The start of the lie. Part of the conspiracy. Would he fall for it?
“Emigrating to Canada was a grievous error.”
It was not. Another part of the lie.
“I want to return home, to England.”
No! Her sister Bessie wanted to come to Canada.
“Alas, I can not afford the fare.”
Father could. He had promised to send it. If he did, she’d send it back to Bessie.
“Please send the money. I will be forever in your debt. Your loving daughter, Mary.”
He bought the lie. He sent the money.
Bessie arrived four months later.
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The back story
This is the true story of how my maternal grandmother, Mary, and her sister Bessie conspired to get Bessie to Canada. I heard it 30 years ago from Aunt Marjorie, the oldest of my mother’s siblings. I’ve heard the same story from my second cousins, the grandchildren of Great-Aunt Bessie, so it must be true.
When my maternal grandmother, Mary Appleton, told her parents she was emigrating to Canada, they all but disowned her. However, her father made the (in retrospect, foolish) promise that if she ever came to her senses, realized what a terrible error she had made, and wanted to return to England, he would send her the fare. That was in June, 1912.
No one knows what prompted Mary to leave England or if what she found here is what she expected. Nor does anyone know why Bessie, one of her younger sisters, also decided to emigrate to Canada. Perhaps the “colonies” held more promise and potential than Mother England.
As the family account goes, Bessie wanted to emigrate but had no money. However, Mary remembered her father’s promise. She wrote him what I assume was a letter of regret and remorse for having left England’s fair shores, and asked him to send her the fare so she could return. When she received the money, she sent it back to Bessie who arrived in June, 1914.
One can only imagine her father’s reaction when he learned the truth. I doubt that neither Mary nor Bessie cared. They were together and in Canada, and that was all that mattered.
My reaction when I heard this story was, “Now I understand why the women in my family are the way they are!” Strong, independent, stubborn, contrary and proud – those characteristics are firmly entrenched in all of us.
That is not quite the end of the conspiracy. On the passenger manifest of the Ascania that brought Bessie to Canada is the notation under “Destination” – “going to married sister.”
Except, Mary was not married! Why the deception?
I suspect it was because Bessie was only 19 and was traveling unaccompanied by either father, husband or older brother. There is some information suggesting it was frowned upon for young (i.e., younger than 21) unmarried women to emigrate on their own – they had to be accompanied by an older male family member. After all, what sort of young woman (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) would emigrate on her own in 1914? Bessie might have run into that roadblock when booking her passage and again upon arrival in Canada. Going to live with a married sister would legitimize her travel because there would be(supposedly) a brother-in-law, i.e., a man, to look after her.
Not that either Bessie or Mary needed looking-after!