M.Litt, MFA, BA (Hons), Diploma of Occupational Therapy.

Research PG

Office Address

Elphinstone Institute

MacRobert building

King Street

Aberdeen University 

AB24 5UA

School Of Llmvc


Mary Cane is researching the contemporary experience of being a grandma, in particular those who are geographically separated from their grandchildren. The questions she is asking are: how are grandmothers negotiating changed ways of communicating and staying with families far away. How is separation impacting on the passing on of family history/ story, and of what importance is the dislocated family history/story to the grandchildren. 



Research Overview

Through meetings with other grandmothers I am interested to hear what their family experiences are.

The ethnological beliefs or folklore held by grandmothers.

The portrayal of grandmothers in children's picture books, literature, faury stories, jokes and urban legends. 

The history of women's work, education, and their family lives, in particular the time since the Second World War.

The ways in which grandmothers are passing on their family history.

What narratives, values and beliefs might be considered important enough to hold on to across generations. 



Current Research

After Master’s degrees in Fine Art and Creative Writing I selected a research project for a more detailed study.  I chose to look at the changing role of the grandmother within my social group who are the generation born after the Second World War. The so-called Baby Boomers. I suggest that they/we form a group that is unique having had advantages of health, wealth and education never known before,

I am interested in how post-war belief systems and behaviours are fitting in with our twenty-first century family situations? As I attempt to redefine myself, through work, my interests and family, I wonder how other grandmothers are coping. We are often living at some distance from children and grandchildren as families take up opportunities away from home. I see grandmothers are having to be creative in their efforts to make sense of a rapidly changing world. Within the wider experience of being a woman I want to unpick the particular ethnological system of grandmother behaviour, beliefs, and sentiments. Having three grandchildren in America and England, as well as having a married child in New Zealand I spend time on three continents. As I meet grandmothers who have experienced a similar post war childhood, further education, and changing history I realise we all have similar tangled family situations. In intense moments of our lives, finding common ground and sharing our experiences is one of the themes of humanity.

 I have started creative family history activities in America, New Zealand and England and I will be continuing to look auto-ethnographically at my own family journey.

Why might grandmothers and family history be important?

Secure family attachments are seen to be vital to children’s emotional development enabling them to find their identity in a wider context. If the wider family attachments are valuable too then grandparents too must be playing a part in the creation or stability of mental health.

Through personal narratives and oral history, I shall be trying to better understand the experience of grandmother-hood today along with the desires and strategies grandmothers have about the passing on of knowledge, skills and family history. In doing so I shall join the ethnological conversation about how older women are engaging with their family and look at the current issues they face.