In an antique shop in Chamblee, Georgia, I found this photograph of a lovely woman. There wasn’t much information on the back – “Mary B. Pequignot (Mary A. Boland).” But I thought the name was unusual enough that I might be able to get some information. So I bought it, and started searching.
There seemed to be very little information on Ancestry.com, and I couldn’t find any birth or death records – only a very few census mentions. So I went to a larger resource … Google. I was surprised by what I found – almost every entry referenced the care and feeding of invalids. Huh. I kept looking, and ran across an entry from Woman’s Who’s Who Of America, 1914-15. Mary was listed as Mary Boland Pequignot, with her married name listed next – Mrs. George Alexis Pequignot. She and Mr. Pequignot lived on Floyd Street in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
The VERY cool information came next. Mary was born in Leominister, MA in 1852, the daughter of Lawrence and Brigitta (Neil) Boland. After graduating from the State Normal School in 1876, she attended MIT (yes, *that* MIT) for three years; lectured at Johns Hopkins University in medicine and hygiene. She also studied organic chemistry (gasp!) at Harvard, as well as French and German at the Berlitz School, along with painting and drawing. Mary and George were married in 1900 at Trinity Church in Boston. Mary taught in Boston public schools, then did some private teaching. It seems her later teaching focused on nursing, biology and dietetics, and she trained nurses at Johns Hopkins, Mass General, Boston City Hospital, Newton Hospital, and several others.
Under her maiden name, she published “Handbook of Invalid Cooking” in 1893, and later wrote articles for several well-known educational journals. It will not surprise you that, in addition to her membership in several professional organizations, Mary was also a member of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, and the Massachusetts State Equal Suffrage League.
But … surely there was more. Did she have a family? What happened to her? Why couldn’t I find any specific mention of her birth or anything at all about her death? Back to Ancestry. I returned to the 1900 census, which listed only Mary and her father, but indicated that both of her parents came from Ireland. What about earlier? The 1890 census is a no-go (destroyed), so I tripped back to 1880. That census showed Mary living with her father and a stepmother, Julia, and listed Mary as a dressmaker. With lots of “hmmmm”ing at the computer screen, I clicked around some more, and found a passport application for Mary from 1913, listing her occupation as “teacher,” but with very little additional info. Then … nothing. Really? This amazing woman, and … nothing ??
I shifted the search to her husband, and found him in 1910 … wait, living in New Jersey? The census shows a George A. Pequignot, divorced, living in New Jersey. And then, again … nothing.
How can that be? How is it that I cannot find out what happened to this woman?? I’ll readily admit my research skills are not anywhere near the level of expert, but this is just crazy. Mary Boland Pequignot was an amazingly accomplished woman for her time. How is it possible that the trail goes so cold? That’s why I’m posting her picture. If you know anything about Mary, or find anything beyond what I have, I would love to hear from you. And if you are a descendant of Mary’s in some way, please contact me. Clearly, she and George had no children, but perhaps nieces and nephews?? As always, I would love to get this photograph into the hands of family, or maybe even a member of her nursing family.