Women tended to give birth about every two years until their early forties. Grandmother's Choice can remind us of how exhausting childbearing could be for our ancestors when choice was not available.
During 1864 the year of Carrie's diary and Atlanta's attack and occupation by Union armies Harriet Berry was raising five children under ten. As Atlanta was shelled and burned she was in the late stages of pregnancy, giving birth to her sixth child Maggie in December, 1864.
Harriet's brood of five girls and one son was a little above
average for her generation of mothers.
She gave birth in 1854, '56, '57, '59, '62 and '64
and there may have been miscarriages and still births.
See more about the number of Harriet's children below.
"This has ben a election day for Mayor and council men but the election was broken up. I had a little sister this morning at eight o'clock and Mama gave her to me. I think its very pretty. I had to cook breakfast and dinner and supper." December 7, 1864, Carrie Berry
Grandmother's Choice by Denniele Bohannon
Carrie as the eldest wrote often of doing housework, which is what ten-year-old girls often wrote about, but in summer, 1864 as her mother needed increasing assistance there was an added burden. The Union Army was bombarding Atlanta with explosive shells.
General William T. Sherman (center facing left) and
one of the Union cannons outside Atlanta.
Diarist Cyrena Stone described the first shell she heard on July 21st, 1864:
"A horrid whizzing screaming thing came flying through the air."
Examples of Civil-War era shells. Some had fuses and exploded
while lying on the ground; others exploded on impact.
Grandmother's Choice by Dorry Emmer
"I got up early this morning and cleaned up the house for Mama. I nursed Sister [perhaps sister Mira, about two] while Mama got dinner.... Carrie, August 8, 1864.
The next day: "We have had to stay in the cellar all day the shells have ben falling so thick around the house. Two have fallen in the garden, but none of us were hurt...."
Library of Congress
Occupying Union troops destroying Atlanta's rails, 1864.
George Barnard photo
Close to the railroad tracks that created Atlanta, a major Union target, the Berry home on Walton Street was often shelled during General William T. Sherman's Atlanta campaign. Cousin Henry "wanted us to move...but we will try it a little longer." One can imagine Harriet unwilling to leave the house until after her "confinement."
Harper's Weekly, 1864
Atlanta by the tracks, shelled & burned
Union cannons shelled the city for over a month beginning July 20, 1864. Estimates are that 25 civilians were killed, a number that would have been higher had not many (not quite so stubborn as the Berrys) left town. The Berrys moved several times during the siege of Atlanta. After the war Maxwell Berry's business successes in contracting, real estate and banking enabled them to build a showplace at the old location.
Their new house at Walton & Fairlie Streets is shown on
an 1871 map.
Grandmother's Choice by Jeanne Arnieri
Georgia Digital Library
The Home for the Friendless, late 1890s
Harriet lived to be 65; she and her youngest daughter Maggie Berry McBurney were active workers in the children's charity asylum The Home for the Friendless who mourned her passing in 1895.
Memorial by the women of the Home for the Friendless, 1895
Mrs. Danner called it "Grandmother's Choice" so the block
can remind us of the options we choose to make
in planning our families---something Carrie's mother did not have.
Above the cutting
instructions for 10" and 15" blocks.
Here's a basic block with a garden path and four half-square triangles
in the corners. We'll use the construction for several other, more
complicated blocks later.
Carrie's Brother & Sisters
Lists of Harriet's children are confusing. Here is one list from the Key family genealogy.
And an edited version from Find-A-Grave
Harriet's daughter Fannie's obituary.
Grandmother's Choice by Becky Collis
She is using Civil War reproduction prints
And on the other hand...Becky Brown's Block 2
When I thought about the devastation and burning of Atlanta I thought of ashes and that made me think about my big stash of black and white fabrics. My small quilt group makes quilts to give to veterans at the V.A. Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. (in 2022 we gave 115 quilts!) The quilts we give are about 48" x 60" so twelve 15" blocks make a perfect veteran quilt. I've also been wanting to make an Eye Spy quilt for a veteran and these blocks have a nice little spot in the center for doing just that. Each month I use a different bright fabric in the center to represent hope for rebuilding after the war. The block this month has a cheeseburger in the center - what veteran doesn't want a cheeseburger? AND if you have a cheeseburger on a quilt then you know Elvis wants one too! That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Right now I was looking for Atlanta Garden’s second block! Thank you Barbara!
Rina in Sicily
I sure enjoy the history behind all your blocks! Thanks for doing that.
My mother-in-law had a lot of children and it was so much work for her. But when the kids tell her it was to much, her reply is always, “well which one of you should I not have had?”
The pioneers worked so much harder at life in general. And now we do have choices. The best choice of course is before conception!!
Now I want one (cheeseburger).
Thanks for block 2. I almost forgot! The history is half the fun.
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