Granny’s Birthday Today
Ellie Hall Keasler Baer
Granny was born in Mint Hill, NC of parents who both had a deep North Carolina tap root. Ellie went to work for Ivey’s Department store when she was 16. She was smart and loved her job in retail sales. Soon she was promoted to the position of buyer for the Notions Department at Ivey's. Twice a year she went with the other buyers to New York City to select and purchase the goods for her department.
Granny loved working at Ivey's until she was 28 and Gus Keasler, a handsome South Carolina college footballer, swept her off her feet and she fell deeply in love with him. After a proper courtship they were married and moved to Georgia for his job as manager of a cotton oil manufacturing plant. Their first child, my mother, was born a year later.
Sadly Gus,at 32, died suddenly when my mother was 18 months old. Ellie was heartbroken. She grieved hard for eight years. Then she me and married Jack Baer who had moved to Charlotte from Baltimore. It was a loving marriage which lasted the rest of their lives.
Granny was a loving grandmother. She was a key figure in my life.
I look back now and regret that I did not ask Granny about what it was like to live through those early years when the US faced WWI and women struggled to “get the vote.” Was she a feminist? She never said so but looking at her history I have to think she was.
She went to work as a young woman, loved working at Ivey’s and relished the annual exciting trips to New York City. She liked having the money she earned and the independence that came with it although she did contribute to her widowed mother's care. Later, after Gus died, she was single mother back at work to support herself and her young daughter. Although she was surrounded by a large and supportive family she knew what it was like to have to take care of yourself.
“Always have your own money, Ellouise.” I accepted the wisdom of that advice without asking “why” which might have opened the door to stories about “why” she was so clear on that score.
I wish I had asked her if she had marched for THE VOTE. I know she had strong opinions about what was right and wrong in the world and that she always voted.
Most importantly for me, I know she believed that women should be able to have a voice in the world and that they could BE whatever they wanted to be.
“You’re smart. You can do that.”
She taught me to believe in myself. Maybe that’s all I really need to know - - and thank her for.
Thinking of Granny and the questions I wish I had asked is a good thing to do as I begin rehearsals for telling my 1970s women's history program at the DC Capital Fringe next month. Sure, I want to tell my story for my family but I also want Pushing Boundaries to prompt other women to tell their story - and to prompt younger women to ask the women in their families - so that they will not be wondering
as I am about Granny and Suffrage - about the stories of the women in their families.