Onnie can be best described as warm, engaging, and on rare occasions with exceptional effort, statuesque. She inherited her easy temperament, olive skin and dark, rebellious hair from her mother, while her dull grey eyes, freckled complexion, abnormally-tall height and broad build were inherited from her father. Onnie subscribes to the fashion of the times (long skirts, full sleeves, head covered), maintaining a prime and proper appearance among society with such expectations. However, she readily adopts masculine, utilitarian fashion when no externals pressures to conform to societal norms are present.
Onnie was born Catherine Anne Barrows on April 12, 1870 in Barstow, California. Her mother was an educated woman of Spanish descent from the New Mexico Territories, and her father hailed from Irish immigrants who settled in Arkansas. Her only sibling, David, was born in 1873 and was her constant shadow. Onnie's father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and was not present for much of her early years. At age 3, Onnie’s father abandoned his wife and two children for another married woman. Her mother promptly divorced and remarried a Scotsman who moved the family from Barstow to Ojai in 1879, where he worked as a petroleum geologist for the Union Oil Company. Onnie’s step-father was a man with dark hair that was as thick as his accent, and a fondness for tobacco and whiskey. He wasn’t always even-tempered but he was fair, and set high expectations of Onnie and David.
David and Onnie attend a local schoolhouse established for the children of Union Oil Company where they completed their highschool-level education, then enrolled in Pomona College together in the same year. After graduating with their Bachelor’s in 1894, Onnie and David’s paths began to split; David doggedly pursued a Master of Political Science from the University of California followed by a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1897. Onnie only completed half of her graduate program in Education and Anthropology before returning home to help care for their ailing mother, working part-time as a teacher in the same schoolhouse she grew up in.
“Onnie” is the nickname her father had given her mother (a pet name for 'Anne')
Catherine Anne "Onnie" Barrows
Amelia Anne Cole (mother, deceased)
Silas Barrows (father)
Hugh McMillan (step-father, deceased)
David Barrows (brother)
Freelance journalist for the Saint Denis Times Tribune
Tam Pepper (pen name)