Older Children Care for Younger Siblings in Large Families

Photo of Ruth—She was Aunt Marian’s youngest sister. This photo was taken 15 or 20 years before Aunt Marian enlisted in the WACs.
Ruth

Some of Aunt Marian’s items were donated to the Pennsylvania Military Museum in the early 1980s. When the donation was made, her sister Ruth wrote a letter that described  Marian. It said in part:

Marian was born near Montgomery, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Se was the 6th of 11 children of a farm family. She became a second mother to me, the youngest, as she was to all her nieces and nephews.

My mother used to say that in large families each of the older girls would be paired with one of the younger children. The older one would be responsible for providing the day-to-day care of her younger sibling. Mom always used the example of how each older child would get one of the smaller ones dressed and ready for church each Sunday morning.

Marian was about 10 years older than Ruth, and it It apparently worked that way in the Solomon family.

 

19 thoughts on “Older Children Care for Younger Siblings in Large Families”

  1. My maternal grandmother died when Mom was sixteen, and Mom was responsible for raising her three sisters. My only living aunt, who was nine years younger than Mom and the baby of the family still talks about how she experienced Mom as her mother. The circumstances were a little different, of course, but siblings caring for one another used to be fairly common, even absent death of a parent or really large families. It’s neat that there are some remembrances of Marian in that role.

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    1. Whew, your mother sure had to take on a lot of responsibilities at a relatively young age. I know that these kinds of circumstances happened more often back then, but it still had to have been difficult.

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  2. I was the oldest and took care of all of my brothers and sister to the best of my ability. It was a lot of responsibility, and sometimes I didn’t like it so much to always be the oldest and the most responsible. Families back then also took in the elderly Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles:)

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  3. I was the oldest girl in my family which left me in charge of my youngest brother. We still have a good laugh over the time I warmed his bottom for wetting his pants because as he said,” I didn’t want to”!😀

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  4. When I read about families with 11 children, I cannot even fathom. At our house, it was just my sister and me (and my parents each had only 1 sibling) and we were less than 11 months apart in age. I think moms with 11 kids need all the help they can get!

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    1. I also grew up in a family with two children–and can’t imagine how they did it either. They must have been incredibly organized–or maybe they just let some things slide.

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  5. That seems to me to be one of the blessings of a large family; always having someone to assist or keep you company. However, it is interesting that many of those who grew up in large families chose to have smaller families or no children at all.

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  6. Although my mothers family was not as large, here sister my Tante Rosa who was 12 yrs older raised my mom when their mother came down with polio. It was something that they did for families. I was raised you take care of your family wherever there is a need. My grandfather though was raised in a family of 18 children! So I am sure he understood that concept well. 🙂

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  7. I can’t imagine this many siblings in a family, yet my grandmother had the same amount in hers. We weren’t Catholic, either 🙂 How nice that Ruth contributed both memorabilia and the note to the museum! A continuing legacy in some form is wonderful, once the memories die.

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  8. My father was the third of 11 children, and he had six children of his own. My oldest sister definitely had her share in the care of her siblings, especially when my mother worked nights as a nurse. She was six years older than me and sacrificed a lot of her teen life to do what was needed for the family.

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