Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy 198th Birthday, Charlotte Lowe Perkes (1813-1891)!

Gayle Wells' third-great-grandmother

Charlotte was a refined British milliner, who deserves a fabulous fascinator for her birthday!
Charlotte Catherine Lowe was the ninth of ten children raised in England.  Her grandfather came from Antwerp. The Lowes were glass manufacturers, and she received a full set of cut glass when she married Henry Perkes, including a tea set which had money blown into the glass.  Charlotte was a dressmaker, and firmly believed that the only way to have a good shape was to wear corsets, regardless of age.  This led to health problems for her delicate daughter, seven-year-old Agnes (and perhaps for herself as well).  Charlotte suffered from ill health, and Agnes, who lived with her doctor uncle from age seven to fourteen learning nursing, was called home to help her mother.  

ad for her millinery shop
Henry and Charlotte had nine children, four of whom died young.  After recovering from some financial difficulties, their life in England was very refined and included frequent museum visits and shows. The Perkes family moved to Liverpool in 1845, where they met the Mormon missionaries. They knew this new religion was the truth they had been seeking for many years, and opened their hearts and lives.  They turned wholeheartedly to Church activities, and the missionaries lived with them for long periods of time.  Charlotte opened a dressmaking and millinery shop in town.

Charlotte was quite ill after her last baby’s birth, and so her family kept the news from her that daughter Emma had died in childbirth at the same time.  Charlotte emigrated from England with her children Kate and Josiah, curiously in a separate voyage from her husband, although they crossed the plains together.  

Once in Utah, she seldom left her home, but occasionally attended Church meetings at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  They had an adobe house and always had flowers planted by the side of the cobblestone walk.  Inside, they displayed a beautiful mirror that they had brought across the plains.  Charlotte had lots of jewelry and was very particular about her dress.  She was very clean and precise.  Each afternoon she would put on a silk dress with big full skirts and a white apron, which she had brought from England on the ox cart along with lots of nice linens. 

In Utah, there was a family rift due to Agnes’ second polygamous marriage: Agnes was accused of giving her parents grief and gray hair.  Although Henry and Charlotte were sealed in the Endowment House after arriving in Utah, they became offended due to a water rights dispute with their bishop.  They resigned their standing in the Church and were cast off at their own request in the 11th Ward, Salt Lake City, October 5, 1874, and remained disaffected until death.  They joined an Episcopal church and attended regularly for fifteen years, until Henry died.

In 1875 their son William (who was a bookkeeper at the Deseret News) noted in a letter that his mother was “still subject to hysterical fits, but they are not so violent as they used to be.” After being widowed, Charlotte had a stroke, and was paralyzed on her left side in her last year of life.  Agnes nursed her for six months, and Charlotte improved somewhat, in that her speech returned and her mind improved.  During this time she was frequently visited by some Church members, who re-taught her the principles of the gospel.  Charlotte wished for Agnes to redo her ordinances for her, if she died before she had the opportunity herself.  Content after making that declaration, her last few months were filled with a newfound peace.  After his mother’s death, William petitioned Church authorities for permission to redo his parents’ temple work, and he and Agnes did so in the Manti Temple.

This birthday girl needs a fascinator hat--thanks to my sister Liz for providing one in the photo above!


  1. I'd give her a trip to the mall, although I bet she'd be appalled at the standard of clothing these days.

  2. Or you could give her a Spanx!