The lady in this photo is Miss Fanny Murray. Although she was married, most of the adult women in my family tradition were referred to as “Miss.” She was 13 years old at the end of the Civil War. She had no place to go, and she wandered around, a motherless child.
Miss Fanny had a daughter, who we knew as Miss Olivia Murray. Miss Olivia was born in 1897 and died in 1991. She was a great, tall woman, nearly 6 ft, and she used to walk around town with a bonnet on her head, a long dress that went to the ground, and a basket under her arms. This was during the late ’50s and early ’60s, when we were trying to shake off the fetters of subserviency. And there she was, walking around town, looking like Aunt Jemima, and not the new, cute version, either. Quite honestly, we were ashamed of her. Once, I had the occasion to talk to my mother about my distaste for the way Miss Olivia looked and acted. My mother asked, “Do you know what she has in that basket?” and I replied, “No, and I don’t care.” My mother disregarded the latter part of that statement and said,”She had eggs from her chickens and canned goods from her garden. She went around and gave them to families who were down on their luck.” Mom went on to say, “She saved many family’s lives around here, including ours.” I felt so ashamed.
I could have known a saint, but I was too busy checking her out. And we, likewise, accept people or reject them on equally flimsy evidence.