Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tribute to Women

The 44th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is all about women! Since March is Nat'l Women's History Month, we are to pick one woman in our history, family, friend, historical figure, and spotlight her for our blog. There were so many women in my family history to choose from, but really there was no question as to whom I'd pick.

My paternal grandparents' oldest surviving child was Marianne McHUGH. She was born 29 Nov 1930 with Down Syndrome. They were basically told to lock her away in some institution, that she'd never be able to function. My grandparents would have none of it, took her home, and raised her almost as if nothing was wrong. She was part of the family and would be treated as such. The story has it that Marianne was given the baby doll she's holding in the first picture by a cousin when she was born .
Marianne was followed by two non-disabled children, Noreen and Dennis (my father).
She grew up alongside her siblings, and amidst her aunts, uncles and cousins.

She was always part of the activity, not shunned and set aside.

She was allowed to be silly and was not afraid to be herself.

Marianne was favored by all who met her, say those who grew up with her.

And everyone was favored by her.

I knew Marianne as a child as my aunt -- my dad's sister. I do not remember playing with her, talking with her, getting to know her. I was a child, and she was my aunt, whom I knew was different. I always wished I'd known her better. But through stories I've heard about her from dad and cousins, I think I know her well enough now to know that she was one special lady.

I often wonder what her life would have been like had she been born in my era, instead of her own. She would have gone to school, for one thing. Perhaps she would have joined Special Olympics. As it was, she did not partake in any community activities that I know of; I doubt anyone with Down Syndrome did in that time. But she was raised in a loving home, was given all the attention she ever wanted (and probably more) and she was adored by others as she adored Liberace.

Yes, Liberace. Apparently the world in the McHugh household stopped dead in it's tracks if Liberace was on the radio or later, on t.v. And no one DARED to walk across the room by crossing between Marianne and the t.v.

Marianne died on 28 April 1978 at the age of 47. Not a bad life span for a woman with Down Syndrome born in 1930. Word also has it that Marianne was buried with but one special item.

I hope the word is true.


Moultrie Creek said...

A great story and the photos are delightful. These are the people that give a family character and it's wonderful that we can celebrate their lives rather than ignore their existence.

Donna said...


What a wonderful story about your aunt, and great photos! She sounds like a wonderful lady, and your family was blessed to have her as a part of it.

What's Past is Prologue

footnoteMaven said...


What a fantastic written and visual tribute.

I truly enjoyed your article. The love of your family is so inspiring.


Jewelgirl said...

Not everyone is willing to talk
about disabilities in the family
tree. I think yours COG is a terrific story. I knew my cousins from a young age who both had CP. From that experience, I feel I had a better understanding of what it was like to be different in a society that demands perfection.
Thanks so much!

Penny L. Richards said...

Thank you! This is great--the photos are such a treasure. I linked to this at our blog, hope others come meet Aunt Marianne too:

Nicole said...

How awesome to have those photos! My daughter has T21 and is 8. My father had a first cousin who I believe was born in the 40s in Canada. He too was loved, raised at home and was a joy to his family. He was bilingual, I remember well him cussing in English. :)

Thanks so much for sharing your Aunt's story!

Our Blah, Blah, Blog! said...

My 3 1/2 year old daughter has Down syndrome, and I just cried my way through your account of your aunt's life. I appreciate your grandparents paving the way for my little girl! My daughter has an obsession for music and I loved reading about your aunt and Liberace! I can totally see that being Darah in a few years!! :)