Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 | 2 comments

In the last post, c/o the M.C.A Cigar Factory, we learned that Lizzie had some sort of relationship with a cigar manufacturing company. So, it wasn’t much of a stretch to arrive at the next question. What exactly was her relationship with the factory and what did she do there?

I’m a big fan of the TLC television series, Who Do You Think You Are? Each episode follows a celebrity’s quest to learn more about about his or her ancestors. The starting place for all of their research begins with And although I’m sure that the product placement has much to do with sponsoring the show, the content is perfectly relevant, because of the site’s access to a digitized version of the United States Federal Census.

A few minutes after I logged into the system and I had found Lizzie listed in four United States Federal Censuses: 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940. The information from 1910 and 1920 told me exactly what Lizzie was doing on Staniford Street.

In 1910 she’s listed as a thirty-seven year old “Forewoman” working at a cigar factory.


And in 1920, she’s listed as a forty-eight year old “Fore-lady.”

These two revelations made me smile. Not only did Lizzie work at the M.C.A cigar factory, but she was a lady boss, a position that I’m assuming was quite rare in turn of the 20th century America. If you don’t think so, consider for a moment that the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution–a law that would allow her to vote in Massachusetts–wouldn’t be signed until 1920.

The new information also helped me piece together some of the previous things learned. For example, in addition to helping confirm my assumption that she was a factory employee, we also learned a little about her longevity there. We knew that she received postcards at the factory until 1914 and the censuses revealed that she worked there until at least 1920. Therefore, she more than likely made the 1916 move, when the factory was relocated from 149 Staniford Street to 1158 Tremont in Roxbury. Perhaps she was even one of the “100 guests” that the article describes as attending the grand opening celebration?

Finally, in 1930, no occupation listed for Lizzie, so we can assume that her time at the factory had ended. At 60 years old, she probably retired.

Project Lizzie was motivated by a simple premise: Everyone has a story to tell because average people live extraordinary lives. I confirmed this premise just two steps into our research, when we learned something extraordinary about Mrs. Elizabeth Milligan. She was a lady boss in an age where women weren’t even allowed to vote.

This sounds weird to write, but I think I’m getting a little crush on Lizzie.

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