Illinois, she was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with her family (her father had been baptized earlier).
“On the end of April, 1846 [the Mayer family] left Nauvoo equipped with three yoke of oxen, two cows and plenty of everything they could comfortably take. They traveled in Brigham Young’s company and Hever C. Kimball’s ten. Brother Kimball was ill and George Mayer took charge of ten wagons leaving Rachel Ann to drive the wagon that carried the Mayer family. This she did from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. She would always get out of the wagon when it was going up hill. Then she would climb in when it was going down. This made it easier for the animals. Her father says in this record, ‘Rachel Ann, my eldest daughter, (she was then 19 years of age) drove the team of large oxen. She had become a great teamster and Berg and Buck, the oxen, became very obedient to her commands. They were the best oxen I ever had and were always willing to pull when they were able.’ They arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1848 and on account of there being good pastures for the animals, the family located in Sessions Settlement [modern-day Bountiful, UT]….Rachel Ann had taken much responsibility for the family while her younger sister, Mary Ann [my 3rd Great Grandmother], helped her father with the other wagons and oxen.”
The story of her wedding as found in a biography of her husband, George Washington Brimhall, shows courage in fulfilling a traditional woman’s role. He had been married before and after determining to marry again he recounted this story:
“On going back to Judge Rhoads’, I found the object of my search, having been acquainted with her during the winter. She had been Mrs. Rhoads’ assistant for some time, and was a large, blonde, well developed girl, about 21 years of age, of no ordinary make-up, and of Swedish descent. I soon made my business known and gave her a brief history of my past life. After consulting her parents and friends, she concluded to be my wife, go with me to Iron County and take care of me in my log cabin.”
He went to Brigham Young to ask him to marry them. He found “the Governor in a small kitchen trying to eat some cold potatoes in the dark. He asked me to have some. I thought if ever I was a governor, I should want a better supper.” George was told to bring his bride to the Council House and he would meet them there with a few friends. Governor Young met them there and married them. George wanted to make sure there was a record of it. It was recorded in “The Acts and Doings of Brigham Young, Governor of the Territory of Utah”. The date was Feb. 2, 1852. (He does not tell her name; she was Rachel Ann Mayer.)
Rachel Ann was a strong settler alongside her husband. According to her obituary they were among the first to settle in Parowan Utah, Ogden Utah, and in Moapa country in modern-day Navada. They finally made their permanent home in Spanish Fork, Utah in 1865. During these times of movement and resettlement she gave birth to “10 children, five of whom preceded her in death.”
She proved to be a resourceful woman. Also according to her obituary, “…she made shoes for her children from old boot tops and wide bell straps. In the early days she supplied her family with molasses by boiling down watermelon juice. She manufactured from raw material clothing for her household. She fashioned out of home-made twine nets and seina for the fishermen. She taught her children the rudiments of education at home. She reared her 10 children to manhood and womanhood without the advantage of medical or surgical aid.” I, personally, would love to learn these various skills from her.
Her eldest, George Henry Brimhall, told this story: “My first suit of clothes was a waste and pair of little britches Mother made of white factory cloth. She put them on me and I stood before her in great glee. She looked at me and she laughed and laughed and laughed and sat down on the floor and laughed – then said ‘It will never do.’ The next morning she brot the suit to me and it was of a brown color. That night she had boiled it in a strong tea made of sagebrush. She said, ‘Now, that will do!’ So I had my khaki suit!”
The strength she exhibited that I most admire, however is her spiritual strength. I love these last few sentences from her obituary: “She trusted implicitly in the divine. She fearlessly followed the guidance of recognized authority. Loyalty to the priesthood and strict heed to the whispering of the spirit were the chief characteristics of her life. Hers was a life of optimism, based upon a faith that refused to be shaken.”
This was truly a strong woman in every facit of her life. She is the type of woman who when I read about her life I wish I could not only meet but be her apprentice.