“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).
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?
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.