Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Mother, the High School Graduate

My mother, Grace Madeline Moore, was the sixth child in a family of eleven children born to Kirby Runion Moore and Eula Amanda Floyd. The family was a typical poor farming family. Kirby was the son of Martha Lewis and Harlston Perrin Moore, a tenant farmer who had left the family farm behind in South Carolina and moved to the Dallas area of Texas in 1877. Eula was the ninth of 11 children of Angeline Elizabeth Matlock and Charles Augustus Floyd, a Dallas area farmer who had seen prosperous days but ultimately suffered nearly disastrous financial setbacks and legal consequences from overly ambitious land deals and speculation. Using money inherited from Angeline Floyd following her death in 1916 (Charles Floyd had died in 1894 at the age of 54, perhaps from the strain caused by his enormous financial losses), Kirby and King David Floyd, Eula’s brother, bought inexpensive land in Baylor County, Texas, and moved there with their families in 1917, where my mother was born that same year.

Baylor County was far more sparsely populated than Dallas County, and always seemed a place of loneliness and desolation to my grandmother Eula. As described by my mother’s older sister Clarice in the article she wrote on the Moore family for Volume II of Salt Pork to Sirloin: The History of Baylor County from 1878 to Present (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex Press, 1877; compiled by the Baylor County Historical Survey Committee), the early years were hard ones: “Our first crop was a failure, so we made a trip to East Texas by covered wagon to pick cotton for an uncle. We got as far as the Brazos River bridge in Seymour the first day. It took seven more days to arrive at our destination. We lived in a tent while we were there.”

Even when the cotton crops did not fail, a life which was dependent on cotton for support was always filled with exhausting labor; anyone who has ever had to pick cotton will tell you what back-breaking and spirit-breaking labor it is. The Moore children started picking cotton at a young age, and every year they had to keep at it until the season was over, which was usually around the beginning of December in that part of Texas. For my mother and her siblings, that generally meant that they could not start attending school until December, so every year they had to spend time catching up. By the end of eighth grade, when my mother finished at Corn School (Corn School is described in Memory Monday: Mementos from my Mother’s School), Mom was tired of doing this, so she made the decision not to go on to high school. I know at least two of her younger siblings did graduate from high school, and perhaps all four did (the youngest of the 11 children, a brother named Ray, died of diphtheria when he was three years old).

So my mother went through most of her life without a high school diploma. Sometimes she was a homemaker, and I remember when we lived in San Bernardino she was a playground supervisor for a couple of years at my elementary school (where, by the way, she was a great favorite among the kids for her fair and impartial treatment of the kids when handling playground conflicts and for her motherly concern for their scrapes and bruises). In Texas she worked as a waitress for some years and later worked at a pajama factory.

I don’t remember what it was that inspired my mother to work to get her high school diploma, but she decided to do it and she carried through. I remember seeing her working on her workbooks when I would come home from college to visit during Christmas vacation.

The day Mom earned her G.E.D. was a very proud day both for her and for me. Now there were two high school graduates in our family. (My Dad had quit school after the tenth grade to go to work and my brother, to my mother’s sorrow, quit during his senior year in high school.) Mom had nothing to gain financially from getting her diploma since it did not really open up any more opportunities for her on the sparse job market in our small town. I can only think she did it for reasons of self-respect. And she taught her daughter an important lesson: It’s never too late, so don’t ever give up.

Submitted for the 72nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Mothers!

Mom and me - Taken at my parent's apartment in McKee's Rocks, Pennsylvania


  1. Greta, what a wonderful tribute to your mother! Sometimes [O.K., a lot of times], it's not what our parents told us/tell us, but what they showed/show us...Great post!


  2. Wow, that is a really inspiring story! Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a nice post! I admire women like your mother-she sure put others first in her life.

  4. Caroline, Jennifer, and Tipper,

    Thank you for your kind comments. I know I was not always an ideal daughter, but as I get older I can appreciate the lessons I learned from my mother.

  5. Greta, I loved hearing about the life of your Mother. I can tell that she must have indeed been an inspiration. And I know you were proud of her for working so hard and then finally getting that diploma. Thank you for letting us get to know her.