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Saturday, 2 March 2013

Fearless Females 2: Great Grandmother - Maria Rawcliffe

"Fearless Females" is a blog In honour of National Women's History Month in the USA. Suggested by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist,  it provides 31 Blogging Prompts for March.

March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

Left - My great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe, with her granddaughter Annie Maria whose mother had died at the young age of 21 and whose father John Danson died in 1917.  Annie was born in 1905, so I estimate this photograph was taken c. 1916.

There was no question who I would choose to feature in this particular blog - my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919), who has appeared in a number of my postings.   I immediately felt drawn to her when, as a child, I first saw this  photograph in the family's shoebox collection.

Her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth northern Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe). with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature (Maria). She looked a formidable lady from this one photograph I had initially of her. To give additional colour there was a, no doubt, apocryphal story that “granny’s dark looks” came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire.

All this captured my imagination and I was keen to find out more about her. The findings in the actual research were much more prosaic. Maria was born in Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde in 1859, the seventh of eight daughters to Robert Rawcliffe (an agricultural labourer and carter) and Jane Carr. By comparison, her sisters had much more ordinary names - Anne, Jane, Margaret, Peggy, Jennet, Alice and Martha. Their mother died when Maria was only 4 years old. 
In one of those amazing family history coincidences,  at any early stage of my research, I sent away for Maria's birth certificate,  only to find she was born on January 15th as was my daughter 114 years later - a further reason why I count Maria as my favourite ancestor. 

In 1877 at the age of 18, Maria married James Danson, who by all accounts was a bit of a ne'er do well. In the 20 years they had 10 sons and finally one daughter. Two sons did not survive infancy and the eldest Harry died in 1907 aged 30. Maria had been widowed a year earlier, and lost two sons, John and George,  in the First World War.
She truly was a Fearless Female.

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved



  1. Oh my what a fabulous tribute and so wonderful to treasure! Great post, I really enjoy their expressions too!

  2. When I see expressions like that it always makes me wonder, how long did they have to sit while this was being taken?!

    1. Many thanks, Karen, for your comment - much appreciated. I did wonder with the solemn expressions, if the photograph was taken for Annie's father departing for army training. He was 38 when he died in 1917, so quite old I would have thought as a new recruit, but of course so many younger men were being slaughtered.


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