What Happened to Anabell Jenkins? A Personal Tale

Linda Hixon
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

Annabell Jenkins was a proud Hopedale native, as was her mother, Hannah May Moore. Born January 29, 1895, Annabell had two sisters, Ethel and Cora, each born two years apart. As the baby of the family, Annabell had a nickname that would haunt her later in life.
“I was the baby so always until my folks died they called me Babe,” Annabell wrote in a letter to Hopedale historian Charles Merrill in 1958, a letter which later became a presentation before the Hopedale Community Historical Society. That nickname stuck with Annabell for years. When she was 12 she stopped at William Draper’s news stand to buy penny candy. When he said, “Hello, Baby Jenkins,” she’d had enough. “I told him right then and there I didn’t want to be called baby any more to call me Annabell. He had a great laugh over it. I told him it was not funny. I meant it, so call me my right name. So he always did after that.”
Annabell’s father George Jenkins worked for Drapers, and he convinced his youngest daughter to work there, too. She started in the “roll room” in 1914 and proudly announced she was the eighth “girl” to work there. “My father hired me,” she told Merrill, but Annabell hadn’t been unemployed when this happened. She’d been working at the Upton straw shop “and getting between 12 & 13 dollars a week,” a fine sum – about $300 in today’s money.
Working at Drapers meant a huge pay cut. “I got ten cents an hour, to start with,” and working a 45 hour week meant a salary of $4.50. “But I was near home and it was a good chance for me so I went there.” Annabell continued at Drapers, rising through the ranks of women’s jobs: machine operator, fore lady, clerk, and inspector before retiring in 1961.
She might have had to supplement her meager income with another job. Charles Merrill recalled a regular encounter with Annabell when he was lodging on Dutcher Street. Merrill recalled “a small shop where one could obtain a sketchy meal prepared by Miss Annabel Jenkins,” in another presentation he gave entitled “Hopedale As I Found It.” What he meant by “a sketchy meal” is unclear but it doesn’t sound good.
In 1948, Annabell’s friends held a birthday party for her at “Chicken Pete’s,” and the Milford Daily News reported the events. The party was hosted by Mrs. Samuel Weaver and Miss Catherine Bliss, and several co-workers from the Draper Corporation attended along with “neighbors and intimate friends.” Annabell received an “iced birthday cake and several packages which when opened revealed a beautiful leather handbag, perfume and other personal gifts. She was also presented with a lovely corsage of red roses,” the paper noted. “After supper music by the trio with Alan Luce, soloist, was enjoyed and there was dancing. All present sang Happy Birthday with orchestra accompaniment.”
Yet one of the most important events to happen in Annabell’s life cannot be found in the pages of the newspaper. Annabell Jenkins was my neighbor – she lived at 122 Dutcher Street in a home her parents built, right across from my childhood home. One day in 1969 she was hit by a neighbor’s car while crossing Dutcher Street. She broke her hip, ending up in hospital and later in assisted living. Annabell died on April 4, 1970 at Hopedale Gardens nursing home where she’d been for four months.
This accident should have been big news, at least for Hopedale, but no story can be found. According to her obituary in the Milford Daily News, Annabell had been quite active. A member of Hopedale Unitarian Parish, she and her mother had been members of the Hopedale Sewing Circle and Branch Alliance.
Annabell’s story is bigger than that forgotten day in 1969 when her life changed, and eventually ended. Her family prospered in Hopedale – the family stone in Hopedale Village Cemetery is quite large and attractive, but Annabell is not on it. The only way to find her is to look down. There she is – a small granite block about a foot long with the name “Annabell” on it – no dates, no information. Just another Draper employee and Hopedale woman, now forgotten.
If you remember Annabell Jenkins, I’d love to know more! [email protected].