Sodom & Gomorrah: Lot Lied By Maxine Olson (From the exhibition
Lost in Translation, University of Calgary, Canada) Size 32 x 63″
In the Name of the Father By Maxine Olson (From the exhibition
Lost in Translation, University of Calgary, Canada) Size 34 x 40″
Maxine Olson was born in 1931 in Kingsburg, a small town in California. Her Azorean parents, Alfred and Lena Marshall, later moved to the country where she grew up on a dairy farm. After a failed marriage, she went to California State University in Fresno where she earned a Master of Arts Degree in Drawing and Painting and studied two summers at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. She eventually taught courses at several colleges including Calif. State Univ. at Fresno, Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, which enabled her to teach on their Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. She later studied at Bennington College in Vermont, and at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA. where she began an interest in Digital Imaging. She has exhibited in many galleries and museums in America as well as in Italy, Ponta Delgada, Acores, during their UMAR-Symposium on the Year of the Woman and at the University of Calgary in Canada at the Symposium on Testing Tolerance: Acceptance – (In) Tolerance-Exclusion.
The Story of Francisca*
Frances was born, Francisca Da Rosa Goularte, April 15, 1880, in the village of Castello Branca, on the Island of Faial, Azores. No one seems to know what her family did for a living but it probably included fishing. To quote from poetry she wrote later about leaving the Azores “I was born from noble, well-bred, and educated parents.” In her poetry and notes, she stated that her love of writing was inherited from her father, and as a result, she often wrote about her life in small journals, and in poetry form. She also informs us that she was very close to her mother and father, “that they loved her and that she loved them very much.” She had four sisters: Morris, Cunha, Mary, and Teresa, and two brothers: Joe and Manuel. When Frances turned 16, she decided to go to America to live with one of her sisters who had married and lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Her parents pleaded with her not to go, but she was determined to leave the Azores. In a poem she described the sadness of watching her parents on the pier waving their handkerchiefs as the ship left the port. She wondered if she would ever see them again.
Frances arrived in Rhode Island in July of 1896. At first she lived with her sister Teresa and brother-in law in Providence, Rhode Island, but soon she decided to get her own place and earn her own money. Sometime later, she married Antone Maciel who came from the Island of Flores (probably when Antone entered the United States, his Portuguese name Maciel was changed to Marshall, which from then on became the family name). While they lived in Providence, Rhode Island, two sons, Arthur and Alfred, and one daughter, Amelia were born. However, by 1910, they decided to move to Hanford, California where they worked for a farmer. Within a few years, they moved to the Traver area and purchased some land of their own. In one of her diaries, she described the purchase of this land as follows:
“We purchased a 100-acre farm from Clyde Brewer on October 31, 1909, near Traver, for a price of $7,500.00. The farm included thirty milk cows, one Jersey bull, two mares, a milk separator, a plow, a mowing machine, a hay rake, one farm wagon–and nine chickens.”
Two more children Jim and Frank, were born. Everything seemed to be going well until Frances’ husband, Antone, took ill with a disease called Erysipelas and died within a couple of days, and two months after the birth of her baby son Frank. Frances was now left with five children, a mortgage, and an asthmatic condition that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Many people told her to file bankruptcy, but she could not do that. Instead she went to each of her creditors and asked if they would let her pay them a smaller amount each month until the ranch was paid. The creditors agreed to help her. With her husband gone, everything that needed to be done was now solely up to her. Arthur, age fourteen, and Alfred, age eight, helped Frances milk the cows and work in the fields. Amelia, as the oldest daughter, cared for the two younger children, Jim and Frank.
Francisca was a very tall woman, probably 5′ 10″. She was very intelligent, responsible, creative, and strong with the ability to manage her farm and yet show compassion and love to her family. She arose every morning at 4:00 a.m. to milk the cows. She would wait until 7:00 a.m., to wake the boys so that they could get some extra sleep. The old house they lived in had no running water, no indoor toilet, so all water had to be carried in large buckets into the house from an outside hand pump. Clothes were washed by hand on a washboard. Bathes were taken in an old metal round tub filled with water warmed on her wooden stove. One tub filling took care of all four boy’s bathes.
For food, Frances baked bread, raised chickens, and grew vegetables and fruits to can. She could bake anything without recipes. She ironed clothes by heating the iron on an old wood-burning stove. By mid morning, she would always find time to bake cake or doughnuts to take to her sons who had probably worked since sun up. After the cows were milked and the chores were done, Frances would often work in fruit packing sheds to earn extra money for the family and to pay her mortgage.
The children attended Traver Grammar School. Many days of school were missed because of work on the farm and as a result, the two younger brothers, Frank and Jim were the only ones who got to attend high school. On the very cold mornings, Frances would put warm bricks under the feet of the children so they could keep warm as they drove a horse-drawn buggy four miles to school.
By 1923 Francisca’s life began to improve. The ranch was finally paid off and she decided to build a new home. Unlike the old house, the new house had an indoor bath, three bedrooms, and a dining room, kitchen, and hardwood floors. They were also able to buy their first car, a Straight 8 Chevrolet.
Their social life began to improve also. Frances would occasionally hold a Chamarita** in her home. Friends and neighbors would bring their violas and guitars to provide music for their Portuguese folk dancing. Once a year they would hold a Montunsa***. On this day, a pig would be killed. As they worked together and shared the food, the ritual and celebration was a way that they could thank God for a good year.
Francisca, her family, and her neighbors would all help one another. Also, if one of her Portuguese friends needed a letter translated from the Açores, she would translate and write letters back to their families. Francisca had also learned to speak and write English fluently.
By 1929, most of Francisca’s children were grown. Each one of them married and left home except Jim, who, while married, cared for his mother and the farm. Frances continued to live on the ranch with her son, Jim and his wife, until one day when she fell down a basement stairway and broke her ankle. She managed to get around with a cane, but eventually went to live in town in a small house near her daughter, Amelia.
In these last years, the brace on her leg and her emphysema kept her from walking and doing anything physical. She always looked forward to receiving visits from her own grown children and grandchildren. Her last days were spent doing embroidery and crochet. Watching soap operas each day kept her entertained.
Finally in 1963, Frances died from the effects of emphysema which in the last years had all but consumed her energies. For her family, a very wonderful, wise, and courageous woman was gone.
Now, all of Francisca’s sons and daughter are gone. But in the minds and hearts of their grandchildren, and all that knew them, they will never be forgotten. Francisca instilled within each one of her children a strong sense of individualism, the virtue of hard work, and pride in a job well done. And though they all worked very hard with undaunted determination and perseverance, in the final analysis, it was in truly loving what they did, that helped them realize their goals and to earn the respect they all have so dearly deserved.
*Francisca was Maxine Olson’s grandmother