Nickole Brown

Elizabeth Oakes' Grandmother Anna Flora

My grandmother, Anna Flora, was born in 1875, married at 40, had my mother in 1915, and died in 1966. Seventy when I was born, she always was old to me. She was 5 feet tall, if that, and by the time I, who grew tall, was 12, she could stand under my arm. Her life was limited; I doubt that she was ever more than 100 miles away from where she was born. Nevertheless, she, who had never heard the word feminist, taught me what one was, long before I heard the word myself. Most of all, I remember her clothes, old lady clothes of a kind no one wears anymore. Even in August heat, she rose when the rooster crowed, pulled on pants the color of dolls' flesh, with no elastic in the legs. Then came a corset that could stand by itself, two opaque, cotton slips, and thick hose. Over that she put on a dress and an apron, all a different print, all homemade, all starched. On her head she always wore a bonnet, winter and summer. I know now this was her armor.

Ma, 1875 - 1966
Even in August heat
my grandmother rose
when the rooster crowed,
put on pants the color
of dolls' flesh, with no elastic
in the legs, a corset that
could stand by itself,
two slips, both cotton
and opaque, thick hose,
and then 
a dress,
an apron,
a bonnet,
all a different print,
all homemade,
all starched:

her armor

Elizabeth Oakes
(that's my little brother halfway in the photo)