Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hats Off to the Top Fearless Female!

Fearless Females series celebrating Women's History Month celebration continues.

March 4th Prompt— Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

I have a few marriage records in my archives. One courageous grandmother, tops the list. As far as fearless females go, my grandmother Ethel embodied fearless. She may not have described herself that way, but I believe she was. She was also incredibly organized and carefully filed all her documents, having great foresight for this blog prompt!  Ethel was born Ethel Girlie Crane Bloomfield in Laconia, New Hampshire, on August 6th, 1921. At the age of twenty-one she married my grandfather Morris Bogdanow and became Ethel Bogdanow.

Ethel's Engagement Announcement
from one of the Houston Papers.
(Click to enlarge)
In her betrothal announcement portrait, my grandmother looked like a movie star.
The caption reads:
Mr and Mrs William Bloomfield announce the engagement of their daughter, Ethel, to Morris Bogdanow of Houston, son of Mr and Mrs. A Bogdanow of Jersey City, N.J. The wedding take place in early October. Miss Bloomfield was graduated at Rice Institute and her fiance was graduated from the University of Maryland where he received his B.A. degree, and from the law school of Columbia University. 

The wedding took place as promised on October 21, 1942. I recently posted their beautiful wedding picture as part of my Family Tree Wedding Timeline (see the Wedding Photo Challenge post).

Ethel Bloomfield and Morris Bogdanow Marriage License
Oct 21, 1942 Houston, Texas  (Click to enlarge)

Unfortunately their marriage lasted less than 13 years. Ethel divorced my grandmother Morris in 1955, At thirty three she became a single mother of four small children. Here is where I think the brave part begins. Divorce in the 1940 and 1950s, carried a much greater stigma than today. According to the University of Maryland graph below, the divorce rate has more than tripled since 1955. I'm pretty sure rates were even lower in the Jewish community back then.
(University of Maryland
Click to Enlarge)

Four years later, the older and more experienced Ethel—now known by her first husband's name, Ethel Bogdanow—decided to remarry. This second marriage announcement wasn't quite as optimistic as the first, perhaps foreboding of the eventual failure of this second marriage.
Marriage Annoucement
Ethel Bogdanow and Irvin Veedell

Mariage Certificate Ethel Bogdanow and Irvin Veedel
(Click to enlarge)
The marriage did not last long. As if divorce did not carry enough stigma in a small community, she soon found herself a double divorcee.

Throughout the years my grandmother struggled to support her family. She supplemented her irregular child-support payments with her work as a legal secretary. In 1964, she decided to go back to school. She received a law degree from the South Texas College of Law in 1967. She successfully obtained her degree in three years of night school while working full time and raising four children. Like I said: "Fearless."

A few years laters (November 19th, 1970), my grandmother—ever the hopeful romantic — decided to give the institution of marriage another more chance. This time the now Ethel Veedell, became,  became Mrs Fred Alzofon.

Marriage Certificate
Ethel Veedell and Fred Alzofon.
(Click to enlarge)
This marriage was quite short lived, and terminated like the previous two. Her records contained this third and final divorce proceedings from July 22nd, 1975. She kept the name Ethel Alzofon for the rest of her life.

Fred and Ethel Alzofon's divorce papers
(click to enlarge).

Growing up, I was the only kid whose grandmother had been divorced three times. It was a relief when she decided to abandon the idea of marriage and chose not follow Liz Taylor's footsteps. Today, I admire her courage for trying over and over again, as well as her ability to walk away from a bad situation. I may not know the stories of her wedding days, but she certainly left a large paper trail and a heck of a life story!

Visit earlier post in the series:

Women's History Month Day 1: Fearless Females: Favorite Female Ancestor & Genealogy Guru!
Women's History Month Day 2: Fearless Females: Third Great-Grandmother!
Women's History Month Day 3: Fearless Females: The Middle Name That Almost Was

To learn more about +Lisa Alzo's 31 inspirational writing prompts in celebration of Women's History Month visit her blog:  The Accidental Genealogist.


  1. That is indeed Fearless, to be married and divorced three times, and to work full time and raise four children -- while getting a law degree! I wonder if there was any child support? Probably not, it sounds like. She is certainly gorgeous in her wedding announcement.

    Of course, now I'm wondering how each of those three husbands let her down. Maybe there's a court record somewhere. She persisted in spite of terrible luck!

    1. Thanks, Marianne. My grandmother was an amazing woman! I was lucky to know her well. She lived long enough to make it to my wedding and meet my oldest son before she passed away in 1996. This is only a little bit of what I know about her life and as you have correctly observed, she did struggle with child support and had a an unfair share of bad luck. She was extremely resourceful and determined. She was also lucky to have the support of her mother and have four wonderful children. She was an incredible mother and grandmother and a very giving woman. I'm not quite ready to write about her divorces, because somehow in my family it still feels too close, and not much like history. I do want to write about her triumphs, of which there were many and she gave herself little credit. My mother summed it up really pretty well in a note she sent me about this post. She said: "She was an amazing mother who encouraged her children to be fearless!"


Thanks for sharing your comments!