An Irish war bride's adventure in Siouxland

Jan 24, 2017

Presenting "Oral Histories: A Gathering of Personal Memories."

My great-grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth O’Connor was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland along with four other siblings.  

When she was only fourteen, she worked at a linen factory as she helped to take care of the family.  She was a teenager during World War II and was an official air raid warden and when there was danger close by…she would grab her bicycle and yell out the warnings to all who would listen.  Her mother died when she was very young and she became the caretaker of the family.  Life was hard, but many families nearby were affected by the war.

Margaret did the family laundry using a scrub board and she cooked many meals the old fashioned way.  Each member of the family had chores to complete and they did it without complaining.  Margaret met a young American soldier named David Udell who was soon to become her husband. Margaret became a “war bride”.  War brides are women who left their native countries after the war and married soldiers from Allied forces.  Over 100,000 GI war brides left the United Kingdom which includes Northern Ireland.

They met in 1943 and after David traveled back to the United States, she followed in 1945.  She traveled by ship with other war brides and after being processed through Staten Island, she traveled by train to Chicago and transferred to another train to Sioux City.  Imagine being all alone in a foreign country, preparing for a totally new life.  Margaret and the other war brides are individuals who could teach all of us about commitment and strength during very difficult times.

Margaret was deeply affected by the greeting she was given in Sioux City.  A feast had been organized and there was more food at the table then she had ever seen.  In Ireland, each family was given only one egg to share each week and other staples were difficult to find.  She doesn’t understand why people don’t appreciate what they have here in the United States.  For her, living here is truly celebrating the American Dream. 

Margaret still lives in Sioux City and enjoys her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  At Kid Scoop News stories such as hers need to be shared and not forgotten.  She truly is one from the “Greatest Generation” who demonstrates what living is all about.

This is the first of eight stories from the feature reporters at Kid Scoop News, a monthly newspaper tabloid designed for and by Siouxland students. The hope is that these readings might inspire others to start recording the stories of friends, family members and loved ones they don't want to forget.