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Beulah Floyd Haynes: My Pedigree of Strong Women

I come from a pedigree filled with strong women. Women who stood up for themselves and found the strength to keep going.

Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, when forced to flee her home during the Revolutionary War, ordered her home to be burned to the ground.

Mariah Pulsipher Burgess walked across the plains to Utah.

Arena Waldsmith Diefendorf whose husband died of typhoid fever and left her with many small children to raise alone.

Closer to me, sometime in the years of the Great Depression, my great-grandma and grandpa lost everything.

They lived in Arkansas, had a half-a-dozen kids or more.

It was far more than just the Dust Bowl is a harsh and inhospitable environment.

It was bleak everywhere in the country, but Beulah Floyd understood the dire situation her family was in with no work and cupboards running bare.

Fred and Beulah Floyd

Fred and Beulah Floyd

She and her husband, Fred Haynes, put the last of their food in a wheelbarrow and the family began walking.

They were going to California to work as sharecroppers in California.

They WALKED. Not up the street. Not to the town a few miles over.

They walked from Arkansas to California.

When they got there, they still needed a sponsor, someone who gave their work ethic a chance and allow them to do the work of planting and harvesting in exchange for a small room and a portion of the harvest.

Beulah worked hard to provide for her family.

When she wasn’t in the field, she would sew.

She once said, “if you get a handmade quilt when someone dies you are rich.

Her quilts were impeccable.

My mother has one that leaves me in awe every time I see it.

In the mid-1960s when my parents were newlyweds, they moved from Utah to Sacramento.

Charlotte the Great told my mom to contact Grandma Beulah.

My mother wrote her grandmother a letter and let her know where she lived.

About a week after sending that letter, my mom and dad, who lived in a studio apartment at the time and had only a pull-out sofa, awoke to a knock at the door.

When they opened the door, there stood two little old people.

The woman was holding a pie.

Grandma Beulah handed my mother the homemade pie and asked, “Why did it take you so long to write to us?!”

Charlotte the Great shared the story of Pretty Boy Floyd, a first cousin to Beulah.

She also used to tell me over coffee about the work ethics of Beulah.

She worked before the sun came up and long after it set.

She beat rugs, made lye soap, and had a hard life.

No one ever heard Beulah complain.

I never met Grandma Beulah.

I do remember getting mail from the mailbox when I was younger and seeing Grandma Beulah’s handwriting on envelopes.

My mother and Beulah wrote to each other often.

Beulah was a strong woman who was determined to survive and raise her family.

She found time to make quilts, bake pies and keep in touch.

She lost everything and sacrificed as a sharecropper to keep her dreams alive.

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