My maternal grandmother lived with my uncle for some years prior to her death at 96. She owned close to what is seen today as a boarding house, although there was no food provided. They were just small private rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. She had a business account at a bank that was in the Melbourne CBD. If she wanted to go to the bank, she would walk two miles to the closest bus stop, catch the bus to town, undertake the necessary business, and then take a bus back home. I can remember my uncle ringing my mother on more than one occasion asking if we knew where she was. He had lost her! She maintained this independence until around 12 months prior to her death.
My mother, like many of her generation, was the mainstay of our family. Dad was one of the many people who returned from the war a changed and damaged man. Today he would be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD. Whenever there were issues in the family, it was Mum who had to deal with them. I have been told a story, although the details are a bit hazy. We had some holiday flats up the hill from where we lived outside Healesville. A visitor went crazy in some way yielding a knife. Mum had to deal with this as the stress caused Dad to collapse with severe asthma.
At age 16 our daughter moved to Perth to train at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). She spent around six years living independently from the family. Work in the field of dance is not easy to come by. Rather than allow us to support her, she found other work – teaching ballroom dancing. Some years later, her first marriage broke down. Her husband at the time refused to attend any counselling with her, so she went by herself. The counsellor suggested that she try to stay away for three weeks but doubted she would be able to do this. She never went back! The counsellor saw her as a little girl who needed her husband to look after her. Her ex-husband had seen her as a little toy. She was the strong one in the relationship, and he found it hard to cope without her.
There are other stories I can tell – a young niece who started a website selling horse accessories when she found the existing sites were rubbish, and now has a shopfront, a collective of young horsey mums, a new book published last year. Another niece whose husband works in the maritime industry brought up her young sons to be competent young men with her husband away at least half the time.
So, a family trait was and continues to be strong independent women.