Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Another Milliner


Last week, when I wrote about the hatbox and my memories of Revere McCleod , I was reminded that my own great-grandmother Alice was a milliner.  I never knew her -- she died shortly before her daughter ( my  maternal grandmother) was married. 

My grandmother often talked about her mother, saying that she could do anything she set her mind to. There were three daughters and one son and, though her husband had a good job working for the railroad, Alice set up as a milliner in her hometown of Troy, Alabama. 

Her business did so well that eventually the Rosenbergs (across the street neighbors and owners of the largest department store in town) bought her out and put her in charge of the millinery in their store.

They also made her a buyer and she would ride the train to New York City to purchase merchandise for the store -- a pretty big deal for a small town girl back in the early 1900s.

On several occasions, Alice and her employers disagreed. "She would quit," my grandmother told me, "and go back into business for herself and then, sooner or later, the Rosenbergs would buy her out again and she'd go back to working for them."

Evidently this happened several times. And evidently the families stayed on good terms because Bernice Rosenberg was a bridemaid in my grandmother's wedding.

"Junior bridesmaid -- I was a lot younger than the rest of  them," Bernice told me when she and her husband visited my grandparents some fifty years after the wedding.
 
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12 comments:

Martin said...

Do you think you may have inherited some of Alice's traits, Vicki?

Brian Miller said...

interesting...you know i am kin to some mcCleods as well...

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

I've been through Troy several times. I had to chuckle at your g-grandmother's cycle of quitting and starting a business only to repeatedly be bought out by the same family. Now that has to show up in one of your novels!

Suz said...

what a great story...love it
... good thing they didn't have non-compete agreements back then

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Oh how great to get introduced to your great grandmother! She was quite a creative spirit and very accomplished!

NCmountainwoman said...

Very interesting! Surprisingly enough, my husband's great aunt was a milliner around the same time. She had a shop in New York City called, "Hess the Hatter."

Vicki Lane said...

Being a milliner was one of the few occupations in which a woman could be her own boss.

NCmountainwoman -- my husband's grandmother was Olive Hess from (I think) Mt. Kisco, NY -- another amazing woman -- wonder if there's a connection?

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Your great-grandmother must be an icon of creativity for you. The creative bent still seems to be running strong in your family lines -- if she could have only known that someday their would be a woman in the family that was a successful writer. -- barbara

Friko said...

interesting.

She was one of the few business women of the time.

Have you noticed how nobody ever smiles in old photos? It just wasn’t done then.

Star said...

Lovely old photo and so very clear. Very interesting story too. Funny because I just bought two hat boxes in the store yesterday! Must be psychic!

Deanna said...

Your great grandmother was beautiful. How appropriate that she is wearing a hat. Great story!

Thérèse said...

Such a fabulous example of a strong woman!