ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

My Grandmother - Boarded and Taught by Nuns in a Convent School - Early 1900s

Updated on February 27, 2016

Kohler, Wisconsin


My maternal grandmother was born near Kohler, Wisconsin, and was one of four living children in her family when her mother died at an early age.

Her mother suffered from from what they at the time called dropsy. Two other sisters of hers had died at early ages of disease.

Her dad was a dairy farmer. To best manage the care of his three daughters without the help of a mother, he sent them to a boarding school during the week that also happened to be a convent operated by nuns.

My grandmother and her two sisters only got to spend the weekends at home during the school year. They would generally be picked up and taken back and forth between school and home by their brother who would drive the horse and buggy.


Old photos / Early 1900's

My grandmother's First Holy Communion photo taken with her little cousin in attendance.
My grandmother's First Holy Communion photo taken with her little cousin in attendance. | Source
These nuns were some of my grandmother's cousins.
These nuns were some of my grandmother's cousins. | Source

Their brother got to stay at home with his father because of being needed for work on the dairy farm.


He would have been schooled to some extent locally, but the farm also provided his main education that he would utilize to maintain his life and livelihood as he matured.


Back in those days the typical thing to do was to pass the farm on to the eldest son. In this case, he was the only son and that is exactly what happened.


When he got married and his new wife moved into the farmhouse eventually my grandmother's father purchased a small house in town and moved his three daughters into the house with him.


The four of them lived there together and the girls at that point no longer were boarded and schooled at the convent.



As I was growing up I heard many stories from my grandmother about those days in the convent school. She remembered it with great fondness.


Kohler, Wisconsin

A markerKohler, Wisconsin -
Kohler, WI, USA
get directions

Organic Dairyman: The Farmer (In the old days, all dairy farmers were "organic.")

Dairy farming


Wisconsin was known for growing great wheat crops and lumbering long before it became known as the Dairy State. The ground is rich and farming was done by most of the early settlers.


Wisconsin joined the United States as it's 30th state in 1848.


Wheat farming peaked in 1872 and at that same time the Wisconsin Dairymens Association was founded by William D. Hoard and others. Mr. Hoard eventually became a governor of the State of Wisconsin.


With the increased supply of milk, the very first cheese factory was developed by a woman by the name of Anne Picket. She got most of the supply of the milk she needed from dairy farmers in the south central portion of the state.


Lumbering was the main industry from 1890 to 1910 when the dairy industry took over that leading position in the state.


In 1920, Wisconsin had become the top cheese producer in the nation and still holds that title.


Back when my great-grandfather started his dairy farm, milking the cows by hand would have been the routine.


He and eventually his son, when old enough, would have been growing the crops to feed the cows; moving the cows from one pasture to another as needed; taking care of the farming equipment and buildings and hand milking the cows twice daily. They would then have had to store and market the milk.


It was a labor intensive business that required not only hard work, but intelligence and perseverance to best succeed in this type of endeavor. That they did!


Photos of my grandmother as a young lady prior to marriage.

Cute photo of my grandmother with a basket full of apples.
Cute photo of my grandmother with a basket full of apples. | Source
Another cute photo of my grandmother as a young woman.
Another cute photo of my grandmother as a young woman. | Source
My grandmother
My grandmother | Source

She becomes a wife!

Young newlyweds
Young newlyweds | Source

Growing up...


Living in Kohler, Wisconsin my great-grandfather and the three girls lived together until the young women each got married and moved into houses of their own.

I do not know about her sisters and what they might have done, but my grandmother worked at several jobs prior to getting married. She worked as a clerk in a couple of stores and was trained to work as a dental hygienist which she really enjoyed.

Back in those days with rare exceptions, once married the young ladies no longer worked outside the home.


My grandmother became a full time wife , mother and homemaker and she excelled in each area. She developed other talents through the years and was quite artistic.


She was an excellent seamstress and could tailor clothes and upholstery equally well.


My grandmother could look at a dress in a window or even try it on in a store and then go home and make it. She was a perfectionist with her sewing! Each inside seam was bound by hand and her creativity taking this sleeve design and adding it to that bodice design or skirt design could turn the most ordinary of dresses into something really special.

Her dinner parties became legendary!


Besides being a great cook, her table settings were perfection! The garnishes on each plate were works of art. Even as her young grand-daughter, I never saw her serve a radish, for example, that was not embellished to look like a rose.

My grandmother was a gentle soul who shared her love equally with her husband, three children and eventually her grandchildren as they came along.


My two brothers and I along with my parents lived close-by and really got the most benefit from her sweet and caring disposition in everyday living.

She always held her Catholic religion near and dear to her heart and when we got to spend the night with her on a sleep-over, we would each kneel down by the bed and recite our nightly prayers together. A prayer before meals was also routine.

My dear grandmother who had the early influence of being taught by nuns in a boarding school situation integrated that respectful way of living and being grateful for things into her daily life.






My grandmother saw the joy in the simplest of things whether it was wild daisies gathered from the field, or admiring a colorful Fall leaf, or delighting in seeing a drawing done by one of her grandchildren. We were all made to feel really special in her presence and her memory lives on in each of us.


(hub) Memories of My Grandparents, their Basement, Ceramic Crocks and Sauerkraut

My grandparents...the same grandmother who was featured in this hub.
My grandparents...the same grandmother who was featured in this hub. | Source

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Virginia,

      Hope your husband's cousin had a good experience. My grandmother loved her experience being taught by nuns and I also loved my early elementary school days being taught by them in parochial school.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      My husband had a cousin who was in an orphanage in Maine that was run by the nuns. Although she had a father, it was WWII and he was in the service.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Billy,

      My grandmother had nothing but fond memories of her days spent in the convent school and loved the nuns. She turned out to be such a wonderful person. I loved her dearly! Since we always lived close to her, she was like a second mother to me.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Peggy enjoyed your story - the world has certainly changed from the days of the nuns - particularly discipline etc. Always nice to reflect on our family line and what they went through.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JamaGenee,

      For sure the Internet has made sharing stories like this one from the early 1900s about my grandmother so much easier to read for those who might be interested. Even for those who have no relation to our family, it does tell a bit about the times back then.

      So many generations of families in the early days earned their living by farming. Small farmers are slowly but surely being phased out by the larger agricultural businesses and can hardly compete. So these family histories (yours, mine and others) are important.

      The convent school did give my grandmother and her sisters a good education.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      What a lovely story! Without their mother to teach them the basics of homemaking, Catholic boarding school was perhaps the best thing that could've happened to your grandmother and her sisters.

      My own grandfather helped run and eventually inherited his father's dairy farm. My mother and her siblings (four sisters and a brother) were expected to milk a few cows and do other chores before going off to school each morning, and then do it all over again after school. My uncle let it be known early on that dairying was not his "thing" and never would be, so when Grandpa got too old to run it, that was the end of the family dairy.

      I, too, have been putting family history stories on HP and on my blog. Makes them much more accessible to cousins scattered around the country, who can print them out to share with their own children (or not). So much easier than BTI (before the internet) when we compiled such stories into books and had too many or too few copies printed, and then did it all over again when enough new information warranted a revised, updated edition!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Trish_M,

      Happy to hear that you enjoyed this story about my grandmother being boarded and taught by nuns in a convent school in the early 1900's. I was fascinated as a child listening to her stories.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      I love these old family tales :)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Will look forward to your hub about it if you decide to make the trip. It does sound interesting!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I wouldn't mind going there again but it is a bit further from Wisconsin Rapids than it was from Moline, IL. It is an interesting historical area and I recal some interesting archetecture in the area--Federalist style I think.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      That would be interesting to learn about that area and the impact religion has had on it. Go for it!!! :-)

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I don't really know. Most of the Mormons I knew from Utah were like most of the Catholics I knew--no longer practicing the religion. I might write about Nauvoo sometime.. It has been many years since we were there. Much of the Mormon community has been restored,

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      Ahh...that rings a bell! I think that Joseph Smith is still honored even in Salt Lake City however, if I remember what I learned from our travels correctly. Are the followers of the Mormon religion greatly divided between the two leaders? Guess we should be asking this of Mormons!

      Might make for a good hub!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      If I have the history right Joseph Smith founded the original Mormon Church which he brought to Illinois where he was killed. Brigham Young Was the new leader who led a group of Mormons to Utah and founded Salt Lake City. Some followers of Smith remained in Illinois a town called Nauvoo. So there are Mormons of the original religion in Illinois. Who I believe chose not to follow Young.

      salt Lake City

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      First of all, I am not Mormon although we have visited Utah and loved what we saw there. I think that Joseph Smith started that religion if I am not mistaken.

      The nuns that I knew as teachers, I loved! Even thought about becoming one when I was young. Not that my parents encouraged it! They rather liked the idea of me becoming a nurse which is what I did.

      Am sure that the convent boarding school my grandmother and great aunts attended was probably quite different from the one your co-worker attended. And it was probably just for girls who were taught sewing, cooking, etc. Since their mother had died, it was probably the only good option left to their father back then. He was obviously enough of a good farmer to be able to afford to send them there.

      As to what is more meaningful than teaching children? Not much, if the teaching is good!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      I've lived in Wisconsin for a few years now, but you know more about the state than I do. More than half my life has been in it's neighbor--Minnesota.

      Because my mother was French Canadian I was brought up Catholic and have been taught by nuns. They are not like they used to be. That's a mixed blessing. Theuy seemed in the 1960's to give up teaching to do something "meaningful".

      what is more meaningful than teaching children?

      I don't know much about boarding schools but a coworker I had was brought up in one and had some rather funny stories about it.

      I believe you mentioned being Mormon in one comment, or am I confusing you with someone else? I knew one former Catholic at work who was Mormon-- it would be the Joseph Smith ones I think rather than the Utah ones.

      Sorry if I am rambling but I find these things interesting.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ethel,

      Photography in the "old days" was not like it is today. Took so long to actually get the photos taken that few people wore smiles back then. Or...maybe the nuns just wanted to look serious. Who knows? Glad that you are enjoying these old photos of mine and sorry that you never got to know your own grandparents.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Those nuns look a little fierce. I guess it is the habit. I love old photos and yours are so interesting. Never knew any of my grandparents so I am very jealous:)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for the generous comment, LondonGirl.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      fantastic hub - so well written, and the photos add an awful lot. Nice one!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi bingskee, I was blessed with wonderful grandmas on both sides of my family and learned much from both of them. My maternal grandmother was like my second mother as we lived so close to that set of grandparents most of my / their lives.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      not everybody can love their grandmothers because not all grandmas are as wonderful as your grandma.

      what a nice tribute..

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Zollstock, That is wonderful that you had a similar experience with knowing a loving grandma like I had. Sorry to hear that she had the equivalent of dropsy. We can both cherish their memories.

    • Zollstock profile image

      Zollstock 8 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

      What a wonderful way to celebrate her life and your own roots while sharing a bit of history with fellow hubbers! You made me miss my own grandma who nourished similar values and loving dedication to family … and who died of the modern equivalent of dropsy in Germany seven years ago. Thanks for stirring up those memories!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello dawei888, So glad that you liked this story. Are you somehow connected to the dairy farming industry or had relatives doing it? Thanks for commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mardi, You are welcome. Glad you liked it and thanks for leaving a comment.

    • dawei888 profile image

      dawei888 8 years ago

      Dear Peggy W, I have long been fascinated by learning about my own family history and the family history of others. Thank you so much for posting this hub. I really enjoyed seeing the pics of your grandmother when she was young. These pics are such treasures and I thank you for sharing. Through your hub you took us all back in time to dairy farming in Wisconsin so many years ago! Thanks again!

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi 8 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Peggy,

      Another great hub, both personal but also an insight into the not too distant past. Thanks for this.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Greetings Cailin, Thanks for reading this and leaving your nice comment. I've got more coming about her...

    • Cailin Gallagher profile image

      Cailin Gallagher 8 years ago from New England

      Beautiful photographs of your lovely Grandmother. Lovely story of her childhood and life.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Melody, She was as saintly as they come! Thanks for the comment.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 8 years ago from Philippines

      Nice photos. Your grandma's very pretty. She sounds like a very nice person too.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi kiran, I agree and I also loved the sepia toned pictures. Enjoy your comments as always.

    • kiran8 profile image

      kiran8 8 years ago from Mangalore, India

      Wonderful details, so nostalgic ! I have always loved Black and white pics , there is a sense of mystery in them, one can always debate over the color of the dress and so on LOL..

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rochelle, My grandmother was definitely a lovely and special person not only to us but everyone that knew her thought the same about her. Thanks for the comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello chicamom85, I also came from Wisconsin and have now spent the majority of my life in Texas. Glad that you enjoyed this bit of family history. Thanks for the comment.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      She sounds like a lovely and special person. I enjoyed this very much.

    • chicamom85 profile image

      chicamom85 8 years ago

      What a nice story. I am from Wisconsin living in Michigan, very nice history and info

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Dolores, My grandmother could do the exact same thing with replicating clothes that she saw. She did the sewing for much of her family and she even did some sewing for me, her granddaughter. Nice to be so talented! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Pete, This is one way of preserving the history from this point forward. I have some cousins that are excited to be receiving these hubs. Isn't the Internet great! Thanks for the comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Teresa, Am sure it helped being with her sisters at the convent school. They were obviously treated well for her to have had such fond memories. Thanks for the comment.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Peggy, thanks for sharing the story and the pictures of your beautiful grandmother. I remember my great aunt used to tell me how they would go into the best stores and try on the clothes. Then my Tonte Dot would turn them inside out and just stare at them for a while. Then, they'd go home and make fabuous replicas of these fine outfits.

    • Pete Maida profile image

      Pete Maida 8 years ago

      Your family has an amazing link in history. I hope all of the stories and pictures a preserved.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Lovely photographs. Glad she had a good experience with the nuns. Perhaps having her sisters with her stopped them from being lonely?