One Family Name

Welcome to the Can-Do Women blog !  A place to share and pay homage to the everyday lives of extraordinary ordinary women, both past and present.  For my inaugural post to the Can-Do Women blog, I felt it important to acquaint you with a Can-Do Woman from my own family tree.

I would like to introduce you to Hannah Hewling, from whom I am descended through my mother’s side of our family.   Hannah was born in mid 17th-century England, to Benjamin, a wealthy merchant of London, and his wife , Hannah Hewling (nee Kiffin), also from a rich merchant family.  Hannah had two younger brothers, Benjamin and William, as well as a sister Elizabeth.

Benjamin Hewling

Following the death of Hannah’s father in 1684, the brothers were sent to Holland to complete their education, only to be interrupted when the Duke of Monmouth invaded England.  Benjamin aged 21 and William aged 18 went to fight on the side of the Duke,  in what became known as the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, in an attempt to overthrow England’s reigning papist monarch, King James II.  At the Battle of Sedgmoor on July 6, 1685, Monmouth’s forces were defeated, and the Duke himself was executed for treason.

In the aftermath of the failed rebellion, the brothers were captured, charged with treason against King James II, and brought before the courts in a series of trials presided over by Judge Jeffreys, which became known as the “Bloody Assizes“. Both brothers were sentenced to a gruesome death to be carried out by hanging, drawing and quartering.

It is at this point in the story, that we learn more of Hannah Hewling’s character.  According to the book “Memorable Women of the Puritan Times“, by James Anderson;

“Hannah was now a young woman of admirable qualities.  Trained up by her parents in the fear of God, she gave early proofs of sincere and enlightened piety.  Her sisterly affection, evinced in her tenderness towards her two brothers whilst in prison and under the sentence of death, forms one of the lovely traits of her character.”

Despite Hannah Hewling’s protracted pleas for clemency and offers of large sums of money  to both Judge Jeffreys and King James II to spare the lives of her brothers, William and Benjamin were summarily executed in September, 1685.  Finally in act, to spare her brothers the final indignity of their bodies being “quartered”, Hannah paid a thousand pounds, for which she was permitted to take her brother’s bodies after they were executed.

Hannah Hewling, later married a grandson of Oliver Cromwell, and her younger sister Elizabeth, married William Luson.  Since that time all the Luson’s in my family have called their sons Hewling or Benjamin, in memory of the two lost rebel brothers.  Indeed, my own grandfather  was a Hewling Luson.

And yet despite the heroic and courageous acts of Hannah Hewling, whose story is preserved in the annals of time,  her name has not been similarly carried on in the female lineage of our family tree.  This seems a shame to me because she is certainly someone who seems worthy of being remembered and honored by a namesake

I can only hope that a little bit of Hannah Hewling’s spirit and courage lives on in me, if not in name, but in character. And by sharing Hannah’s story with you, I hope you’ll agree that she seems to embody the spirit of the kind of Can-Do Women for whom this blog pays homage.  I trust that Hannah would be pleased that I have honored her memory in this 21st-century manner.

Is there a woman’s name passed down through your family tree ? Will you share the story of this special Can-Do Woman from your family  ?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Can-Do Woman
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 06:45:09

    Stop press! I just learned fro my mother that she wanted to
    call me Hannah after our heroine but my father didn’t want to. Go
    figure!

    Reply

  2. nancyspoint
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 10:02:36

    Anna, Interesting family tree you have. You are lucky to
    know so much about some of your ancestors. That’s funny, your
    mother wanted to name you Hannah after all and you didn’t know that
    until now! I think there is some of Hannah’s spirit in you for
    sure! I am not aware of any woman’s name being passed down in my
    family. I did give my daughter the middle name, Claire, in honor of
    my grandmother’s first name Clara, but that doesn’t really count
    since it doesn’t go back much.

    Reply

    • Can-Do Woman
      Jan 05, 2011 @ 12:52:09

      Welcome Nancy ! We have a very distant cousin who seems to have made it his lifes work to know everything there is to know about our family and he has shared his voluminous works with all the branches. Plus my grandma was an amateur historian as well so we are lucky to know so much thanks to their efforts. I certainly hope there’s a little bit of Hannah in me. What courage she showed.

      Reply

  3. Felicia Vonella
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 11:57:55

    Isn’t it sort of coincidental that your ancestors fought in
    the Monmouth Rebellion and now you live in Monmouth County?
    Weird.

    Reply

  4. Helen Giles
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 07:49:37

    What an amazing woman.
    I’m currently doing post-grad studies and discovered a friend is doing his PhD thesis on Hannah Hewling.

    Reply

    • Can-Do Woman
      Apr 28, 2011 @ 11:57:20

      Helen – thanks for commenting….it’s fascinating to think that there is a PhD being written based on Hannah’s life. It seems like there is a really interesting untold story there……

      Reply

  5. Esther
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 16:16:45

    So glad to see this site. I have ancestors in my family
    tree with the middle name Hewling, and one female ancestor has the
    first and middle name of Hannah Hewling. As far as I have been able
    to trace the family back, no one married into the Hewling family. I
    would love to discover the connection…the reasoning behind the
    name associations. (The ancestors of whom I speak were all born in
    the early 1800s in Burlington County NJ. Their ancestors may have
    come from England, France and/or Holland….no definitive
    information as of now. Surname: Asay)

    Reply

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