My Grandmother Learns to Read

As a girl in Madeira, my grandmother, Angela Ferreira, was a companion to the child of a wealthy family. Her older sister was a servant in the household. My grandmother or Avó came from a large, poor family. I am guessing her parents didn’t mind having one less child to feed at home.

My grandmother’s job was to play with the little girl, and carry her books to and from school. While the girl was in class, she sat in the back of the room until it was time to return home.

One day, the teacher caught my grandmother trying to read with the rest of the class. But instead of getting her into trouble, the teacher approached the wealthy family, who consented to let her attend school. That was how my grandmother learned to read when so few did then.
Avó left with the same sister, Maria, to live in the U.S. She was 16 and never saw her family in Madeira again. I heard the story of the large storm their ship encountered in the Atlantic, how people were swept overboard and everyone prayed to get through it. The photo on this post shows my grandmother, Angela, on the right, and Maria shortly after they arrived in the U.S.

My grandmother settled in New Bedford, Mass., where she worked as a weaver in a textile mill. She married a man from her village in Madeira and raised three daughters, and later a grandson.

She was a good grandmother, with a goat barn, grape arbor, a field for ballgames, and interesting nooks in her home. She baked us chocolate chip cookies, always enough to take home when we were done visiting.

Avó had a poodle named Sonny Bono, a series of shelter mutts called Lassie, and a bird named Bobby Vinton. She loved TV wrestling, Elvis, and because she could read, the National Enquirer. 


One thought on “My Grandmother Learns to Read

  1. I love this story. I loved the way you told it and the pictures are always great fun. I can see your face in your grandmother’s face, too. I am enjoying all of the stories you tell; a unique point of view which I’ve never heard or for that matter – seen before….thanks!

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