mayakittenreads: (GirlReading)
So, when I first mentioned the Cranky Ladies of History Blog Tour to my Dad, he mentioned an ancestor of mine and she's been stuck in my head ever since.

Jemima Heron was born to Scottish migrants in Tasmania in 1834. She was one of 10 children born to her father, James, by his two wives, Helen Clerk and Jemima's mother, Mary Andrews.

Jemima was around 9 years old when her father died. Her mother went on to remarry, but only after sending her youngest children, including Jemima, to the Queen's Home for Orphaned and Destitute Children in Hobart to live. I can't even imagine how Jemima would have felt about being abandoned by her mother and left to grow up with the children of convicts who made up the majority of occupants at the Home, but cranky would be a fair guess. She would have left the Home at age 12, when she was considered old enough to work.

She married former convict Joseph Moles in 1951, aged about 16, and bore him 5 children before he died of a snake bite. In 1860 she married Michael Murphy, the farming partner of her first husband, and ended up bearing him 10 children, the second youngest of which was my Great Great Grandmother, Urella.

Unfortunately, things did not end up well. Michael committed suicide via rat poison on St Patrick's Day in 1890. He took the poison in the presence of his youngest daughter, Charlotte, then 8 years old. We have the text of the newspaper article describing the inquest. From this it is clear that Michael was mentally ill and had attempted to commit suicide at least twice before. Jemima was left with a large family of children and not much else.

What comes next was somewhat extrordinary for the period. Jemima was able to gain legal ownership of a piece of land, 45 hectares, in 1905. We can only assum that this is where she lived up until her death in 1908 aged 74.

I thoroughly admire a woman who was abondoned by her mother, birthed 15 children, handled the tragic death of her first husband and the mental illness and suicide of her second husband, and fought to become a property owner. There must have been a strong thread of steel in her personality. In my opinion, she definitely qualifies as a Cranky Lady who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself.

What we believe is Jemima, Michael and various children:
Jemima Heron  Family


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