Everyday Women, Extraordinary Lives
March 28, 2013
Periodically, I like to take a break from the many branches of my family tree and delve into that of my husband’s family. In my recent research excursion into that side of the family, I came across two women who not only were interesting in their own right but also succumbed to two very different but tragic fates.
One of my favorite types of research is discovering the social history of women; meaning average people, doing average things during their lifetime. My husband’s great-great grandmother, Anna Marsh Clark, was a typical woman of her time. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri on December 17, 1851 to James, an undertaker from New York City, and Catherine Marsh. James married Catherine "Kate" Boric and had five children, the middle being Anna. Anna married Samuel Clark, a farmer, on January 23, 1876 in Tipton, Missouri and, by the 1880 census, lived in Willow Fork, Missouri. Samuel and Anna also raised five children.
According to his death certificate, Samuel died of heart failure on February 23, 1929. Anna died tragically, just two years later, in a kitchen fire on May 11, 1931. Anna’s clothing caught fire from a nearby stove. According to her death certificate, found at Missouri Digital Heritage, she died "doing housework" from “burns on [her] entire body” almost three hours later. Both are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Sedalia.
My husband’s great-grandmother, Kate "Katie" Cross Robinson, was the wife of famous Iowa aviator, Billy C. Robinson. Billy was a mechanic, an inventor, and aviator who, over the course of just a few short years, created prototypes of a monoplane and, later, one of the earliest known radial engines (60hp). In 1914, he set the record for longest, American non-stop flight going 390 miles in one trip, exceeding the previous record by 125 miles. In 1916, in an attempt to beat the current altitude record of 17,000 feet in his biplane, Billy climbed to 14,000 feet. The crowd below, that included his wife Katie, heard a sputter of the engine, and then watched the plane plummet. Billy died from the fire that engulfed his plane shortly before it pierced the ground. He was just 32. Billy’s death left Katie a widow at age 31 with three small children. Kate succumbed to illness just four years later, leaving her children to be raised by various aunts and uncles.
In spite of their own personal tragedies, these ladies led varied and interesting lives as daughters, wives, and mothers. They changed history in subtle ways through the people they met and those they influenced. Though neither woman would ever be considered extraordinary or illustrious, their experiences make up the fabric of this country’s collective American experience. This is why we recognize all women’s journeys and their contributions during National Women’s History Month.
Midwest Genealogy Center