Monday, March 26, 2012

A 20th Century Woman

A faint jingle always preceded her and made our little bodies wiggle with anticipation. Aunt Edith opened her door to a linen and lace covered table set with elaborate displays of freshly baked cookies and perfect little sandwiches, crusts removed. As always, the house was in immaculate condition. Truly a feat for a woman nearly eighty years of age. For our part, we used our best manners and sat quietly while tea and glasses of juice were poured.

Aunt Edith was easy to love. She was beautiful; her hair was always coiffed to perfection in soft silver swirls. Around her brilliant blue eyes were lines that expressed a life of love and laughter. Even without prior notice, she seemed always prepared to entertain with delicate treats. She, herself, would never arrive at anyone's house either unannounced or empty handed. Where there were children, her bags always contained an exotic treasure, stacking dolls from Russia or rice paper candy from Japan, perhaps just a few foreign coins, but always something.

It was not just her sweet demeanor and generosity that kept us all in line, it was more her dignified presence. She was an accomplished woman, and she knew it. She was the quintessential modern woman of the 20th century. Born in 1897, she was 23 when women in the US got the right to vote. Raised on an Ohio farm by a single mother of 5 children she learned hard work and discipline at a very young age. Instead of marrying she got her PhD in Home Economics from Ohio State University and spent her life teaching women on farms and in Universities how to save money, clean more efficiently, and prepare the healthiest possible meals for families with limited resources.

Women of her generation generally either had careers or families but not both. Although she was very beautiful, and my mother told me that she had many gentlemen callers, she valued her independence. Perhaps she learned from her mother and from caring for her 4 brothers that a man to look after is not always a blessing. So at the end of her life, her house and property were her own, and she was very proud of this. She had enough money during her final 20 years to travel anywhere that she wished.

Her memories of these trips danced around her in the jewelry that adorned her body. On her right wrist she wore charms from Europe. In her ears were articulated fish earrings from Thailand. Around her neck were mummy beads and a gold scarab from Egypt. But by far, my favorite piece of jewelry was her golden coin bracelet from South Africa worn on her left wrist. It was simply beautiful and it brought to her mind adventurous tales of wild animals and stunning landscapes. There is no doubt that her stories influenced my passion for both jewelry and travel. Without the strong and adventurous woman of our past, we simply could not be the women that we are today.

Thank you Aunt Edith!

*Inspired by the One Minute Writer.


  1. A wonderful story of a strong woman. Lucky you. Btw, my first name is Edith.

  2. Excellent Name. When did Edith become Ellen?

  3. Great story. Women like Edith paved the way for all the rights that people like Santorum are trying to strip away!

  4. Absolutely Trish! I really feel that it is a shame many young women really don't understand how things have changed in our very recent history.

  5. We didn't fully explain it to them. I'm at fault there, for sure, although now Megan and I are talking a lot about women's rights. She's 22. It's starting to matter now.

  6. oh my gosh, i have two of the same great aunts. how true this is jennifer, and how little they knew of the seeds they planted in me, and you. or maybe they did?