Beatrice Banning Ayer (left) was born in one of the upstairs bedrooms at the Ayer Mansion in Lowell on January 12, 1886. She had blue eyes, blonde hair, and a little dimple in her chin just like her mother. Ellie named her daughter Beatrice not because of a family connection, but because of its meaning. Derived from the Latin Beatrix, “she who makes happy,” the Italian Beatrice was most commonly translated as “the bringer of joy and blessings.”
Frederick Ayer Jr., named for his father but known henceforth as Fred or Freddie, was born on May 7, 1888, and Mary Katharine, named for her aunt but known henceforth as Kay, was born on September 3, 1890.
Beatrice’s cosmopolitan childhood prepared her exceptionally well for life in the army. Beginning in 1896, the Ayers made their home in Paris, traveling most of the time around Europe and the Middle East. Six months were spent on a dahabiyeh sailing down the Nile, creating in Beatrice an openness to different cultures that would one day allow her to be one with the Native Hawaiians. It also awakened in her a sense of curiosity and adventure that would match her husband’s, giving her the impetus to follow him across the hunting fields of Massachusetts and the Pacific Ocean on a schooner.
“We studied history in the land where the events took place,” Beatrice remembered later, and the same went for languages. These experiences allowed her to develop into a confident and independent woman capable of thinking for herself. It enabled her to adjust to the peripatetic nature of army life and made her flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances easily. The Ayers might have been industrialists, but they raised their children in a progressive environment, free from the trappings of wealth and open to new experiences beyond the confines of Commonwealth Avenue.
Picture: Private Album