If you are a mother, think back to the first few weeks following the birth of your first baby. Can you recall the strong emotions, nighttime feedings, and relentless fatigue?
It would be the perfect time to travel to a foreign country in a war zone with your newborn, right? (!!)
That’s exactly what my great-grandma did.
This brave woman made a bold decision and the newspaper article I recently discovered about her choice ranks as one of my absolute favorite historic newspaper finds. This story appeared in the New York Tribune 104 years ago this coming week.
Source: “Reservist, Two Weeks Old, Off for European War,” New York Tribune (New York, New York), 25 August 1914, p. 12, cols. 3-4; digital image, Old Fulton NY Postcards (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html : accessed 18 August 2018).
My grandpa’s baby book (in my mother's possession) included photos from this time period, so we knew he had traveled to the Netherlands as an infant; however, this newspaper article tells so much more of the story. It includes great details about address and occupations, but what I love most is the direct quotes from my great grandfather explaining their decision process for taking my newborn grandpa across the ocean.
Alma Lee (Burnum) and Peter J. Groenendaal as a young couple in New York City
Alma holding newborn son John, August 1914
Peter in his Dutch military uniform, Alma and John in travel clothes
My grandpa, John Combé Groenendaal, as a sweet baby, 1914
Peter and Alma with John, April 1915, in Amsterdam
Peter's parents, with whom they lived in the Netherlands, 1915
Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina (Prent) and Gerardus Johannes Groenendaal
I remember my "Great Grandmother Alma," as we called her. Unfortunately, she died when I was six years old, long before I would have known to ask her about her amazing life experiences.
Great Grandmother Alma with my mom and me, 1979
Alma with her great grandchildren, August 1980
Her daughter-in-law Lucille (John's wife) is holding my brother, Ryan Hornberger.
Alma is holding Loren Groenendaal.
I am at right with my cousins John, Peter (rear), and David Groenendaal.
For a woman of her time, she was quite the traveler. Previous articles on the Groenendaal family (linked below) have told the story of her many homes in Alabama, New York City, the Netherlands, New Jersey, California, and the Philadelphia suburbs.
I am awed by this gutsy woman. She was a global citizen in a time when most women inhabited a very small world. Would I have had the courage to live the life she did?
Alma Lee (Burnum) Groenendaal
Left: photo taken near the time of her 1910 marriage in Alabama
Right: photo in traditional Dutch costume taken circa 1915 in the Netherlands