As you all know by now, Lady Bird Johnson passed away today. My 15 year old daughter was asking me about her and was surprised when I told her that she had a small place in our family’s history. No matter how small a part she played, it shows how small the world really is! Everyone seems to be connected somehow or another.
The way she fits into our family is that her father married my grandfather’s niece two years after Lady Bird’s mother died. Beulah Wisdom is the daughter of Jessie Wisdom and Harriet Forbes. Harriet is the sister of my grandfather, George Charles Forbes. I have heard others mention this but it was only a few weeks ago that I found a book on Google Books that mentioned this story. I have transcribed a small portion of this book for this blog…
In 1920, two years after Minnie died, Taylor married Beulah Wisdom. According to Sylvia Bishop, Beulah’s niece, Wisdom had attended business school in Tyler and was a valuable employee to Taylor. After the marriage, Beulah continued to work for Taylor at the store. Taylor kept the territory of the women in his life well divided. Beulah’s place was at the store, while Effie and Lady Bird held sway at home.
Lady Bird privately regarded Beulah as a pariah, a dangerous rival for both her father’s attention and her mother’s memory. “Effie and I were the one’s who belonged,” said Lady Bird. “Beulah was the outsider.” Beulah’s presence in the Brick House was one of the traumas in Lady Bird’s life — it aroused feelings of both jealousy and her mother’s abandonment — but she did not confront her father or Beulah.
The irony, however, was that in Beulah, Lady Bird found a flesh-and-blood female role model, a woman who demonstrated how women traditionally attract men. Beulah, who was only a few years older than Lady Bird, wore her hair in a short bob with bangs. She wore short dresses that she bought at Perkins Brothers in Marshall for less than a dollar, and long strings of beads around her neck. She flaunted her sexuality by living with an older, rich man, and she worked full-time our of the house. Lady Bird was both fascinated and repelled by her. When asked as an adult if Beulah was pretty, Lady Bird replied, “Yes, in a coarse and crude sort of way.”
Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson
Author: Jan Jarboe Russell (ISBN 1589790979)
You can read more from this volume here.
It’s sad to see a great woman pass away, and even sadder when you know there is a small connection to your own family. My prayers and compassion go out to the family of this great woman!