As some already know (especially if you’ve explored the links on this blog), I am also a family historian, one who has been discovering and telling the stories of my family tree for almost twenty-five years now. While that facet of my life has been on the back burner now for a bit since I have been focused on my fictional writing and my whole author persona, it is never too far from my mind.
My uncle recently mailed me a box of old photos my grandmother had collected that he finally found time to go through himself. Many of them are from my childhood and the childhoods of my siblings and cousins, and a number of them are photos of my grandmother and her friends. But a number of them are older than that, photographs my grandmother had inherited when her aunt May passed away. It is now my job to figure out the pictures and the pieces of history that go along with them.
But that’s not what this blog post is about. This post is about Aunt May……
My great-grandaunt, May Irene Bupp, was a character that still looms larger than life in my imagination. She was born in 1894 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, which is now the north side of Pittsburgh. She was of German descent and was one of the grandchildren of the once famous Pittsburgh-area hangman’s ropemaker, Jacob Bupp (of whom I wrote an entire series of blogs here if you are interested in that kind of stuff). She was the youngest surviving child in a family of nine and grew up in the Shadeland neighborhood in what is now the 27th ward of Pittsburgh. Her best friend was her elder sister, my great-grandmother Elizabeth. Maizie and Liz, as the two were called, were as thick as thieves, or so others recalled.
While Liz married one John F. Pfeiffer and ultimately had my grandmother, Maizie remained what was then known as an old maid. Yet, she still found herself blessed with the companionship of a number of friends, all of them female. While the nature of her relationships was kept quiet, her family seemed to accept her the way she was.
May worked most of her life as a stenographer for a couple of different companies, forging her own story as she worked steadily. She made good money, or so I have been led to believe. While I am still piecing together a good portion of her life as records become available, she lived in the house that had been in her family for generations with Liz and John until her sister and brother-in-law both had passed away.
May’s most well-known companion was a woman by the name of Laura Green Lambert, who was seven years younger than May. She also worked as a stenographer, which is likely how the two met. Again, since I have been slowly piecing the story together over the years, not all of it had been told and may not be told. But what is known is that Laura and May had a friendship that spanned decades. Laura was called “Aunt Laura” by a number of May’s siblings’ children and grandchildren. The two of them lived together in their later years, sharing a place until Aunt May died in 1982.
The above photograph of the two women is my absolute favorite photo of my great-grandaunt. The two of them sit at a bar, looking utterly badass, but yet every inch the polished ladies they were. They were two old broads with stories to share.
In a time and place where women mainly strived to be housewives and mothers, my great-grandaunt not only forged her own path, but she has a story to tell. I hope that one day, I might be able to write her story, but for now, this post will suffice. As I continue to find the magic in the path, I only hope that I can continue the legacy of her story for the future.
Stay magical, friends.
Write your own stories, so that in the future they can be discovered anew.
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3 thoughts on “Discovering the stories of the past – Aunt May”
She sounds like a fascinating lady! I love glimpses like this into a family history. One of my favorite memories is gathering around my great grandfather’s wood stove, listening to him tell stories. I wish I could have recorded and transcribed them, as many are now lost with that generation. Your family is blessed to have your skills! 💞💞💞
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It gets better!!! I have time today to go through more of the photos – it’s going to take me likely months to finish this, but I have photos of my great-great-great grandparents now!!
https://www.facebook.com/kswoodwrites/posts/pfbid0DUsrRSEHQmSMLeuWD8yPQ5E6uraWMwZck3Y949zGCHAdtVHRozweoc585gD5FLktl is that link.
I love listening to the old tales too and writing them down. My problem is the current generation are all “no no no no…. that’s not right!” even on things I know are correct because the documents support it. But I keep telling ALL of the tales.
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That is fantastic! Such priceless treasures you are unearthing and preserving 💞