History

A Person Born in 1900 Experienced These Events…

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When I was 16, my mother was working as a home care nurse. One of her charges was a 104-year-old Scottish woman whom I knew as Auntie Laurie. I would go to see her, she would make us tea, and she would read to me, in her wonderful Scottish accent, poems by Robbie Burns. My favorite of those that she read was the breathtakingly poignant “John Anderson, My Jo.”

Oh the things she had seen! She had grown up in a time before cars, airplanes, the world wars, telephones, television, movies. Almost everyone still worked on small farms. The exciting new technologies of her day–the things that fueled people’s imaginations–were railroads and steamboats. I asked her once what would most surprise the 9-year-old her about life today. “Oh, the way the young woman dress–shorts and halter tops and so on,” she said. I asked whether she disapproved. “Not at all,” she said. “Bless them. I think it’s wonderful. We were so restricted back then!”

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