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Lessons from Grandma's life

Updated on December 4, 2011

This is based on a true-life story.

Anna Mary Robertson was born in Greenwich, New York, on September 7, 1860. She was the third of ten children born to a farmer. Anna worked hard on the farm and attended school for a few years, but only in the summer, as she did not have warm clothing. At twelve, she started earning by working as a hired hand on nearby farms. In 1887 at the age of 27, Anna got married to a farm worker, Thomas S Moses and went on to have ten children of whom five died in infancy. Mother Moses remained busy bringing up her five children and performing mundane chores on her farm, until she grew old and found it difficult to do farm work, at which time she started doing some embroidery and needlework. Her husband died in 1927. A few years later, when she was seventy-four, she was afflicted with arthritis and had to abandon her needlework.

A mediocre life? A very ordinary life? A most boring humdrum life, bereft of any accomplishments whatsoever? Was it worth living?

Before we conclude, let us first ask ourselves whether our life is in any way different? How different, except for the context? Instead of working on a farm, maybe we go to an air-conditioned office. Instead of struggling to bring up five out of ten children, we can raise one or two kids and rely on better healthcare. But is it essentially different? Have we actualized our true potential? If we haven’t, then what is holding us back? Why are we not doing anything about it?

Uncomfortable questions.

But we have reasons. Genuine reasons. When we are young, we are busy embarking on a career. Then we are busy settling down with a family, making money, etcetera, etcetera. Then, when we are middle aged, we are too tied up with everything and too much in the rut to extricate ourselves. Once into our forties, the best years have gone by, the slowing down begins and there is nothing much left. Just plan to spend the sunset years in prayer, that’s all.

Which is why, all too often we hear statements that portray the above situation.

“If I had taken it up ten years ago, I would definitely have been able to make a success of it. Those days were different. I was unstoppable-”

“I probably had the talent, but now it’s too late. Although I don’t look it, I am actually thirty-five. Can’t expect me to start on this now at this stage-“

“ I always wanted to …………. but then now it’s too late. I am getting into my forties. Can’t go back to college. It’s all over-“

We come across these kinds of statements a lot. Or maybe variants.


Let me get back to the true story of Anna Mary Robertson.

In the late 1930’s after arthritis forced her to abandon embroidery work, she took up oil painting when she was seventy-six years old! Although she was self-taught, her paintings soon attracted the attention of a collector who was passing by and saw a few of her paintings displayed in a local drug store priced between three to five dollars. He bought them all and went on to arrange an exhibition of three of her paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in October 1939. She was seventy nine years old! By the following year, Anna came to be well known for her folk art and got the “Grandma” tag. As Grandma Moses, she produced over a thousand paintings and held numerous exhibitions. In 1949, she was a guest of President Truman at a tea in her honour. In 1950 The National Press Club mentioned her as one of the five most newsworthy women. When she was 89 years old, Royal Sage College awarded her an honorary doctorate and when she was 91 years old, Philadelphia’s Moore College awarded her a honorary doctorate degree. Time Magazine put her on the cover of their December 28th 1953 issue while LIFE magazine put her on their cover on her 100th birthday in 1960. When she died on December 13, 1961, she was one of the most famous folk artists of the twentieth century. After her death a commemorative stamp was issued in her honor in 1969.

That was a Grandma's life. What a life! Lessons for you and me? All of us?


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  • Vinodkpillai profile image

    Vinodkpillai 6 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Stephanie, thanks for your comment. Glad you liked it. This story is so very special - whenever I find people who are mired in deep despair, I tell them this story. And it works. Always.

  • Vinodkpillai profile image

    Vinodkpillai 6 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Denise good to see you again. I read about Grandma Moses many years ago in a Reader's digest article and it continued to inspire me all these years. I felt it's a great story to share. Thanks for your encouragement as always.

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 6 years ago from USA

    What a great reminder that it's never too late! Sometimes as we age it's hard not to feel that our productive days are over. Reading the amazing story of Grandma Moses reminds us that we can still grow in new, productive, creative ways no matter what our age. Thanks for a great hub!

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

    Vinodkpillai-this is a wonderful hub. I enjoyed the background history and facts about G.Moses that I wasn't aware of. Thank you for that. It is amazing how one person who is not intentionally painting for fame or fotune got both.

    Yes, time goes on and we are either immersed in it, or just a shell going through the motions. When we engage fully there are many unexpected surprises which we can savor. Thank you for a wonderful reminder about moving towards our potential. :) voted up and awesome/useful.