>Fearless femmes: great-grandmother Amy

>Image © and collection of Brett Payne
1894-1895 at Derby [1]

She is as impenitent and self-possessed a young lady as one would desire to see among the best behaved of her sex. Her small head and tiny resolute mouth and chin; her haughty crispness of speech and trimness of carriage; the ruthless elegance of her equipment, which includes a very smart hat with a dead bird in it, mark a personality which is as formidable as it is exquisitely pretty. She is not a siren, like Ann: admiration comes to her without any compulsion or even interest on her part; besides, there is some fun in Ann, but in this woman none, perhaps no mercy either: if anything restrains her, it is intelligence and pride, not compassion. Her voice might be the voice of a school-mistress addressing a class of girls who had disgraced themselves, as she proceeds with complete composure and some disgust to say what she has come to say.

Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw, 1903 [2]

These words could only have written by a man, I suppose, and the language and sentiment are clearly a product of the late Victorian times, but when I read them I thought immediately of this photograph of my great-grandmother Amy Payne née Robinson (1867-1932). The cabinet portrait shown above, pictures her with husband and son (my grandfather Leslie), probably in the garden of their home at 83 St James’ Road, Normanton in late 1894 or early 1895.

The historical record, particularly prior to the 20th Century, often left far fewer clues to the details of our female ancestors’ lives than for their menfolk, and this is certainly the case with Amy. I’ve written previously of my great-grandfather Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941) on Photo-Sleuth, including a piece about his musical abilities, but I’ve hardly mentioned his wife Amy and should remedy that.

In the United States, March is National Women’s History Month, and to celebrate this, Lisa Alzo (The Accidental Genealogist) has reprised her month’s worth of blogging prompts, Fearless Females. It’s a good opportunity not only to write about female ancestors, fearless or not, but to think about what records, memories and, in particular, photographs remain to provide the clues which can tell us something about their lives.


1926 at Derby [3]
In my family photos there are at least a dozen images which include Charles Vincent, but only four in which his wife Amy appear, and I suspect this three-to-one male to female imbalance would not be unusual in other collections from that era. The small print shown above (109 x 69 mm or 4¼” x 2¾”) is the only one showing her as an older woman, pictured seated at front left on the occasion of my grandparents’ wedding in 1926. She died only six years later, at the age of sixty-five, when my Dad and his sister were four years and eight months old, respectively. As a result, neither of them had or have any memory of her at all. However, my Dad did tell me that his father was very fond of his mother Amy and, after her second son Harold Victor died in May 1921, he abandoned his job as a clerk at Eaton’s Department store in Winnipeg, returning home from Canada to be a comfort to her [4].


9 Lower Forester Street, Derby [5]
Amy Robinson was born at 42 William Street, in the parish of St Alkmund, Derby, on 28 February 1867, where her father Daniel was a police constable [6]. She was baptised at the parish church a few weeks later on 7 April [7]. By 1871 they had moved to 9 Lower Forester Street, in St Werburgh’s parish [8], and between 1876 and 1879 they moved again to 74 Fleet Street, Litchurch [9].

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
c.1885-1888 at Derby [10]
I don’t know where Amy went to school, but she must have been bright. By the time of the census in April 1891, she was 24 years old and working as a commercial clerk [11]. I believe she must have been the first female member of her family to work in a profession heretofore normally reserved for men.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
c.1887-1889 at Skegness [12]
She certainly looked a self assured young woman when she was in her late teens and early twenties, whether visiting a Derby photographic studio [10] or promenading with a stylish parasol and high velvet round hat with a huge bow in Skegness [12].

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
On the ocean steamship landing, Liverpool [13]
On the 18th May she married Charles Vincent Payne at the parish church of St Thomas [14], and a week later they departed from Liverpool aboard the S.S. Nova Scotian for Baltimore [15]. With her predilection for headgear, she would not have been out of place amongst these fashionable ladies on the Landing Stage at Liverpool. Accompanying the newly married couple were Charles’ younger brother Frank who, although only 17, had been working as a junior clerk at the Derby Union Poor Law Offices. Their intention was to join another brother Charles Hallam in Chicago. He had been working for the Pullman Car Company for some months and presumably Charles Vincent hoped to take advantage of his experience as a joiner [16] and carriage finisher [17]. Things did not quite go according to plan, and it may be that Mr. Pullman was not quite the employer Hallam had thought he was … the story that Uncle Hallam told about their escapades is recounted in a previous Photo-Sleuth article, Whistling Bird, the Arizona Cowboy & the Disappearing Lady [18].

Image © and courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
East 111th Street & Curtis Avenue, Roseland, Chicago [19]
Amy is hardly mentioned and I have no idea whether she managed to find a job, although it seems unlikely. Not long after their arrival she, as might be expected, fell pregnant, and on 9th April 1892 gave birth to my grandfather Charles Leslie Lionel at 10810 Curtis Avenue, Roseland, Chicago [20]. Curtis Avenue subsequently became South Edbrooke Avenue, and Google Maps’ Street View shows a neighbourhood that has, sadly, seen better days (check out this boy doing a handstand for the Street View camera) [21]. In the 1890s and early 1900s, however, with the jobs and affluence created by the nearby Pullman works, it was a good deal more salubrious, as the view by Roseland photographer H.R. Koopman above demonstrates [19]. All three of the men eventually found jobs as carpenters at the site of the Chicago World’s Fair, or to give it it’s proper name, The World’s Columbian Exposition, where they worked in the construction of the dome of the Horticultural Building [22,23].

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, c. October 1892, Chicago [24]
It seems likely that Amy took the infant Leslie to Koopman’s studio, situated only a few blocks away at 11104 Michigan Avenue (corner of 11th) [25], for this tintype portrait, shortly before they left Chicago in mid-November. Why did they go home after being there only eighteen months? It could have been a paucity of work. Perhaps the bulding work was over, and more jobs were hard to come by? It is possible that there was already some intimation amongst employers of the Panic of 1893 [26], with resulting layoffs. On the other hand, it may be that Amy’d had enough of the big, unfriendly, windy city, and couldn’t face another harsh Chicago winter with a small child to look after, and little spare money for the small comforts.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Payne family grocery/off-licence, 83 St James’ Road, Normanton [27]
Whatever the reason for their return, they arrived home in England on 30th November 1892 [28]. For the first couple of years they lived at the house where the Payne boys had grown up (Charles Vincent’s parents and younger siblings moving into a much large property further up the road), and where they took over the running of the family grocery and off-licence [9,29]. By 1896 Hallam had taken over the grocery, they had moved into a house across the road, and Amy’s husband described himself as an estate agent [9,30]. Amy gave birth to her second son Harold Victor at this house (17 Hastings Street) on 4th January 1898.

Image © and courtesy of Google Maps Street View
139 St James’ Road, Normanton [31]
Around 1903, with their two boys growing, they moved again to the big house (number 139, also known as “The Hollies”) at the end of the road, recently vacated by the Paynes senior, who had semi-retired to Sunny Hill [32]. After Henry Payne died in 1907, however, the Sunny Hill residence was left to Charles Vincent’s sister Lucy Mary and her husband, recently, while their mother Henrietta moved back into The Hollies [33].

Image © and courtesy of Google Maps Street View
154 Almond Street, Normanton [34]
Amy, her husband and the two boys moved into what must then have been a newly built house nearby at 154 Almond Street, where they were shown living in April 1911 [35] and where they would remain for twenty years. In early September 1912, Amy’s elder son Leslie left home for a new life in Canada, intending to work as a storekeeper in Wolseley, Saskatchewan [36,37].

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Note of marriage date, Amy’s handwriting, c.1914-15 [38]
Two years later, after war had broken out, in November 1914 Leslie enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and around that time Amy made some notes regarding marriage and birthdates at her brother-in-law Hallam’s request. This scrap of paper may be the only example left of Amy’s handwriting [38].

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Constance May Hogg, Christmas 1913 [39]
Leslie was at the Front in France by late 1915, and spent most of the war with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps, returning to marry a neighbourhood girl Connie Hogg in November 1917 [40]. By mid-1918 Harold had joined up too with the British Tank Corps [41], but in early September came the news that Leslie had been seriously wounded, with a machine gun bullet lodged in his left shoulder [42]. After an operation to remove the bullet was successful [43], he spent the rest of September and the early part of November recuperating, before being discharged on the 14th October [44]. Leslie arrived at his parents’ home during the peak of the Spanish Flu epidemic only to find Connie ill, and a few days later she died [45,46].

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Postcard written by Harold Victor Payne to Amy [47]
Leslie returned to Canada where he was discharged in February 1919. Harold, even though the war was over, was serving in the British Army of the Rhine (B.A.O.R.) and wrote the following on a postcard sent home to his mother in late November 1919:

Dear Mam,
I am at present in Cologne awaiting demob guess I shan’t be long now. I am quite well & hope both you and dad are the same. Must catch this post. Best love & Xs from Harold.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Harold Victor Payne, wounded soldiers, c.1919 [48]
This photograph, also sent by Harold to his mother, must have caused some worry. It bears the following caption on the reverse: “Woulded soldiers. Ive met ’em, Yes sir.” while another in the same sequence states, “I look pretty thin Eh!

Harold died in May 1921 and, as stated previously, my grandfather returned to Derby shortly after, marrying and producing two grandchildren for Amy before she died on 22nd March 1932.

The course of most of my female ancestors’ lives, apart from bare bones of “vital statistics” dates (birth-baptism-census-marriage-children-death), appear from the documentary records to consist largely of what their menfolk were doing. To a great extent, this may be a fairly accurate representation of what their lives were like. In other words, their day-to-day activities were full of the usual household- and child/family-related activities, but the overall course was largely dictated by the careers, movements and interests of their husbands. Sadly, though, this tells me very little of their personalities and, without first hand accounts, writing about them properly remains a very difficult task.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Perhaps there’s a hoard of personal ephemera of Amy’s somewhere which has yet to be revealed, but I think it’s very unlikely. The members of my family who’ve taken on the reponsibility of collecting, preserving and handing down family documents, photographs and ephemera have often been male and, perhaps as a result, the subject matter has been reflected by their views on what was important to keep. For the moment she will remain, at least to me, the “self-possessed young lady … [wearing] a very smart hat with a dead bird in it.”

References

[1] Photographic portrait of Payne family group (Amy Payne née Robinson, Leslie Payne and Charles Vincent Payne), Cabinet card (109 x 165 mm)) by A. & G. Taylor of 63 London Road, Derby, probably taken c. late 1894-early 1895 at 83 St James’ Road, Normanton, Derby, Collection of Brett Payne.

[2] Excerpt from “Man and Superman,” by Bernard Shaw, Penguin Books, 1946, p.85-86.

[3] Photographic portrait of wedding party (Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, Ethel Brown, and parents), by unknown photographer, Silver gelatin print (109 x 69 mm) on Velox paper, dated (on the reverse) Sept. 20. 1926 and taken in the garden at 121 Crewe Street, Normanton, Derby, Collection of Brett Payne.

[4] Payne, Brett (2003) Fifty Years of Payne Journeys to North America, 1919-1921 : Final Years in Winnipeg.

[5] View of 9 Lower Forester Street, Derby, Courtesy of Google Maps Street View

[6] Certified copy of an Entry of Birth for Amy Robinson, 28 Feb 1867, Extracted 22 May 1914, [Photocopy] Collection of Brett Payne.

[7] Baptism of Amy Robinson, St Alkmund, Derby, 7 April 1867, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Batch No. K055374, LDS Family Search.

[8] 1871 Census of 9 Lower Forester Street, Derby St Werburgh, Derbyshire, England, 2 April 1871, The National Archives Ref. RG10-3572-26-10-57, UK Census Collection, Ancestry.co.uk

[9] Derby Electoral Registers, 1868-1900, Derbyshire County Record Office, Matlock, Derbyshire, Microfilmed by LDS Church, FHL Film Nos. 2081839-41, 2081818-22, 2081961.

[10] Photographic portrait of Amy Payne née Robinson, Carte de visite (presumed, size not recorded) by A. & G. Taylor of 57 London Road, Derby, probably taken c.1885-1888 in the Derby studio, Collection of Brett Payne.

[11] 1891 Census of 74 Fleet Street, Litchurch, Derby, Derbyshire, England, 5 April 1891, The National Archives Ref. RG12-2733-127-18-112, UK Census Collection, Ancestry.com.

[12] Photographic portrait of Amy Payne née Robinson, Carte de visite (presumed, size not recorded) by Charles Smyth, Lumley Studio, Skegness, probably taken c.1887-1890 in the Skegness studio, Collection of Brett Payne.

[13] On the ocean steamship landing, Liverpool, England, Stereocard photograph by Underwood & Underwood, No. 193, Collection of Brett Payne.

[14] Copy of marriage certificate for Charles Vincent Payne & Amy Robinson, 18 May 1891, St Thomas, Derby, [Photocopy] Collection of Brett Payne.

[15] Passenger list for the S.S. Nova Scotian, Departing from Liverpool for Baltimore, 26 May 1891, Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960, FindMyPast.co.uk

[16] 1891 Census of 1 Pear Tree Street, Litchurch, Derby, Derbyshire, England, 5 April 1891, The National Archives Ref. RG12-2735-67-25-157, UK Census Collection, Ancestry.com.

[17] Passenger list for the S.S. Nova Scotian, Arriving at Baltimore from Liverpool, 10 June 1891, Baltimore Passenger Lists 1820-1948, Ancestry.com

[18] Payne, Brett (2009) Whistling Bird, the Arizona Cowboy & the Disappearing Lady, Photo-Sleuth blog.

[19] East 111th Street & Curtis Avenue, Roseland, Chicago, Postcard by H.R. Koopman, 1906, Collection of Illinois Digital Archives.

[20] Report of Birth for Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, Vital Statistics Department, County Clerk’s Office, Cook County, 17 November 1931, Copy taken from microfilm of original record, Family History Library, Salt Lake City (Courtesy of Frank Wattleworth), Collection of Brett Payne.

[21] View of 10810 South Edbrooke Avenue, Roseland, Chicago, Courtesy of Google Maps Street View

[22] Payne, Brett (2003) Fifty Years of Payne Journeys to North America, 1890-1892 : Chicago, Pullman & the Worlds Fair.

[23] World’s Columbian Exposition, Wikipedia.

[24] Portrait of Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, c. October 1892, Chicago, Sixthr-plate tintype (64.5 x 90 mm), by unidentified photographer (possibly Henry Ralph Koopman of 11104 Michigan Avenue, Roseland, Chicago)

[25] Chicago Photographers, 1847 through 1900, Chicago Historical Society, 1958.

[26] Panic of 1893, Wikipedia.

[27] Photograph of Payne family grocery/off-licence, 83 St James’ Road, Normanton, Paper print (138 x 87.5 mm), taken c.1910 by unknown photographer, Collection of Barbara Ellison.

[28] Passenger list for the S.S. Circassian, Arriving at Liverpool from Montreal, 30 November 1892, UK Incoming Passenger Passenger Lists 1878-1960, Ancestry.co.uk

[29] Kelly’s 1895 Directory of Derbyshire, [microfiche] Derbyshire Family History Society.

[30] Kelly’s 1899 Directory of Derbyshire, Historical Directories, University of Leicester.

[31] View of 139 St James’ Road, Normanton, Derby, Courtesy of Google Maps Street View

[32] Cook’s 1903/4 Derby and District Directory, Derby Local Studies Library, Courtesy of Paul Slater.

[33] 1911 Census of The Hollies, 139 St James’ Road, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire, England, 2 April 1891, The National Archives Ref. RG14-20-9-35-20935_0001_03, England & Wales Census Records 1841-1911, FindMyPast.co.uk

[34] View of 154 Almond Street, Normanton, Derby, Courtesy of Google Maps Street View

[35] 1911 Census of 154 Almond Street, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire, England, 2 April 1891, The National Archives Ref. RG14-20-9-32-20932_0373_03, England & Wales Census Records 1841-1911, FindMyPast.co.uk

[36] Passenger list for the S.S. Virginian, Departing from Liverpool for Quebec, 12 September 1912, Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960, FindMyPast.co.uk

[37] Passenger list for the S.S. Virginian, Arriving at Quebec from Liverpool, 23 September 1912, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935, Ancestry.ca

[38] Handwritten notes made by Charles Hallam Payne and Amy Payne, c.1914-15, Collection of Brett Payne.

[39] Photograph of Constance May Hogg, Christmas 1913, Postcard format (89 x 140 mm), unidentified photographer, Collection of Barbara Ellison.

[40] Copy of marriage certificate for Charles Leslie Lionel Payne and Constance May Hogg, St Paul, Boughton, Cheshire, 30 November 1917, Collection of Brett Payne.

[41] Medal Roll Index Card for Harold V. Payne 315778, British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, Ancestry.co.uk

[42] Casualty Form – Active Service for Sgt Leslie Payne, 1989 (Army Form B.103), CEF Service Records, Library & Archives of Canada.

[43] Medical Case Sheet for Sgt Leslie Payne, 1989 (Army Form I.1237), CEF Service Records, Library & Archives of Canada.

[44] Casualty Report Card for Sgt Leslie Payne, 1989, CEF Service Records, Library & Archives of Canada.

[45] 1918 Flu Pandemic, Wikipedia

[46] Copy of death certificate for Constance May Hogg, 154 Almond Street, New Normanton, Derby, 20 October 1918, Collection of Brett Payne.

[47] Commercial Real Photo Postcard (of two young girls, publisher unknown, 85.5 x 135 mm) sent by Harold Payne (Cologne) to Amy Payne (Derby), dated 22-11-19 & postmarked 23 Nov 19, Collection of Brett Payne.

[48] Photograph of wounded soldiers, including Harold Victor Payne, c.1919, by unidentified photographer (81.5 x 55.5 mm, roughly trimmed), Collection of Barbara Ellison.

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~ by gluepot on Sunday, March 6, 2011.

3 Responses to “>Fearless femmes: great-grandmother Amy”

  1. >What an intriguing set of photos, from dead bird to astonishing pram! All those curliques?!Wnderful record of costumes, too…

  2. >A very interesting post and great collection of photos, the cabinet card and the pram photo are brilliant!

  3. >Thanks Jinksy and Lisa. Yes, I like the pram photo too, which is one of the few tintypes in my family collection.

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