Today, Mother’s Day, after nearly 100 years, Rebecca Walker got a headstone on her gravesite in the Exeter cemetery.
She was a what we call the “working poor” and a single mom. Perhaps you can relate? But – and this is a big but – she divorced her husband in 1897! Wow; was that even a thing then?? What gumption! So she became a single mother of six children, one of whom was blind. But, Rebecca was resilient and kept her family going, like many women who just have to do whatever it takes. Rebecca was an alum of Robinson’s Female Seminary, as were her daughters, except for Isabel who attended Perkins School for the Blind.
This Black family lived in Exeter their whole lives until one by one, the kids grew up and went to other places to get jobs. Only one son, Philip stayed in town. He was employed at the Ioka.
Most of the children never married. The whole family, but one, returned to Exeter to be buried together. Rebecca was the first to be laid to rest in plot #1301 in 1922. However, there was never any money for gravestones, so the grass lay bare and smooth over the many bones for years. Decades later in 1956, one military-issue stone finally proclaimed the Walker name, that of son Philip who had served in WW1. Isabel, the blind daughter, was the final soul to join her family in 1967, under that one military stone.
I tell a bit of Rebecca’s story in my third book “Incident at Exeter Depot” and I would love if you would read the book and meet her and a bunch of Exeter Suffragettes and their children. It helps support me what I am doing…
As you know, I am donating my book profits to create physical remembrances of Exeter’s historic Black community. So, Happy Mother’s Day to Rebecca (Barbadoes) Walker. 100 years after her death, we can all say her name.
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My three books are available at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter
or online at Amazon and Kindle.
Incident at Exeter Tavern, Incident at Ioka, Incident at Exeter Depot.
Thanks for your support!