Mabel Arilla Payne
By Marilyn Sears Lindsey
March 5, 2018 – Week 10
One of the strongest women I know is my maternal grandmother, Mabel Arilla Payne. When she was young in the early 20th century, she told her mother that she wanted to become a nurse. Her mother replied: Become a mother and you’ll be an excellent nurse. So she followed in the footsteps of mothers everywhere and became the extraordinary matriarch of our family.
All 3 of Mabel’s sons served in the military – Lee joined the US Navy in 1944; Jim was in the US Army in 1948 in the Korean War; and Bob joined the US Navy.
Mabel Arilla Payne lived from 1904 – 2005. The extraordinary women mentioned here were her contemporaries.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Lillian Gilbreth (1878-1972) was a mother and Industrial Engineer who had 12 children.
1904 at 1 day old
Elizabeth (1901-1991) was 3 years old when her sister Mabel was born. Mabel was one of the strongest women I know because she only weighed one pound when she was born prematurely. Her parents had her sleep on a pillow in an open dresser drawer so they could keep an eye on her.
Then her father died in a sawmill accident when she was only 1 month old. She had to be strong to survive. Mabel was the 4th oldest of 8 kids (her 2 older brothers Alfred and Albert died before they were 1 year old). When Mabel was 3, her brother Arthur (1907-1962) was born and when she was 4 her brother Austin (1908-1909) was born but only lived one year. She had one more sister Ethel (1917-2005) and one more brother James (1921-1995). Five of the 8 siblings lived to adulthood.
Circa 1915 at 11 years old
Mabel was an animal lover and enjoyed having dogs…just like Claire’s 3 kids – Ray, Marilyn and Pam and all 7 of Claire’s granddaughters.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994) who was a zoologist and the first female governor of Washington State.
Mabel Arilla Payne was not only strong; she was lucky. She survived a car crash, a broken leg and some surgeries. She could spot a four-leaf clover the minute she walked out the door. She gave so many away to family and friends. Her grands and great-grands remember her for that.
1916 at 12 years old
She was christened on August 20, 1916 at the First Baptist Church in Mendon, Massachusetts and supported the Salesian Missions.
Alissa followed in Mabel‘s footsteps and has made the church her passion. She will graduate from Perkins School of Theology with a Master of Arts in Ministry in May 2018.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was similar to Mabel in 2 ways. Mary was a mill girl in Scotland where she spent her leisure time volunteering to teach the children at church.
1918 at 14 years old
She was an artist as she wove cloth in the 1920s at a cotton mill, did needlework – mostly crochet- in her spare time and made afghans for as many children and grandchildren as asked for one. Her entire apartment was decorated with crocheted toaster covers, pillows, afghans, slippers and vests. She even made her own coat.
Every week at the mill Mabel had to give her wages to her stepfather Javan Everett Ballou, a florist. After that she learned how to be a financier and business manager as she raised her children with Roy’s paycheck from his brother‘s auto shop and her wages from the hat shop.
Alice Lynn Sanders, Katie Sears, Valorie Sears Mantle, Pam Sears Cooper and Marilyn Sears Lindsey love to draw, design and do needlework. Pam, Angelica Leal Johnson, Ray Sears and Neil Adams followed in her financier footsteps.
Mabel’s Contemporaries: Aline Bernstein (1881-1955) Costume designer
Muriel Siebert (1928-2013) was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. During World War 2 she said: American business will find that women executives can be a strong competitive weapon against Japan and Germany and other countries that still limit their executive talent pool to the male 50 percent of their population.
1925 at 20 years old
Mabel married Clarence Leroy Sanders on the 20th of October 1925. She said they didn’t have a wedding cake. They had an apple pie.
1926 at 22 years old
Mabel had 8 children in 15 years and breastfed all of them.
Babies were her passion. She even wrote a poem about them.
Starring the Baby
By Mabel Arilla Payne (Spitfire)
Baby eyes and baby face
They are such a treasure
Just to look and watch them smile
Gives me such a pleasure
Dimpled cheeks and dimpled hands
And the sweetest little voice
Of all the nice things in this world
I know I’ve got my choice.
Little fingers softly twine,
As you rock them to and fro
Their little eyes almost speak
And say, “I love you so,”
At night when they go to sleep
All tucked in nice and warm
They know that you will guard them
From all danger and all harm.
1930 at 26 years old
My Grandpa Roy was a cracker jack mechanic before World War I and a Private in the US Army Ambulance Company 304 301 Sanitary Train Unit where he was an ambulance driver in France.
He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), what used to be called Shell Shock. He was treated for this disorder in the Veteran’s Administration Hospital for over 2 decades and he passed away there at the age of 71.
One of the early signs of this disorder was probably when he took the family for a Sunday drive around 1930 and kept right on driving from Massachusetts to Upper Jay, New York. They lived there near his family for 3 years during “The Potato Years” which was what Mabel called them. They ate only potatoes.
Minnie Levinia Greene Payne, died when she was only 44 years old from myocarditis. Minnie was Mabel’s mother. Mabel was only 26 and had to learn how to be a mother on her own; without the help of her own mother.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARIES: The Founders of La Leche League (LLL) – a breastfeeding support group- remind me of Mabel. Marian Tompson, born in 1929 and Mary Ann Kerwin, born in 1931 are two of the Founders of LLL. Claire, Pam and I had the pleasure of meeting them in 2015 on an LLL Alumnae Trip to Charleston, SC. What inspirations they are!
Mabel did become like a nurse as she raised her children. She had 1 sheet of paper with all their names and the dates they contracted childhood diseases like measles, mumps, chicken pox and diptheria.
Five of her seven great granddaughters on Claire’s side have careers in the medical field. I wonder if this is where they get the inspiration from.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) of Barbados, West Indies who was a nurse during World War II.
Luckily Ray, Marilyn and Pam had lifelong examples from Claire and Les on how to be parents; we didn’t have to do it by ourselves.
Neither did Angelica, Valorie or Hannah; they had their parents examples too.
1933 at 29 years old
Mabel was an author/poet just like Ayn Rand (b. Russia) 1905- 1982 and even had one of her poems printed in the Boston Globe in 1933…
By Mabel Arilla Payne Sanders
They say we are tied
We never can go
To a ball or a dance
Or a good movie show.
We have few pleasures
Much work and worry.
Every day it’s just
Hustle and hurry.
There’s always a little
Shoe to tie
Another to love
So they won’t cry.
The baby needs to
Be picked up
One just broke
That’s what we mothers
Get every day
Mixed in with work
It is our play.
But I wouldn’t
Change a thing,
Instead of a show
I’d rather tie a wee shoe.
Her daughter Claire and her great granddaughter, Alissa Marie Lindsey, are following in her footsteps; they are writers too.
Mabel didn’t graduate from high school herself but she made sure her 8 children did and they all made their way in the world using their education.
Her daughter Jean and her granddaughter Marilyn are teachers.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Grace Abbott (1878-1939) was a teacher who ensured that child labor was limited in contracts with the US government.
1942 at 46 years old
She was a volunteer – a philanthropist as president of the Mission Belles of the World War 2 Women’s Auxiliary #2285 for 2 years.
Alissa is a philantropist like her great grandmother as she is interning at a women’s shelter in Dallas and wants to make that her career – social justice.
MABEL’S CONTEMPORARY: Mabel may have gotten philanthropic ideas from Olave Baden-Powell from England who started the Girl Guides there as her role model.
1976 at 72 years old
Mabel was a traveler and an adventurer. When she got bored with one house, she re-positioned the staircase while the children were in school for the day. She moved almost 30 times in her life and vacationed in Hawaii when she was 72 years old. She was a romantic – her favorite movie was Dr. Zhivago (1965) with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. I wonder if she had notions of even more international traveling than just Hawaii.
She traveled from New York to Florida in a pickup truck to be nearby on my wedding day in 1993 when she was 89 years old. We felt so honored.
All 7 great granddaughters in Claire’s line love to travel.
Mabel’s Contemporary: Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-1993) who surveyed the Orient by way of the Arctic Circle and wrote Gift from the Sea, her most enduring work.
2003 at 99 years old
2005 at 100 years old
She was a historian when she told the stories of her 7 siblings, her 8 children, her 21 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, 22 great-great grandchildren and 1 great-great-great granddaughter (for a GRAND total of 88 descendants).
Many of her descendants have been named for Mabel and Roy’s ancestors, for example, her daughter Claire was named after Jasper Sanders and Phoebe Ann Kinney’s daughter Elizabeth Claire (1886-1941) and Mabel’s daughter Florence was named after Jasper and Phoebe’s daughter Florence Ellen (1889-1976). Mabel’s daughter Phoebe Anne was named after Henry Kinney and Vienna Horton’s daughter Phoebe Ann (1855-1927).
Her 3 grandchildren on Claire’s side are Family Historians doing genealogy and making family photo albums.
Mabel’s Contemporary: Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958) who was a historian and whose major work was Women as a Force in History.
Mabel meets Violet Morris – her most recent great-grandchild circa March 4, 2005
With a role model like Mabel, we were all bound to succeed. But that’s another story…