Monday, May 30, 2011

The Courtship of Esther

Esther L Richardson
My great grandmother had her choice of suitors. Would it be Howard, Luther, or Willie? Would it be William, or Roddie or Ira? Would it be the mysterious NWC or the ever popular “Guess Who”. The answer is “none of the above.” Though declaring their intentions and sometimes love in letters and postcards, Esther chose another. She chose Boss.

I set out recently to get to know my great grandmother Esther Lee Richardson (21 Nov 1896 – 5 Jan 1923). Her parents were Daniel T Richardson and Harriet Elliott. She grew up in Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties, Virginia. I have always known her name and vital statistics. I grew up hearing the story of her death from influenza at the age of 27. But my study of her this time was different. I wanted to know her. I wanted to know her beyond the basic vital statistics.

There is no one left that remembers Esther. My source of information about her came from the large collection of postcards and letters she received and sent. The earliest postcard is postmarked 1901 and the series continued up until her death in 1923. The collection passed through several family members before coming to me. I spent a weekend organizing and reading each postcard and letter.

Reading each postcard, I stepped further into Esther’s world. I entered the world of an early 1900’s teenager. In a time before cell phones, facebook and twitter, Esther managed to stay every bit as connected as her great-great grandchildren do with their friends today. I kept a list of every sender and of each person mentioned in the postcards and letter. As expected I found cousins, aunts, and uncles mentioned. I also discovered that Esther was very popular with the boys. She had about a dozen suitors declaring their intentions between 1911 and 1915 until her engagement. I am not sure what surprised me more: the fact that she had that many suitors or the fact that she kept all their letters after she was married! (Of course, that means that her husband kept them with her things after she died. Hmmmm……I wonder if he read them.)

Who were these suitors?

Willie W.

Willie W sent Esther several cards between 1911 and 1912. I have not been able to fully identify Willie, but I do have a few clues. Willie’s cards were postmarked from News Ferry, VA. News Ferry is located in Halifax County and the area where Esther’s Elliott relatives resided. Perhaps Willie was someone she met while on a visit. Mostly Willie asks about the weather. He does write in one card about having the “hoping cought” [whooping cough] and that he is looking forward to seeing her when he is well again. I love what he wrote to her in Oct 1911:
When you are sitting all alone and thinking of the past,
Remember that you have a friend as long as life shall last.

Willie W

1911 Postcard from Willie W
 Follow the story of Esther’s suitors in upcoming posts.


  1. Lisa, I believe this shall be my top summer read, and already I'm looking forward to all the chapters. Beautifully written and great photo of Esther.

  2. How wonderful to have all of these postcards; looking forward to seeing what type of suitors she attracted.

  3. Lisa-I love your blog and can't wait to hear more about Esther!

  4. Lisa, I'm glad I found your blog. I love the picture of Esther! How lucky you are to have her letters and postcards.

  5. I am glad you are enjoying Esther's story. I have a lot of fun getting to know her!


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