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A Mother’s Day Tribute to my Grandmother

Ruby Phillips Bramwell, my grandmother

Ruby Phillips Bramwell, my grandmother

My Grandmother 's Life

My maternal grandmother was quite a woman and was a role model for me of what a woman, a mother and just a human being should be. She was born in 1884 and died in 1969 at the age of 85. During her lifetime she would never tell me or anyone else her age. However, now that she is gone I don't suppose it matters too much. I hope she won't mind my sharing her date of birth. I only know it myself because I recently found her birth certificate information on the internet. How could she have known that her vanity would be betrayed long after her death by online records and

My grandmother was born into a horse and buggy world. The year she died Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. That fact always amazes me. How speedy the pace of change is. Yesterday's wonder is today's "ho-hum" Her life spanned two wars, the 1918 influenza epidemic, a great depression, the advent of the automobile, the airplane, radio, TV, and space exploration. She remembered when there was no penicillin and when not everybody had indoor plumbing. She knew how to pluck a chicken. I saw her do it once. I was very little and I was amazed. I thought chickens came in saran wrapped packages from the supermarket and not from the farmer outside of town.

A Family Get Together in Burlingame

The Window-Phillips clan at a summer party in honor of visiting family from England. My grandmother is the little girl seated on the blanket, second from left.

The Window-Phillips clan at a summer party in honor of visiting family from England. My grandmother is the little girl seated on the blanket, second from left.

Burlingame Kansas in 2005,faded glory

Burlingame Kansas in 2005,faded glory

Kansas Genealogy Sources

My Grandmother's World

She was orphaned at the age of six and with her sister and two brothers went to live with her maternal grandmother and two maiden aunts in Burlingame, Kansas. I have photographs of her in high button shoes, standing stiffly with her siblings in a photographic studio--motionless while the camera slowly blinked her image onto a glass plate for posterity. She grew up in a house ruled by strong women, and later, when her grandmother re-married a local widower, was part of a large extended family. The large photo above was taken at a summer family get-together after the marriage. My grandmother is the little girl,second from the left, sitting on the blanket.

When I was small she would tell me stories about the Osage and Potawatomi Indians who occupied the land before the white man took it from them and of attending a one room school house with children ranging in age from 5 to 14. She told me too about how she battled her family, and against their wishes enrolled in the University of Kansas after high school. Even the local Methodist minister disapproved. The “normal school” for teacher training was fine, but a University education for a woman? That was a total waste of time.

My grandmother showed them all. She graduated with honors in June of 1909, at a time when women could not vote and worked outside the home only if their husbands could not provide for them. The following September she married my grandfather and it seems the good people of Burlingame, who had been so against her going to college in the first place, shook their heads when they saw her engagement ring and said " what a shame, all that education wasted." She used to tell this story on herself as a kind of joke. But she always followed by saying how important it was to educate women. I can still hear her say : " When you educate a man you educate a person, but when you educate a woman you educate a whole family" She was not a fan of early marriage for women. " You need to know who you are before you can know who you want to marry" was what she said.

She also valued her vote. She went to the polls on every election day. I think she actually worked on a couple of political campaigns but I am not sure. I do know though, that she well remembered when women did not have the vote and she treasured her franchise in a way that those of us who take voting for granted don't. I think of her when I think of the sacrifices people are making all over the world in order to make their voices heard in government.

What She Meant to Me

When I knew her, in her sixties and seventies, she was active in local politics and cultural affairs, an avid reader, an established children’s author and local lecturer as well as a devoted wife, mother, and most important to me, the kind of grandmother who didn’t bake cookies, but sat me down and talked to me. She knew how to take a child seriously while still being a grown up. It was she who taught me to make beds with “hospital corners”, to darn socks and hem dishtowels. She also introduced me to “ The Atlantic Monthly” and “Harpers”, both of which she subscribed to for years. We would read together and discuss what we had read from the time I was eight years old. She read to me from the bible and made me memorize the Sermon on the Mount and Psalm 23. She told me to “count my blessings”. She lived her 85 years on the planet with style and grace, adapting to change, but sticking always to her principles.

In many ways her life was unremarkable—another strut across the stage of existence.. But, like all of us she made a difference and the difference she made to me, anyway, was staggering. She was my role model for what a woman could be. When she died in 1969, in Salina,Kansas more than 300 people attended her funeral. Her passing was marked with amazing pomp and dozens of letters and phone calls attested to the difference she had made in many lives other than mine. Now, as I approach the time of life she was in during my childhood, I think of her more often. The world which formed my generation is long gone. My Gen-X children who are now approaching middle age and their Gen Y offspring can’t imagine a world without computers, cell phones, and Instant Messenger, let alone birth control pills, AIDS, and TV ads for Viagra. The toys I played with as a child are being sold at the flea market as collector’s items. The furniture that I grew up with is prized by the young and hip as retro ‘50’s modern. I am walking in the shoes of my grandmother and I only hope I can negotiate the journey half as gracefully and effectively as she did.

This Song is for My Grandmother


Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on November 20, 2019:

Great hub, Roberta. Your grandmother has a very strong, determined look on her face in that first photo. I was raised in large part by my grandparents, so your appreciation of what she gave to your life resonates with me.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 14, 2014:

You are right. Tyro is a tiny town, slowly dying out, just down the road from Coffeyville.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 10, 2014:

Thank you Virginia, for taking the time to read and comment and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. It's always nice to meet someone with Kansas roots. I'm thinking Tyro is near Coffeyville but I'm not sure.... whatever. Nice to meet you. I'm off to check out your profile and hubs now.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 07, 2014:

Scroll to Continue

I very much enjoyed your grandmother's life as you described it here. My grandmother was of that same generation, but grew up in Tyro, Kansas. Unfortunately she died in her early 60s, so not as long-lived as yours.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 14, 2012:

Hi techygran-- yup-- this is it-- the evergreen hub in action:-) thanks for stopping by and sharing your granmother memories too. I am so glad you enjoyed this one and added such a wonderful comment to it. Like you, I feel so lucky to have had that bond. Happy Mothers Day:-)

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on May 13, 2012:

So, Robie, this is what they mean by an "evergreen hub"? Here it is on another Mother's Day 4 years after you wrote this one and it is still being read and appreciated for the feelings the tribute to that special woman evoke for each of us. I was an oldest grandchild on both sides of my family and so got to know both grandmothers intimately-- what a blessing that was! My grandmothers are my composite role model... each loving, each great bakers, one who went to Normal School and later traveled as a kind of 'golf widow' with my Grandfather, the other one was a twin from a huge family and would tell lots of stories of her teen years (that sounded more interesting than my teen years-- all that dancing). Thanks for stirring up some great memories! Voted you 'up' and 'awesome' and tweeted!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 17, 2012:

Hello mayank, and thanks for reading and commenting.

Gypsy Flower-- now you have whetted my curiosity. I'll be looking out for your hub

Vinaya-- what a lovely thought that is. Thanks for posting it here.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on March 17, 2012:

God sent mothers to the earth because He could not be with everyone.

This is wonderful tribute.

Gypsy Flower from Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A on March 17, 2012:

Your grandma has many parallels with people in my life--proof that she was an awesome lady! My dad's mother does her best not to tell her age when anyone asks, but my dad sold her an insurance policy and the secret was out! My mom's mother is a supremely intelligent woman, only since it's directly related to my current hub project I won't go into detail. A friend's sister is actually living in a converted one-room schoolhouse in Troy, Wisconsin--one of the nicest homes I've ever been in. Thanks for introducing your wonderful grandma to us!

mayank nehra on January 06, 2012:

i love my grandmother & mother

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on October 10, 2011:

thanks Tonipet-- you are pretty awesome yourself. I just checked your profile and started reading your hubs. I'm your newest follower and looking forward to reading more. Thanks for your kind words and for reading and commenting on this one

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on October 07, 2011:

A wonderful gift for grandmothers! Things like these are so spirit-lifting and truly a perfect time to think back of all the efforts done by our grandmothers to make our lives even more cheerful and rewarding. You're awesome!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on September 30, 2011:

thanks for sharing Jen and happy grandmotherhood.

Jen on September 30, 2011:

Awesome tribute. As our grandmothers pass on we lose so much of our own history. I'm inspired by the tough lives that they lived, the thriftiness that was a part of their existence and the resoluteness with which they faced so many challenges.

Having just become a grandmother myself, I have been spending time reflecting on the amazing role my own gran played in my life.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on August 19, 2011:

Thanks Eiddwen. She was a wonderful woman and though she's been gone for many years, I still miss her :-)

Eiddwen from Wales on August 14, 2011:

A beautiful hub and here's to many more to share.

Take care


Ohma on October 29, 2009:

Great tribute I can tell you take a lot of pride in being a part of the world she created. I can only hope that my grandchildren will feel the same one day,

Iphigenia on March 03, 2009:

This was a lovely read - in fact I read it twice. The unsung among us are often the real heroes and heroines. I have great memories of my grandmother, her views on women were a bit more limited than your grandmothers, mine thought that I should either marry and have a lot of kids or become a nun ! but hse did teach me to knit and crochet. I still knit. In her day knitted clothes were a less expensive option than bought ones - for me it can be an expensive hobby, but it is meditative and also helps when I am in pain with my fibromyalgia. Maybe I should HUB about knitting ... anyway, thanks for a powerful hub. I've joined your fanclub and shall read more of yur hubs.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on February 09, 2009:

Hi LondonGirl. Nice to see you and thanks for reading and commenting. I must add that I really enjoy your hubs too:-)

LondonGirl from London on February 09, 2009:

What a wonderful hub! Your Granny sounds a very special woman, thank you for sharing this with us.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on February 09, 2009:

Glad you liked it, Steph--and glad you stopped by to meet my grandmother. I hope she's proud of me, I know I'm proud of her:-)

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on February 09, 2009:

How did I miss this one, Roberta? So lovely, as I wipe my tears away. Your grandmother should be quite proud of you - her legacy - and a wonderful tribute! (brings up many memories for me too)

Best, Steph

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 26, 2009:

Oh Elena-- what a high compliment you pay me. Thank you. The past is precious as a roadmap for the future-- but the present is always the most important moment as it is only in the present that we can act. I'm having so much fun I think they will have to drag me kicking and screaming into the grave. I am just so nosy I can't wait to see what happens next LOL I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. The photos are from a family album that belonged to my grandmother-- I have tons more LOL.

Elena. from Madrid on January 26, 2009:

What a wonderful tribute, what a thoroughly charming read.  The photos are quite amazing, too!  You have a way with stories of the past and how radically different it was back then compared to today's dynamics.  What I love about the way you reminisce about the past is that you sound respectful and nostalgic, but you never ever negate the value of the changes brought forth in present times --you seem to be in a great place, able to remember the days gone by but not losing a minute of joy with the present ones.

Incidentally, I visit this article through a comment I spotted in another, "Why Women Are Not Equal With Men", where you quoted "She always said that if you educate a man you educate one person but if you educate a woman you educate a whole family".  That send me over here quick smart :-)

Many thanks for sharing this beautiful memory!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on January 16, 2009:

Goshh JJ-- thank YOU for such a warm and lovely comment. My grandmother was a wonderful woman and a real role model for me. I miss her a lot even now:-)

jjrubio on January 16, 2009:

What a beautiful hub! I will remember this forever. Your grandma lived a REMARKABLE LIFE! Because you were influenced by her very existence. What a wonderful lady and I am sure you are doing her proud as a mother and grandmother as well. What a lovely tribute to a lovely lady!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on December 02, 2008:

Thanks for your comment TLC. I was lucky to have a grandmother who was such a powerful example to me. Having a grandmother and being a grandmother are two of the greatest gifts I can think of. Happy grandparenting to you and your wife.

TLC Grandparent from Maryland, USA on December 01, 2008:

What a touching story. You are blessed with such a wonderful grandmother. I think it's great how grandmothers can have such an influence in our lives. My wife is always trying to be a positive influence, and is loved by our grandchildren.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on June 08, 2008:

Hi Ripplemaker--know what? You are right LOL I must have unconciously picked an avatar that reminded me of her--fancy that:-) Glad you too had a grandma who sat and talked with you--it's a wonderful gift. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on June 08, 2008:

Robie, you look just like your grandma :) Loved your story. What a great woman. It made me miss my grandma today. Most esp. how your grandma would sit down and talk with you. I miss that a lot. Thanks for sharing.

KScharles on June 04, 2008:

My great-grandfather's sister lived to be 104 years old and died at a daughter's home in Washington, after flying out at 98 from Missouri, her home since childhood. She told a son, "I can't believe it! I came into Missouri in a covered wagon and am flying out in an airplane!"

trish1048 on June 04, 2008:

Dear Robie,,,,,

It's all been said here. You've written a truly heart-rending, touching tribute to a beautiful woman. God bless,,


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 15, 2008:

Ahhh Dorsei--what a lovely lovely comment. She was an amazing woman and I did love her and it has been such a pleasure to share my memories of her with all of you here at hubpages. Thanks for reading.

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on May 15, 2008:

What a lovely-lovely tribute to the grandmother you loved. I'm sure she would be quite proud to know that you had honored her in this way, and the impact she had on your life.She was an amazing woman, for sure.Wonderful hub.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 11, 2008:

Thanks for reading and commenting desert blondie--what a nice way of putting it--yes she is in my heart and it took me so long to realize how much she had to do with making me me:-)

desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on May 10, 2008:

What a touching piece! So wonderful to have someone like this in your heart to remember. Best!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 10, 2008:

I'm glad you liked this, Hovalis. I've been struck lately by the passage of generations. My parents were your grandparents generation and they too experienced the war and depression and were shaped by it. Their parents were probably my grandmother's generation--shaped by the forces that shaped her. Amazing isn't it? Thanks for your comment.

Hovalis on May 10, 2008:

This is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother Robbie. She seems like a woman who didn't let other people's opinions chart her course in life. It's a good lesson to learn, and it sounds like you learnt from the best. It can be easy to forget how much change the people of that generation saw. My own paternal grandmother was from the generation after yours (born in 1912 and died last year) and her tales of survival during the depression and the war which shaped her life are almost impossible to imagine. Thanks for writing this hub!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 09, 2008:

Good to see you LDSNana. Women do rock and so do men;-) Thank you so much for reading about my grandmother. She's been gone a long time, and writing about her and having others read what I've written kind of brings her back. Thanks

Kathryn Skaggs from Southern California on May 09, 2008:


This is a wonderful memorial, which you have so lovingly written of your dear grandmother. Now it is clear, why you too - are such an extraordinary woman. Mothers do influence is such amazing ways... far beyone their immediate circles.

I only wish that more women truly understood the impact of their words, actions, examples and the love which they give to so many throughout their lives.

Women rock!



Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 07, 2008:

I'm loving these comments with so many sharingl memories of their grandmothers--thank you chef jeff for including yours. I'm meeting so many strong wonderful women through this hub.

Chef Jeff from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago. on May 07, 2008:

Beautiful story! My Czech grandmother Josephine (Rokas) Toms, on my mom's side, was as poor as could be, but she never let her children suffer for it. She worked nearly 20 hours a day just to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. My mom still remembers how her older sisters helped out, giving all their earnings to their mom to help out.

Grandma Toms died many years ago, but her memory lives on, even to the generation that never had the privilege of meeting her in life.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 06, 2008:

I believe you are right ZSuzsy. Thanks for that lovely thought and karen--yes it is amazing--more amazing is how much we mean to the people near us and maybe how unaware of that we are :-) I've been thinking avout that lately.

Karen Ellis from Central Oregon on May 06, 2008:

Excellent. It is amazing what a person can mean to another. They may have not known while they were on earth with us, but they most certainly know now.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on May 06, 2008:

I believe that great memories are made extra special if shared. Thank you for sharing yours Robie.

regards Zsuzsy

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 06, 2008:

Thanks Marisue and thanks for sharing your grandmother here. I am loving hearing about other wonderful and strong women here in the comments section. hmmmmm cinnamon rolls, yum.

marisuewrites from USA on May 06, 2008:

What great examples she gave to you and on down through the generations.  She reminded me of my grandmother and great aunts and uncles.  They were "a different type of folk."  Solid values, pioneers who fought for progress, patriots who lived their beliefs.  I miss my older relatives who made me feel so secure.  I want to give that wisdom and security to my own children. 

My grandmother woke up cooking.  She started her day baking pies and frying chicken and making cinnamon rolls.  She did that as a young girl for all the workers on the farm and couldn't depart from the habit as she aged.  Everyone knew where the food was and she had many could smell the cinnamon rolls down the street! 

Thanks for invoking great memories - I'm happy that you had such a strong grandmother. 

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 06, 2008:

And what a lovely comment from you about your grandmother, ST. Imagine how the world changed during her lifetime--just blows me away. Thanks for sharing her here.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on May 06, 2008:

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. Your story reminds me so much of my paternal grandmother. Ellie was born in Ohio in 1894 and lived to see her 103rd birthday. She taught me how to sew and knit, bake, dry corn for popping, make dandelion wine, and a hundred other things that are probably now alien to most young people. On her hundredth birthday, the entire town held a pot luck supper and gifted her with 100 red roses.

Thanks so much for sharing your grandmother's life. Because you did, I'll be remembering my grandmother in a very special way this Mother's Day.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 05, 2008:

It would figure your grandmother is younger than mine as you are a lot younger than me LOL. But whatever the generation, grammas can be very special. Thanks for stopping by and reading,gg.

Kiz Robinson from New Orleans, Louisiana on May 05, 2008:

Robie, this is an absolutely lovely tribute! You made me think about my gramma, but she was born a little later than yours. :P

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 05, 2008:

Ahhhh Jamagenee--I got some very interesting ancesstresses and some family secrets uncovered in researching them:-) Maybe your hubs will help me find out more! And VS--thanks for stopping by and meeting my grandmother:-)

VioletSun from Oregon/ Name: Marie on May 05, 2008:

Enjoyed reading your tribute to your beautiful grandmother. She was a woman ahead of her times. Good for her!    

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 04, 2008:

Great hub! I don't think your grandmother would mind a bit that you've told the world when she was born! My own maternal gm was born the same year as the Statue of Liberty (1886) and died 103...yes 1-0-3...years later - just before the internet came into general use. Alas, she never learned to drive, but in her 90's she loved to fly! Her own mother started college at the age of 82 because she felt she "didn't know enough". Robie, do you have any more interesting ancestresses???

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 04, 2008:

My plesure, Angela--aren't grandmothers great? I think the grandparent-grandchild relationship is so special and I feel very blessed to have had such a good one.

Angela Harris from Around the USA on May 04, 2008:

What a strong woman. Incredible story and wonderful tribute. This reminds me of my own grandmother, who passed away at about this time of the year. Thanks for sharing a part of your family with me.

cgull8m from North Carolina on May 04, 2008:

Great story, she must have seen it all, must have been inspiring to hear her wisdoms.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 04, 2008:

Thanks Ellen,pj and amyjane--Glad you all like my grandmother. Every individual life is such a great story, isn't it? And every generation has its unique generational point of view--we are so shaped by the world into which we are born and yet we are all so much the same too across time and personal experience. Hmmmmm I am such a dime store mystic LOL

amy jane from Connecticut on May 04, 2008:

Lovely tribute, Robie. I really enjoyed it :) She sounds like she was "a woman before her times" in some ways. What a wonderful influence!

pjdscott from Durham, UK on May 04, 2008:

Robie - not only was it a fascinating hub, but I think such material is really important for future generations. I also empathise and appreciate the diverse life of your grad, but it also helps today's and tomorrow's youngsters to appreciate the vast differences in life. Super stuff - and you've inspired me to greater things!

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on May 03, 2008:

That a lovely way of remembering your grandmother. Thanks for sharing all that.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on May 03, 2008:

Whew--thanks so much to all of you for reading and commenting. It feels so special sharing my grandmother's memory with you . I'm so glad you all liked it. Doghouse, you would have liked her and i have a scrapbook full of pix and letters and even a family bible, i even have some pix of my grandmother's grandmother:-) Mary and pg, I'm so happy you took time to read--your reading honors her too. And Sandra, what a lovely thought that she lives a bit in me--I hope so and I'm sure one day your grandchilren will be inspired by you. And Ralph--your grandmother and mine were practically neighbors:-) Sounds like she too was quite a woman and I agree with her about the RepublicansLOL

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 03, 2008:

Interesting. My grandmother was born in 1875 near Independence, Missouri. Her ancestors came from Kentucky. She claimed to be related to Daniel Boone. She and my grandfather homesteaded near Thedford, Nebraska, in 1906, and she lived there until she died at age 91. She was quite an admirable woman. I don't recall ever hearing her complain about anything, except possibly the Republicans in the Nebraska state house.

sandra rinck on May 03, 2008:

I have thought about how strange it would be to live during a time where you went from buggies to space ships. Fantiastic life you Grandmother must have had, through all the hard times as well.

I guess she is still gracing people, now threw you Robie2, I wish I could have met her, she sound wonderful.

I am gonna be there one day and I hope my daughters children will talk about me the way you talk about your grandmother. What an inspiration.

pgrundy on May 03, 2008:

What a lovely hub, thank for sharing this. It is astounding how much life has changed in such a short time frame. I think about that a lot--how different it is now even from when I was born, and what a ride for our grandmothers.

Mary K Weinhagen from Minnesota, usa, Planet Earth on May 03, 2008:

A stunningly beautiful tribute! Your grandmother must be very proud ;-)

This inspires me with a renewed sense of appreciation for ALL of the women in my life.

Thank you!

In The Doghouse from California on May 03, 2008:


Lovely tribute to your grandmother.  She sounds like a person I would have liked to be friends with too.  Awesome pictures too!  Happy Mother's Day to you, who like your grandmother, are creating memories that will be recorded in history.

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