What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, Twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.
I can definitely outdo the Twinkie. One of my most prized possessions is a report card my grandmother, Edie Isabel Ross, got in her senior year of high school, and her graduation announcement from 1911. She attended high school in Spencer, Ohio, a small agricultural township near Medina/Akron, Ohio where there were 6 graduates that year. I don’t think it’s much larger now than it was then. Her grades were pretty good (probably about a 3 point average by today’s standards), and recorded monthly rather than quarterly. The subjects seem much the same as we would see today. She even took physics which I avoided because I feared I would never pass it! One subject we wouldn’t see today was Deportment, which perhaps equates to today’s “behavior”.
She had a tough life growing up; her parents died when she was young, and she went to live with her oldest brother and his wife, who signed the report cards “Julie Ross.” After high school, her brother advised her to take business courses — bookkeeping, shorthand, typing — so she could take care of herself. He was a businessman in Spencer rather than a farmer. While she was taking these courses, she did an overnight shift as the town switchboard operator, sleeping in the office between rare calls. Obviously, she was expected to support herself to some extent after high school.
At some point she moved to Akron to get a secretarial job. And during that period must have met my grandfather, a Canadian who was posted at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. They married and in due course, my grandmother became pregnant, but before her their daughter was born, he died of the terrible flu that was taking many lives at that time. Luckily, she was an experienced secretary by then, and was able to support herself, and got a lot of help from her husband’s mother who doted on her granddaughter. Unfortunately, how she actually got by during these years, I will never know, because I never asked and now, of course, she’s gone.
She got a second chance, though, and remarried a few years later, and she and her husband had a son. He and my mother were about 4 years apart in age. To my knowledge, my grandmother either continued to work or went back to work while her children were in school. This was unusual for a women in those days, and I admire her for her ambition. When she retired at about 60-62 she was a secretary to one of the partners at Merrill-Lynch etc. (they had a longer name then) in Akron. She was also active in some national women’s organizations, and was a president of one of them, traveling around the United States from time to time for a couple of years. I have a silver (plated) decorative bowl she was given at the end of her term as president. She was obviously in favor of women’s rights before the movement was forming marches. It’s interesting though, when she graduated women still did not vote. That did come until the year my mother was born, 1920.
At home, her husband was the head of the household, and she was a great homemaker — that was typical for the times. I appreciate it that my grandfather didn’t give her grief for working — many men in the early 1900’s wouldn’t have allowed their wives to work.
My grandmother was a very strong woman with a beautiful smile and gracious manner. A high achiever and quiet breaker of norms before it was a cause. Thanks, Grandma.