Week 20: Great Grandma Ma Doll Johnson

“The best protection any woman can have is courage.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton ( 1815-1902 . Leading figure in the women’s rights movement and social activist).

Great grandma great  Ma Doll Johnson, 18 years old.  Micron ink and watercolor. (2016)

Who:  Ma Doll Johnson

What: My great great grandmother on my father’s side.

Where: Her family homesteaded in the late 1800’s in the Wallowa Valley in Northeastern Oregon.

Why:  I have always been proud to have deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, and I have long heard tales since childhood of strong women who came out West to start a new life.  Ma Doll was one of these women.


Ma Doll was a mere 18 at the time of this photo, but don’t be fooled by the fancy clothes.  To be in Oregon in the 1800’s likely meant you were an incredibly tough soul. The women in my family who came before me were tough, no doubt.

The image of Ma Doll has a gentle touch of optimism and sweetness one would expect of a girl of 18 years, but also a quiet strength.

From family stories, I know that Ma Doll had to have been a hard worker, keeping a garden, caring for her family, and building a homestead to sustain her loved ones.  This love has carried on to the present day, with my generation still going out to the family homestead property in the foothills outside of Joseph, Oregon.

Did she realize she was building this homestead for generations to come?

Week 21 - Ma Doll
Ma Doll Johnson, 18 years old.

There are still remnants of the original property, but they are steadily sinking into the natural landscape, being covered as time passes.  A foundation corner stone of the first cabin, a small lump of timbers from the old barn concealed almost entirely by the meadow grasses, the road leading into the property that was originally spaced precisely the width of a wagon’s  wheel.

As I continue working with the goats, who provide deliciously creamy milk for soap, yogurt and now even fresh chevre cheese, I am reminded that maybe I am not so far off the beaten path.

Maybe I am just following my roots. I have much admiration and am inspired by strong women, and I count my Great Grandma Ma Doll as one of them.





5 thoughts on “Week 20: Great Grandma Ma Doll Johnson

  1. What a very lovely post, Melissa!! 🙂 You must be so proud of your great great grandmother! And what a woman she was! Strong and beautiful! The photograph is awesome and your drawing is fantastic! It captures the determination of her eyes and mind. You did a great job with it! 🙂 Have a wonderful week! xxxxx

    1. Thanks Sarah for your sweet encouragement always!

      It is interesting to think of her preparation for this photo sitting. My family was wondering what the bead work on the front of her top actually was….shell or bone possibly? Definitely gave me admiration for women of her day.

      Do you know a bit of your family history? It is fun to wonder where we all came from if we trace time back.

      Happy Tuesday to you!

      1. You´re most welcome, Melissa! 🙂
        Woo-Hoo! That sounds so intruiging! At this time bone would definitely be a possibility. My grandma did have some pieces made of it too, though I don´t remember anymore what exanctly. I know a bit of my family history, though not as much as I would like too 😉 I sometimes think only rich people have real chronicles because they never had to work as much as everybody else. My ancestors were definitively too preoccupied earning a living and raising kids 😉 But an aunt of mine did some research and discovered that we descend from french Hugenotts that fled France and Napoleon!! People, especially women of earlier times are really admirable for their strength and endurance. I love reading about these times very much, but doubt that I would have survived it very long 😉 Do you know the writer Diana Gabaldon? She writes beautifully about the eighteenth century!
        Wish you a wonderful day! xxx 🙂

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