Emeline <I>Bachelder</I> Gurney

Emeline Bachelder Gurney

Fayette, Kennebec County, Maine, USA
Death 1897 (aged 80–81)
Fayette, Kennebec County, Maine, USA
Burial Livermore Falls, Androscoggin County, Maine, USA
Plot Supposedly buried under the road outside the cemetery wall.
Memorial ID 16559117 · View Source
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Maine folk figure. Long after her death, Emeline Gurney remains a legend in Fayette, Maine. As a child, Gurney was sent to work in the cotton mills in Lowell, Mass. While working at the mills, she bore an illegitimate child, which was put up for adoption. When her secret was exposed years later, she was ostracized by the community. It was not until a century later that Emeline's story was spoken of in public. Emeline was born to impoverished parents in 1816. To survive in Fayette, people relied on the community and members of the church congregation. To be ostracized meant isolation and possible death. In Fayette, as in many New England towns, paupers were auctioned off to townspeople for labor. Compared to the pauper auction, being sent to work at the mills was preferable. The all-female cotton mills were part of a social experiment. In their spare time, the women were educated. While inside the dorms, they were required to abide by the strict curfews and rules imposed by the mill owners. However, it was still possible for a woman to have contact with males. Emeline became pregnant and put the baby up for adoption. She returned to Fayette and did not share her secret. Emeline married and had a son. Then, abandoned by her husband and son, she lived in poverty for years. At 68, she married a much younger man from out of town. When his family came to visit, they recognized Emeline as his birth mother. Gurney, her son and husband left town, and the truth of Emeline's past returned to haunt her; she was ostracized. Emeline's scandalous secret rocked the tiny community. She spent the last years of her life ostracized by the community and the church. She lived in dire poverty, relying on the secret charity of a few citizens. She starved to death at 81, and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her story was the subject of an episode of the PBS series The American Experience entitled Sins of our Mothers.

Planning a visit to Moose Hill Cemetery?

  • Created by: HalfBloodPrincess
  • Added: 8 Nov 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 16559117
  • E.
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Emeline Bachelder Gurney (30 Jan 1816–1897), Find A Grave Memorial no. 16559117, citing Moose Hill Cemetery, Livermore Falls, Androscoggin County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by HalfBloodPrincess (contributor 46529909) .