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.