The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family – Part II


“The Drunkards Progress: From the First Glass to the Grave” Note the woman and child standing under the bridge.

This article has been difficult for me to write. As a genealogist – and a descendant of the main characters – I wanted to do justice to the story. I think we’re always looking for “one more”: one more vital record, one more news article, one more photo, one more book… one more anything that will shed light on what really happened. At some point, we need to stop looking and just write… which can be harder than it sounds.

And while I’m still looking for one more, I need to just write.

Read The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family – Part I



From “The Daily Times” (Portsmouth, Ohio) February 25, 1899

On February 6, 1899, Louise Faivre’s life as she knew it was about to change. Unbeknownst to her, husband Andrew and a few of his buddies shared a bucket of beer in the shop after work, and then headed out to the local saloons for a few more drinks.

Several hours and several bottles later, Andrew and a buddy boarded the train for home. Andrew supposedly got off at the correct stop, but in his intoxicated condition, fell down and spent the night in a snow drift. And it was an extremely cold night – some reports say as cold as 10 below zero. Andrew was badly frozen by the time he was found the next morning (one newspaper reported that he had been frozen to death). His fingers and toes were badly frostbitten, requiring amputation of all of his fingers, and at least one of his toes. He got to keep his thumbs.

Having no fingers would certainly make his job as a tailor difficult, if not impossible.

The temperance movement was in full swing at this time, and there was a law on the books allowing a wife damages against “persons who sold her husband liquor against her wishes, causing him to suffer permanent injury.” In March 1899, Louise filed suit against three of the saloonkeepers for $10,000 in damages.

After all, she had warned them. And she meant business.


From “The Des Moines Leader” (Des Moines, IA) April 13, 1902

The case went to trial, and was anything but easy. After two mistrials, Louise eventually asked for a change of venue, claiming that there was so much influence from the liquor industry in Woodbury County that it was impossible for her to receive a fair trial. The judge agreed. The case was moved to Onawa, in Monona County, and after a few preliminary battles, went to trial.

On May 3, 1900, after three days of lawyers putting up what was called “one of the hardest fights in the history of Monona County,” the jury ruled in Louise Faivre’s favor. She was awarded $6,000 in damages, although only two of the saloonkeepers were found guilty.

The saloonkeepers were not going down without a fight, and immediately filed a motion for a new trial.

However, almost two years later, in April of 1902, the Iowa State Supreme Court would uphold the lower court’s ruling, and again award Louise $6,000 in damages against the two booze-giving saloonkeepers.

In late November of 1902, Louise would finally receive compensation of $7,123 (the extra $1,123 was for “costs and interest,” since the unpaid initial judgment of $6,000 had been due in May 1900).

A drop in the bucket, even for those times.

This trial was watched closely by many people, particularly the liquor industry, and made headlines in newspapers across the country. The case is featured in several scholarly articles and books, including Manhood Lost: Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States(which I received from last week).


Excerpt from “Manhood Lost: Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” p. 3

It is also thought that this case, and others like it, were contributing factors in the passage of the 18th Amendment – Prohibition.

(Interestingly, Iowa was the 31st state out of 46 to ratify the 18th Amendment, doing so on January 15, 1919, almost 20 years after Andrew Faivre’s fateful freezing.)

*   *   *

Needless to say, Louise’s life could not have been an easy one. She persevered through what must have been an unhappy marriage, the loss of so many children, her husband’s alcoholism, permanent injury and loss of income, as well as 4 very public trials, including one at the Supreme Court level.

When her husband couldn’t perform his duties as the “man of the house,” she stepped up to the plate.

And oddly enough, through the good, bad, and ugly, she and Andrew stayed together. One Connecticut newspaper reported the headline of “Drunkards Wife Gets Divorce,” but that never happened. Census records show that Louise and Andrew were still together, still married, and living in Union County, South Dakota, in 1920.

Only a very strong – and very patient – woman wouldn’t have kicked the bum out.

Andrew Faivre died on November 11, 1928, at the age of 75. No mention is made on his death certificate of any illness related to drinking. Hopefully he learned his lesson and gave up the bottle.

Louise died at a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, on June 15, 1942, at the age of 87. She was still living in South Dakota at the time of her death.

Both are buried together at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City.

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul
I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman
~”I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton


Originally written for the 100th Edition Carnival of Genealogy: “There’s One in Every Family!” Read Part I here.




The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family – Part I

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton


Growing up in the ’70s, I hated that song. After all, I was too young to care about the Women’s Liberation Movement, and I had been raised to believe that my life could be whatever I wanted it to be, regardless of my being “a girl.” But lately, the song has new meaning for me. You see, on some level, I’ve always known (and joked) that I come from “a long line of strong women.” It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come to know – and appreciate – the adversity which made these women strong.

The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family.

My great-great grandmother, Louise (Rudity) Faivre, might not have been invincible, but she was most definitely strong. Born to French émigrés on September 12, 1854, in Scioto County, Ohio, she grew up a small-town girl who would eventually make news headlines across the country. Unfortunately, these would not be the kind of headlines of which every girl dreams.

On January 14, 1878, Louise married Andrew Faivre, a twenty-five year old tailor that she’d known for many years. Andrew was the eldest son of Andrew and Mary Faivre, and as many eldest sons were known to do back in the day, he had taken on the trade of his father, quite possibly under protest. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, especially if he wants to get the girl.

Shortly after Louise and Andrew married, they headed west to make their home in Sioux City, Iowa, after a few-year stop in Illinois. During the next 15 years, Louise would bear 10 children, but only 5 were known to survive: Sadie, John, Bernice, “Zee” (Azelia), and Henry.

I cannot imagine the inner strength needed to survive the loss of so many children.

Meanwhile, Andrew had his own demons to bear. Either unhappy with his life, or under tremendous peer pressure, he became a habitual drinker. And by habitual drinker, I mean well-known drunk. By his own admission, he would frequently drink to the point of becoming incapacitated for at least a week, during which time he was, of course, unable to work.

To keep the family from drowning financially, Louise became a washerwoman, taking in other’s dirty laundry to compensate for her husband’s lost and squandered wages. Their eldest daughter also went to work, most likely as a domestic servant, and then later as a “dry goods clerk.” Andrew would frequently ask them how much they earned, but neither woman would give him a straight answer. They knew that spare change in Andrew’s pockets would – sooner or later – end up spent on booze.

Sadly, Andrew did not turn out to be the husband or father that Louise must have hoped he’d be when she married him.

Frustrated, Louise eventually took matters into her own hands: she made the rounds to Andrew’s favorite saloons, warning the proprietors not to sell liquor to her husband. This was apparently not an unusual practice for wives in the mid to late 19th century, and saloonkeepers were expected to comply with these requests.

However… these saloonkeepers did not.

And Louise’s life as she knew it was about to change.


Read The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family – Part II

Originally written for the 100th Edition Carnival of Genealogy: “There’s One in Every Family!”




Cowgirl Judy Ann

I’ve always loved this photo of my mother, and I know she did, too. I don’t know for certain why she is sitting on a pony dressed as a cowgirl, but if I remember correctly, she once told me that a man was walking through the neighborhood with his pony one day, taking photos of children as they sat on it.

My mother looks to be about 6 or 7 years old, and a front tooth is missing. It could have been taken in Sioux City, Iowa, or Tacoma, Washington. Nothing is written on the back of the photo (of course), but on the front she has written, “With Love, Judy Ann.” To whom it was given, I don’t know; I found the photo in my grandmother’s collection after she passed away.

What I do know is that this is a snapshot of a moment in time when my mother was a happy, carefree child. What child wouldn’t be thrilled to sit on a pony, even for just a few minutes?

I hope that she had wonderful memories of that day.


Written for the 78th Edition, Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures!

Copyright © Elizabeth O’Neal

Dear Genea-Santa: Wishin’ Impossible?

Dear Genea-Santa,

Every Christmas with my precious daughter and husband has been so special. Seeing Christmas again through the eyes of a child has served as a reminder that this season is about sharing love with the people who mean the most to us.

However, this year I’ve got a few extra requests for myself that I really hope you will be able to fulfill. I know it will be hard to find these things, but if anyone can do it, it’s you, Genea-Santa!

1. Any information about Miles SWANAY (SWANEY).

Miles was my 4th-great grandfather, and I know very little about him. Where did he come from? Who were his parents? Did his family come from Scotland (specifically, Orkney)?

He was born abt. 1758 in Johnston, North Carolina, and was married to Jane JOHNSON. He probably died in Tennessee, but I don’t know that for certain. He had at least five children, including my 3rd-great grandfather, Hiram SWANAY. As far as I know, no one on any branch of this family tree has been able to find this information, so whatever you can bring, Genea-Santa, would be a gift we all can share!

2. Information about Samuel Marion DUNN.

Samuel was my great-great grandfather. He was born abt. 1818 in Lincoln, North Carolina. He married Julia Ann BLANTON in 1839 in Rutherford, North Carolina. He and Julia had eleven children, including my great-grandfather John DUNN. Samuel died in 1871 in Hamblen Co., Tennessee, but I don’t know where he is buried. I would love to know who his parents were and where his grave is located.

You’d think it would be easy to find information about a man with the middle name of Marion, but it just isn’t.

3. My Great-Grandfather Frank SWANAY’S violin and banjo.

My grandfather tried to recover these items many years ago, but he was never able to do so. He always wanted me to have his father’s violin, and he talked about it all the time. If you could find either or both of these items, it would mean a lot to me to know that my grandfather’s wishes were finally fulfilled.

Thank you, Genea-Santa. I’ll have milk and cookies waiting for you by the tree, provided that my husband, daughter and/or dog don’t get to them first.


P.S. If you can’t find any of these items, I would be thrilled to have my grandfather’s typewriter show up under my tree!


Written for the 62nd Edition, Carnival of Genealogy: 3 Wishes!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O’Neal

My Husband’s Favorite Slovak Dish

To the best of my knowledge, my family is either Irish, Scottish, English, German, French, French-Canadian, or some flavor of “Heinz 57” (having been in America since before the Mayflower landed).

So, when I read of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy hosted at Jessica’s Genejournal, I knew that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute pertaining to my own family.

However, my non-blogging husband’s maternal family is Slovak, so I thought he might come up with something, especially since the topic was near and dear to his heart: Food! More specifically, “traditional dishes of our ancestors from Central and Eastern Europe.”

While on a recent business trip to Florida, my husband consulted with his mother to find a favorite family recipe. She loaned him a copy of The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book, edited by The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association (Tylka Bros. Press; 1st edition, 1952), which was given to her by her mother, Anna Marie (Pado) Macek, in 1974.

My husband selected the recipe for Pirohy found on page 99. He remembers his grandmother and great-grandmother making these frequently, and says that this was one of his favorite Slovak dishes. He particularly liked the potato filling… but not so much the cabbage.


1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 4 tablespoons cold water
Brown melted butter and pour over pirohy when served

Mix all ingredients with enough water to make a medium soft dough. Knead well, then roll out until thin. Cut in squares to make 50 pinohy. Place on each square 1 teaspoon filling. Fold in half to make triangles. Pinch edges well to keep filling from escaping. Drop in salted water and cook until all pirohy rise to the top of the
water. Then cook for 5 minutes longer. When done, pour in a small amount of cold water and strain. Place in serving dish and pour over butter that has been melted and slightly browned. Eat while hot, and if desired, add more salt.

Cheese Filling for Pirohy

1/2 cup dry cottage cheese
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon butter
Pinch of salt

Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Potato Filling

One large potato cooked and mashed. Add one tablespoon melted, browned butter and salt to taste. A few dry crushed peppermint leaves may be added. However, this is optional.

[NOTE: my husband’s mother wrote “ugh” next to the part about peppermint leaves, so I’m guessing that wasn’t a popular addition!]

Cabbage Filling

One pound head of cabbage chopped fine, to which add 1 teaspoon salt and set aside to stand for several minutes. Then squeeze out water from cabbage and fry in one tablespoon butter that has been allowed to brown. Add one teaspoon sugar, and stir occasionally to keep from burning. Fry until golden brown.

~Sophie Gresko, Whiting, Indiana

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O’Neal
Translate »

Pin It on Pinterest