Abandoned in a Strange Land

Fearless Females #14…Newsmakers

We all know how difficult it was being a woman in the 1880s.  You couldn’t travel alone, you couldn’t vote, and in most places in the world you were seen as second class. What would your experience be if you were a female and alone in America?  That’s what happened to my great great aunt, Madeleine Mazeres.

I would not have known Madeleine’s story had it not been for an article in a San Francisco newspaper.

This snippet is from the Daily Alta [San Francisco, CA], 12 Sep 1884.  Madeleine Mazeres was the wife of Louis Lacazette.  Unbeknownst to me, Louis had abandoned her in San Francisco.  He left her alone with their two year old child, never to be seen again.  Madeleine filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion.

This brief article made me realize that I didn’t have the whole Mazeres story.  All this time I had thought my great grandfather, Charles Mazeres, was the first of the family to come to America in 1885.  But I was wrong!  His sister, Madeleine had come to America alone at about the age of 18.  She was in San Francisco at least two years before Charles had even set sail!

In 1884, Madeleine found herself alone in a strange country with a child to feed and no means of support.  Sometime after she remarried to someone with the last name of Cabonot, but this marriage didn’t last.  I found her in the 1892 city directory working as an ironer for Miss Sidonie Bodors in San Francisco.    I imagine she took whatever work she could so she and her daughter could survive.

It must have been a struggle.  She was female and divorced.  She may not have spoken English.  That might not have been a big problem in San Francisco with it’s large French community.  But, she would have lived alone without a male relative to fend for her.  Those were considerable strikes against her back in the 1880s.

Madeleine’s luck did change for the better.  Around 1900, she met up with a divorcee named Romain Menaud, also a native of France.  Romain had made his way to California around 1871.  He became one of the founders of the city of Fresno.  He owned the Old French Hotel.  By the early 1900s, he considered himself a rancher and a capitalist.

They married around 1901.  Madeleine lived a fairly comfortable life until her death in 1923.  Romain died two years later.

If Madeleine had not filed for divorce and the city not published the event in the newspaper, I would have never known her story.  That small little entry in the Daily Alta adds so much to her personal history and makes me feel I know her just a little bit more.

 

 

 

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