Shaw was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1847. At the age of two, she and her family rode a ship to America and settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When Shaw was twelve years old, her father took “up claim of three hundred and sixty acres of land in the wilderness" of northern Michigan "and sent mother and five young children to live there alone.”
Her mother had envisioned their Michigan home to be “an English farm” with “deep meadows, sunny skies and daisies,” but was devastated upon their arrival to discover that it was actually a “forlorn and desolate” log cabin “in what was then a wilderness, 40 miles from a post office and 100 miles from a railroad.” Here the family faced dangers like attacks from Indians and wolves and had several laboring responsibilities such as plowing the land themselves. Shaw became very active during this period, helping her siblings refurbish their home and supporting her mother in her time of shock and despair. Shaw took on several physical tasks such as "digging of a well, chopp wood for the big fireplace, fell trees"
Seeing her mother's emotional suffering, Shaw blamed her irresponsible father for "ha g no thought to the manner in which to make the struggle and survive the hardships before ." While her mother was "overburdened with meaningless household chores", her father in Lawrence could freely dedicate "much time to the Abolition cause and big public movements of his day."
The family's misfortunes grew worse over the years. After the Civil War, her sister Eleanor died giving birth, and her brother Tom was wounded. When Shaw was fifteen, she became a school teacher and used her earnings to help support her family. Yet with "every onth of effort the gulf between income and expenses grew wider.”
Read more about this topic: Anna Howard Shaw
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