Quartet of Queens: The Month of Great-Grandmothers (January 2014): #4 Marie



My mother’s mother’s mother, Marie Auguste Emilie Antoine Goetsch Weinman, sometimes called Mary, is vague to me.  I have no memories or documents.  These photographs came to me only recently as jpgs.  Indirectly, I am named for her, since my middle name is Marie. Shortly before her daughter, my Grandma Marie, died, she told me that she was the fifth Marie in a row – and now, for three generations in a row, it is the middle name of choice, shared by my aunt, my cousins and myself. My cousin’s daughter and my own carry on the tradition of having “Marie” as a middle name.

What I know, I know from my mother’s stories, and these stories are sparse.  Marie was born on September 13, 1886 in Germany and came to the United States at age two.  After that, she never lived outside of the Detroit area.  Before her marriage to William Henry Weinman, she was a fine professional seamstress.  After her marriage, she continued that work on the side, while raising Eric, Marie, and later, Doris.  (Above, Doris and Eric with William and Marie Weinman.)
Great-grandpa William Henry Weinman

Great-grandpa William Henry Weinman

She was a woman of definite opinions and decided energy – a suffragette.  Her determination helped to found the Detroit area YWCA and the Cadillac Boulevard Presbyterian Church.

In the late 1930s, fearing deportation because she couldn’t prove her birth date, Marie sent to Nazi Germany for a copy of her birth certificate.  Issued by the Third Reich, it arrived emblazoned with the infamous swastika in time to allow her to remain. Marie was known to her grandchildren as “the cookie grandma” because there were always, always freshly baked cookies at her house.

The Cookie Grandma in her front garden

The Cookie Grandma in her front garden

When I started college, I learned that I have a mild congenital heart murmur that matches the one that caused Marie trouble all her life. She died on February 22, 1946, when my mother was not quite ten years old. My mother remembers that Grandma Goetsch’s funeral was the first one she’d ever attended. It was held in Grandma’s living room with the casket wide open.

Because I know so little about her, she almost seems more distant in time than other great-grandparents. Her face is a variant on the very familiar face of my Grandma Marie. Her white shoes in the photograph above are surprisingly gleaming and poised. They remind me of the shoes of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers immortal and magical heroine. The numinous quality of these shoes is a signal to me that here I am standing on the boundary of fact and imagination, the border of the country of Faery, a good place to conclude this four-part series.


Marie Four Queens

As I think of these four very different but somehow analogous women who are connected to me, I think of them as the Queens in my very own familial deck of cards. Taking the metaphor a step further–as I, a poet, am inclined to do, although I know quite well the limitations as well as the power of metaphors–one might assign each to her own suit.

Mae was the Queen of Clubs, lashing out to gain her ends, believing there was no need for defense if the offense was unrelenting.  Clara was the Queen of Hearts, paving the road for those she loved with sweetness and calm.  Katherine was the Queen of Diamonds, artistic and educated, keeping her integrity even when splattered with the mud of scandal, the scald of neglect.  Marie is, to me, almost unknowable. She remains the Queen of Spades, a mysterious presence from whom I sprang, the link to the old country, the dispossessed child in the arms of wandering parents, seeking a new home in a new world.  The thought of her has on me the effect of the Vietnam Memorial – pulling me down to search the polished black surface, sheer as the cut sod of a grave, only to be confronted by reflections from my own life and memories.  At times, her silence seems to influence me the most powerfully of all.

As I conclude  these four weeks of family stories, I am more convinced that a great share of the power of family derives from the power of story. All the great-grandmothers are removed beyond answering my questions, but they are still with me. Silence doesn’t answer but only gives back the question: “Who am I?”

Grandma Queens



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The Wedding Dress Afield: LP Version

Katherine and IsabelThe dress I wore when Tim and I celebrated our marriage in 1988 originally belonged to Katherine Hinman Schultz, the mother of my grandfather, Charles. While I know that it was her dress, I don’t know whether she wore it when she married Emil Schultz, or whether it was simply one of her pretty dresses. She was the family artist–a music school graduate, organist for the Congregational Church for forty-one years, enthusiastic photographer, writer of humorous verses to adorn collaged place cards for festive dinners. Here she is, standing with her third and youngest child, Isabelle (who later clipped the last two letters from her first name in a burst of modernity), and the doll and buggy which appear to be aimed toward the Fox River that bordered their back garden in Menasha, Wisconsin. Kate, as she was known, was born on March 20, 1879. Her daughter, Isabelle, was born November 20, 1915, when Kate was thirty-six. My guess is that this photo was taken about 1919.

Below is the earliest picture I have of the dress, about the time I was born, decades after it was made. It is worn by Isabel, then a college graduate (first attending Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, then University of Wisconsin at Madison) and the girls physical education teacher at Menasha High School. As Grandma Kate’s journal confirms, Isabel graduated from college on June 17, 1940, just forty-nine days after her father’s pharmacy closed its doors forever. Living at home ever after, Grand-aunt Isabel began her teaching career on September 3, 1940 when she was twenty-five years old. It wasn’t easy for elderly parents to pay for college during the Great Depression–in the 1930s, you were elderly in your sixties–and I’ve heard that a neighbor who was impressed by Isabel’s quick mind helped to finance her college education.  She had red hair and, like her mother, a love of theater. This photograph was taken in Menasha, at a local history pagent, in about 1960.

Isabel Wearing Dress circa 1960

And here is the dress on the day of its reconstituted glory on August 6, 1988. Our niece, Nicole, wore a flower girl dress made of the same fabric as the brand-new under-dress I wore. (One of my early quilting efforts can be spotted in the background.) When the dress came to me, it was yellowed with age, ripped in a number of places, stained, and the lining was completely tattered. This Phoenix-dress shined anew after a seamstress had made a completely new under-dress of peach cotton lined with silk and replaced all the edging with bias tape made from the same fabric as the under-dress.

Leslie Tim and Nicole 1988

Actually the theme of twin dresses chimed in twin ways: not only did this old dress transform from a lined confection  to a lacy frosting over the newly fashioned sleeveless peach dress lined with silk, it was the second dress I wore for our wedding.

Tim and I were legally married on August 4, 1988, by a justice of the peace in Hastings, Minnesota. The ceremony for friends and family was celebrated two days later at the home of Sally and David Tellekson in Kenwood, Minnesota. Our dear friend, LaNelle Olson, officiated. Below is a photo Tim took of me (with witness Jim Herzog in the background) after the legal ceremony. That August was a record-breaker for high temperatures, but I felt cool in this new-but-retro-styled sundress. Ah, the days of daring to wear bold horizontal stripes!

Leslie's Justice of the Peace Dress

Fast-forward to 2010. As regular readers know from my post a few weeks back, this was the year I faced facts regarding the “glory rag” stored in my basement. Even in 1988, refurbished, it was too fragile for another wearing. Like many a nonagenarian, its fibers didn’t have any give. And twenty-two years in storage hadn’t helped. The silk netting upon which the heavy crocheted string was appliqued was rotting, rips and tears abounding. It was time. The dress travelled with me in my neighborhood, to the headwaters of the Mississippi, to Little Sand Bay in Lake Superior (where Tim and I plan to have our ashes scattered someday), even as far as Jamestown, Virginia.

Under the August full moon, we travelled to New Ulm, Minnesota and took the dress to the highest point above the Minnesota River Valley, climbing the stairs of the “Herman the German” monument, allowing the dress to bell out over the tops of the trees.

At Red Oaks Farm, his boyhood home, Tim and I set up a tent for ourselves, a tripod for my camera,  and a funeral pyre for the dress. Tim created a support of apple wood pruned from trees he had planted when Julia was a toddler. The fire ring was made from the foundation stones of the old barn, demolished decades ago. I decorated the dress with fresh roses. We offered toasts–to ties that bind, to old friends and new beginnings, to love, to letting go. When the moment felt right, we lit a match.

Today, I have vivid memories of this beautiful carapace of a dress as well as about 1,000 photos of it. It stands apart from our wedding day with a life of its own. And one day, when the time is right, I know it will enter into a poem.  Meanwhile, the peach-colored under-dress (The under-study? The daughter? The Cinderella?) is now a stand-alone diva of a gown safely packed away in case Julia ever wants to wear it.


Below is a (believe me) small selection of the wedding dress adventure photos that are now in my hands. If you scroll through quickly, perhaps you can make a flip book!

Dress with Scilla

Dress with Apple Blossoms

Dress with Canoes

Dress Sleeve with Twigs

Dress on the Way to Big Bog

Dress with Pool B & W

Dress with Pool Color

Dress and Portage

Julia Taking the Dress Swimming

Dress with Frayed Couch

Dress at Itasca

Dress at Pothole Park

Dress by Big Bay Color

Dress by Big Bay

Dress with Sheep

Dress at Crossings II

Dress at Crossings I

Dress at Crossings III

Dress at Little Sand Bay

Dress in New Ulm

Dress in Old Granary

Dress in Old Granary Color

Dress and More Flame

Dress and Champagne

Moon Flame

Dress with Pink Rose

Dress with Julia's Hands

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