A Sharecropper's Daughter

my grandmother, Mary Lou
"[T]o the women of all generations who find themselves for one reason or another in the struggle of providing and supporting a family alone, fighting prejudice, hardship and other life uncertainties while still making a difference both in their family and the world. God bless you all."  - From the dedication of "A Sharecropper's Daughter"

I recently re-ran across one of my favorite parts of my family's history, and I wanted to share it with you guys today!  You may remember me mentioning my mother's side of the family was made up of sharecroppers back in the day and were very poor.  This affected my family a lot, and I remember my grandmother, Mary Lou, telling me stories of her childhood when I was a kid, before she passed away in 2003.  Before she passed away, my grandma worked with my aunt to tell a biography of her mother, my great-grandma Julia. My aunt has compiled it into an online version entitled "A Sharecropper's Daughter" that's about as long as 4-5 blog posts, and you can read it here

It's not only interesting reading, but there are lots of family photos and documents! If you've wondered what poorer people in the 1900s-50s wore, you'll find pictures of them here. This story will cover lots of things that aren't usually covered in our sources of vintage knowledge: poverty in the South among whites, single parenting, mental illness, and giving to others despite having almost nothing.

Here are some of my favorite snippets from the story:

"It seemed everyone born in the south was destined to have three names, families would name their children for friends and relatives whether it made sense or not. Julia's father Walter, however was different. He was called Babe until he was four years old, when his mother told him he had to have a Christian name. He told her he wanted to be called Walter and that was that. No middle name. No relative to be remembered. Just Walter."

"Julia was ready to leave the house with such high hopes for higher learning. When her cousin came for her, her mother made the statement that set Julia Ann on a path of determination and a goal of seeking knowledge for the rest of her life, 'You're not going.' Hardly believing her ears, Julia fought back the tears. She was going to be denied her one chance for education. Her mother told her she was needed at home more than she needed an education...But the desire to learn still burned like a molten ember that was forever being fanned to burn brightly for the rest of her days."
Granny "Anner" Block

"[Granny Block] and Nicholas set up housekeeping in a little house among the trees and raised a handful of children. During their married lives, Nicholas would, as many men in the community did at the time, frequent the local 'road house' (with the reputation that went with it). One fateful night, Granny Block had had enough of being alone with the kids and surmising where Nicholas was, she reached for the pistol, walked to the 'road house' and ordered Nicholas to 'Come out, blast ya!' He refused, she insisted, so she told him she was going to start blasting through the door if he didn't show himself. So the other men (probably not wanting to be identified) made Nicholas leave and Granny (all five feet of her) marched him the long way home with the gun nestled in the middle of his back."

"Later, Julia would learn to hunt ducks, geese and squirrels herself to help fill the larder for her family. She lived through two world wars, the time of ration stamps, saccharin, no coffee, doing without, riding buses as an only means of transportation and through it all good times and bad, she never lost her love for helping people or her sense of humor. She left a legacy of Christian love and compassion for all who knew her. She lives in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who will keep her pioneering and need-to-know spirit both in learning and striving to new heights, alive in whatever their undertaking and horizons they cross."

Click to read the whole story...



  1. Thank you for sharing. I think it is wonderful to learn where we come from. I have found that my late grandparents were all astonishing people. I am just sad that I didn't know when they were still alive. We, in our age, have it (in many ways) so easy compared to the struggles people went through in the past. We can all learn something from these stories.

  2. Btw, you look so much like your grandmother! Lovely :)

  3. Thank you for sharing that with us! For some reason, it always helps to know that even if things are bad now, they have been bad before and people got through it. Your family has powerful women in it.

    1. It's true! Now I realize that I come by my German cleanliness and Southern sass honestly!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful slice of family history with us. I'm a passionate (hobbyist) family genealogy and so love it when other vintage folks post about this topic in any sort of context. We wouldn't be here with out our ancestors and they deserve to have the spotlight shone on them on our blogs, sometimes, too, if you ask me.

    ♥ Jessica

  5. What a great story, I love delving into my family history as well. My great grandparents ran a poultry farm during the Depression, and my great-great grandparents were pioneer farmers in pinescrub, living in a slab hut with six kids in the early twentieth century. I have nothing but admiration for them, and their toughness in getting through.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story with us. (It took me a while to set aside a few quiet moments to read it throughly.) Such a fascinating life your great-grandmother had. A tough but interesting life.