Sunday, December 9, 2007

Three Strong Women

My father (and I) came from a family of very strong women. Women who with their husbands, sons and fathers settled the American Great Basin in the 19th century. So often the history of the settling of the West focuses on the men and gives short shrift to the women. In our family (and if truth be told most others) the women were just as strong as the men folk.
This is the story of three women who referred to themselves as "The Three Sisters" although they were actually sisters-in-law.
It was childhood tragedy that brought them together.
Lymeda Murphy, the oldest, was my grandmother. Born in December, 1885, the daughter of Jim and Addaline Murphy. She was 16 years old when her mother died. Her father wasn't able to care for her and her brothers and sisters so she was sent to live and work on the Just family ranch near Firth, Idaho.
Kate Reid, the youngest, was 4 when her mother died. She and her older brothers, Jim and Rufus Ezekial, also went to live and work on the Just family spread.
Agnes Just, the boss' daughter, was between them in age. These became the Three Sisters.
When she was 19 Lymeda married Kate's oldest brother Jim and shortly after that Agnes married Rufus Ezekial. Kate, in turn, married another local boy, Bob Blair. It wasn't until they started their own family that Lymeda and Jim moved to their own place, but the "Three Sisters" remained the best of friends.
In the early years of the 20th century women did not wear pants when they went into town. Out on the ranch no one would have known but to go into town would have been just too shocking. Well, never let it be said that Lymeda and Agnes let little things like that get in their way. They once told me about the time the two of them were out horseback riding and decided to go into Firth to pick up supplies at the General Store. They didn't need the wagon so they just rode on into town. Well, talk about scandalized....folks came out and watched them ride through town. Someone went and got their husbands and told the men they had to do something about their wives. Both men just laughed and asked who in town had the nerve to tell Lymeda and Agnes what they could or couldn't do. Nobody that knew them. I guess it helped that they were well liked.
In time my grandmother, Lymeda, became the county's first licensed midwife. At her funeral in 1968 her Mormon Bishop asked the congregation..."If your parents were delivered by her, please stand." "If you were delivered by her please stand," and finally "If she delivered any of your animals, please stand." He then had the family stand and look around....we were the last to stand, hardly anyone was seated.