Tag Archives: women

The Love Link…Happy 100th, Grandma T.!

Yesterday would have been my Grandma Thompson’s 100th birthday…I can’t think of a more appropriate day to do a tribute to her than the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day!  I learned so much about life from both my Grandma and my mom (her daughter)!

Martha Alinette Taylor was the third child of five born to Lewis A. Taylor and Marie C. (Auer) Taylor.  She was born March 7, 1911 at home in Marysville, Ohio.  She was called “Martha” as a child, but preferred “Alinette” as an adult (“Alinette” was a combination of her grandmothers’ names: Alice and Annette).  When Grandma was about four, the family moved to her Grandma Taylor’s farm, about 8 miles from Marysville on the Beecher Side Road (her Grandma was Alice Beecher Taylor, a distant cousin of the “famous” Beechers).  The farm was quite a shock for Grandma’s mom (my Mamma), who had grown up with all the modern conveniences in town, and was not accustomed to houses with no running water, no electricity, no furnace, and no indoor plumbing!  The family shared the farmhouse with dozens of rats and mice too! 

Grandma’s dad started on the farm with hogs, but then switched to sheep farming.  He also raised Border Collies specifically to work livestock.  One of his dogs, Rex, was a regular performer at the Ohio State Fair, and got so famous that he was even used in a national film!  Sadly, Rex was killed by a car when he was only 5  years old. 

As a girl in high school, Grandma’s teachers always wanted her to become a teacher, but she had her heart set on office work: when her Dad cleaned out his desk, she’d go through the wastebasket and salvage papers she could play “office” with!  Grandma and her mom were always close…Grandma’s teenaged friends were shocked when she told them she’d ask her mother if they had questions about S-E-X…they wouldn’t think of posing the questions to their own mothers! 

After graduation from high school, Grandma was given two scholarships from local colleges, but her dad didn’t have the money for her to go, and Grandma wasn’t healthy enough to work part-time while she went to school.  She took part of a correspondence course in office work (typing and shorthand), before being offered a secretary/bookkeeper job with the Farm Bureau.  It was September, 1931…the salary was $40 a month.  Grandma took the position, and moved into a room near the office.  Her boss, a “Mr. Bear”, was initially not keen on her being hired, and co-workers told her he tried to get her to quit by piling on the work.  Grandma did it anyway.  She worked there for 3 and 1/2 years, and when she was gone, they hired TWO women to take her place!

When she wasn’t working, Grandma was a bit lonely…she’d heard that her old piano teacher, Jennie Sherwood, had opened a music school in her home nearby, and that Miss Sherwood was staging dramatic productions there.  Grandma took some drama lessons, and it was at one of the shows that she met my Grandad, Lewis C. Thompson…he was the good-looking stage manager!  The two were talking backstage, and Grandad was so absorbed, he missed his cue to open the curtain!  He didn’t ask her out that night, but Grandma noticed that the Floyd’s Dairy milk truck he drove seemed to go by her office a lot during the day…Grandad honked and waved every time.  It was two weeks before he asked her out…it wasn’t long before Grandma’s milkman was “her milkman”!  They used to put notes to each other in the empty milk bottles, and Grandma rigged her bedroom light with a string so that when Grandad went by at 4:30 a.m. and honked, she’s turn the light on and off in response.

Grandma and Grandad were married on September 21, 1934 in an evening ceremony at her family’s farm…it was an intimate affair…her parents couldn’t afford a big wedding!  The couple went on to have four daughters: Geraldine (Jerry) in 1935, Dorothy (Dottie – my mom) in 1939, Judy in 1942, and Connie in 1954 (she was a happy surprise!).  Both worked full-time for many years: Grandma became the accountant at Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, and then the Comptroller at Carter Steel.  Grandad ran a filling station, drove a Columbus city bus, managed the Holland Theatre in Bellefontaine, and then worked in management for Super Food Services (a grocery wholesaler).

Grandad and Grandma in 1935...that baby bump is my Aunt Jerry!

In the early 1970’s, Grandma was forced to retire due to ill health: osteoarthritis was causing her spine to disintegrate, and she also had other health conditions.  Despite multiple hospitalizations and being in chronic pain, Grandma simply found something else to do.  She started to volunteer at her church visiting shut-ins.  After a year, she was asked to be chair of the “Love Link.”  In 1976, Grandma introduced a phone element to the program, calling shut-ins every couple of weeks just to let them know their church still cared about them.  By this time, she was doing her work from her “office,” a mattress on the floor of the living room where Grandma spent her days.  In addition to building a special typing table on wheels so Grandma could type lying down, Grandad rigged up a station wagon with a mattress in the back, and took Grandma to visit her shut-ins…she would lie on their couch and talk to them for a few minutes.  When she wasn’t “running the roads”, Grandma would recycle used greeting cards given to her by friends and family to make notes and cards for her people…she also made Christmas tags and post cards from used Christmas cards for sale at the church’s winter bazaar.  She gives my Grandad due credit in a piece she wrote encouraging fellow church members to “Get Involved”:
“All this is made possible by my wonderful husband who is chief cook, and bottle washer, besides running all my errands and chauffeuring, etc.”
When I was a young child, we would visit Grandma and Grandad on holidays, as we lived two hours away.  At Easter, Grandma would fill a decorated coffee can with candy for each grandchild…the cans had our names on them.  In 1969, our family moved to Canada, 550 miles away from Grandma’s, so our visits with them were reduced to two a year: summer holidays and at Christmas.  One Christmas tradition Grandma did in the 1970’s was called the Grab Bag. All her daughters had young families: after opening the gifts at Christmas time, the grandchildren would go to the Rumpus Room, where there was a big pile of brown paper bags in the middle of the floor.  We would take turns “grabbing” a bag for our family, until they were all gone (it was fair, because all the daughters had a girl and a boy!).  All through the year, Grandma would stock up on paper products, dime store items, and other small essentials that a family could use.  She’d save grocery bags, and before Christmas, pack the items in them and staple them shut (in later years, my cousin Barb and I sometimes got to help her…that was fun).

Grandma and Grandad...late 1970's

My Grandma was only about 4’11” tall due to her spinal disintegration, but she had a lot of energy in her small frame!  She was a big hugger, and loved all of her grandchildren dearly!  We were all devastated when we got the news that Grandma had suffered a heart attack and died on February 15, 1979.  My Grandad followed her a little over five years later, after succumbing to his second bout with cancer. 

My Grandma wasn’t a traditional woman by any means, but she was a wonderful example to all of us!

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Note: Much of the information for this post came from Grandma’s memoirs, which she wrote for her daughters a couple of years before she died.


Filed under family, memories

Strength, Thy Name is Woman!

Yesterday, my blogging buddy, Charles at Mostly Bright Ideas wrote a post called The Weird Uncle of Invention…one part of Charles’ post caught my attention, as he muses over who invented pole vaulting:

“It had to be a man, didn’t it?…For one thing, most women don’t have that kind of free time on their hands.”

Charles’ assertion caused those little wheels in my head to start spinning…what he said about women and free time is true.  After doing some research, I found that female inventors were responsible for a lot of things that people wouldn’t think of doing without today:

1. Bras.  Contrary to popular opinion, the brassiere was invented by a woman: a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob (aka Caresse Crosby).  In 1913, she bought a new dress for a fancy evening affair, and was frustrated because the corset she wore under it was poking out in very unattractive ways and indiscreet places.  Mary grabbed a couple of silk handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon, and the Backless Brassiere was born!  Mary didn’t enjoy being a businesswoman, so sold her patent in 1915 to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1500.   Over the next 30 years, Warner made over $15 million selling bras to women who were tired of wearing corsets!

The original "Backless Brassiere" patent diagram...

 2. Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The invention of one of North America’s favourite cookies happened by accident.  Ruth Wakefield was the proprietor of a tourist lodge called the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  She was making Butter Drop Do Cookies for the guests one day in 1930, when she discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate.  Ruth substituted some broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars, expecting it to melt and act the same way as the baker’s chocolate…it didn’t.  The result was delicious, and the recipe for Ruth’s Toll House Crunch Cookies was published in a Boston newspaper.  In 1939, Betty Crocker featured the cookie on her national radio show.  Sales of the chocolate bars soared!  Ruth was no dummy…she made a deal with Andrew Nestle to print the recipe on the chocolate package in return for a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.

Ruth's recipe on the back of a Nestle chocolate chip package...


3. Dishwashers.  In 1886, Josephine Cochran got tired of her servants chipping her fine china in Shelbyville, Illinois…she declared “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself!”  She invented a hand-operated mechanical dishwasher, and formed the Crescent Washing Machine Company.  Josephine unveiled her invention at the 1893 World’s Fair, but only hotels and large restaurants seemed interested in Josephine’s idea.  The general public didn’t use dishwashers much until the 1950’s.  The company Josephine founded to make her dishwasher eventually became KitchenAid (now owned by Whirlpool).

Josephine Cochran: "It's hard to get good help!"


Cochrane's Dishwasher (she added an "e" to her name)...


4. Disposable diapers.  Indiana native, Marion Donovan, was a housewife and mother of two living in Connecticut after World War II.  After changing her younger daughter’s sodden cloth diaper (and clothing and bedding) for the umpteenth time, Marion used a sewing machine to make a waterproof diaper cover out of a shower curtain.  The Boater  was better than rubber pants, because it had snaps instead of safety pins, didn’t cause diaper rash, and didn’t pinch the baby’s skin.  The Boater flew off the shelves at Saks Fifth Avenue when they started selling it in 1949, although Marion was unsuccessful in attracting manufacturers willing to produce it.  She patented it in 1951, and sold the rights to Keko Corporation for a million dollars.

Marion then started working on creating a fully-disposable diaper, using special paper that was strong and absorbent, but also carried moisture away from the child’s skin.  She shopped the idea around to all the large manufacturers in the country, but nobody jumped on it.  It was ten years later in 1961 that Victor Mills used Donovan’s idea to make Pampers.   Over a 45-year period, Marion held patents for 20 inventions including the DentaLoop, a two-ply dental floss that eliminated the need for wrapping dental floss around one’s fingers. 

Marion Donovan, and her nice dry baby...

5. Grocery bags.  Paper bags used to be shaped like envelopes until Maine native Margaret Knight came along.  While working in the Columbia Paper Bag Company, in Springfield, Massachusetts, she created a new machine part that automatically folded and glued the paper to form a square bottom.  Workers installing the equipment argued with her, because they didn’t think women knew anything about machinery.  In 1870, Margaret founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company.  After patenting her bag machine design in 1871, she went on to be awarded some 26 patents for different inventions including a window frame and sash, machinery for cutting shoe soles, and a rotary engine. 

Apparently, Margaret's male co-workers were wrong...she did know about machinery!


6. Liquid PaperBette Nesmith Graham wanted to be an artist, but life got in the way.  Shortly after World War II, she was a divorced mom with a son (Michael Nesmith, later of The Monkees) to support, so Bette got a job as an executive secretary at a bank in Dallas, Texas.  Bette was a conscientious worker, and sought a better way of correcting her typing mistakes when she made them.  As a painter, Bette knew that artists painted over their mistakes on canvas…why not apply the same idea to paper?  She brought in some tempera paint and a watercolour brush, and started using them at the office.  The boss didn’t notice, but her co-workers did, and asked for some of her correcting fluid.  Bette put some in a bottle, and labelled it “Mistake Out” before passing it to her friend.  In 1956, Bette launched the Mistake Out Company from her home, using her kitchen as a laboratory (with some advice from Michael’s high school chemistry teacher), and working nights and weekends to meet the demand for her hot new product.  She was finally able to devote all her time to the business after being fired from her secretarial job for an error even Mistake Out couldn’t correct (she typed her company’s name instead of the bank’s)!  In 1962, Bette married Robert Graham, who joined her in running the company, which grew into a million dollar business by 1967.  The business was renamed Liquid Paper in 1968.  Bette sold the company for $47.5 million in 1979, and died six months later.

Bette Nesmith Graham


7. Trashcans with the foot pedal.  A native of California,  Lillian Moller Gilbreth was a superwoman before it was fashionable: she was an inventor, author, industrial engineer, and industrial psychologist.  When she wasn’t busy with that, she looked after her twelve children (her daughter and son wrote Cheaper by the Dozen)!   Lillian was a pioneer in the field of ergonomics, and she and her husband, Frank, were among the first scientists to acknowledge the effects of stress and lack of sleep on the worker.  Their Time and Motion Studies were developed in part from living with their huge family.  In the 1920’s, Lillian worked doing marketing research for Johnson and Johnson.  Lillian was later employed at General Electric as an industrial engineer, and interviewed over 4000 women to design the proper height for stoves, sinks, and other kitchen fixtures.  She patented many kitchen appliances, including an electric food mixer, shelves inside refrigerator doors, and my favourite: the trashcan with the foot pedal.

The Gilbreth family in the 1920s (one child short of their dozen)

 There are dozens of things invented by women…here’s a link to a list: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/famous-women-inventors.html .  I hope you’ve learned something today…I did!


Filed under history

Simple Things I Am Thankful For…

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, where I was born and spent the first eight years of my life.  We are not celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada today (we had it last month), but with all the disturbing things going on in the world right now, it makes me think of the things in my life I am thankful for.  Here they are, in the order I’ve thought of them:

1. A Healthy Love Relationship.  I am thankful to have found a man who loves me, works hard, is an amazing father, and would rather cut off his right arm than hurt me or our children.

2. A Loving Family.  We definitely argue, but I don’t know what we would do without each other. 

3. Clean Water.  We can turn on a tap and have an almost unlimited amount of clean water!

4. Clean Air.  The air that we breathe is very clean, and smells good most of the time.   

5. Plentiful, Fresh Food.  We can go to a store and buy nearly anything we need, or grow it ourselves in uncontaminated soil.  We have a refrigerator and a freezer to help keep the food preserved.  We have a stove and a microwave to cook the food. 

6. A Roof Over Our Heads.  I can’t imagine not having a warm, clean place to come home to.

7. Freedom of Movement.  I can go where I want, when I want to, without being afraid. 

8. Freedom of Speech.  I have the right to say, write, read, or listen to almost anything without fear of repercussion (within libel/slander laws).

9. The Right to Vote.  Thanks to some outspoken women who came before me, women in Canada have had the right to vote in federal elections since 1919. 

10. The Ability to Read and Write.  I could not live without books, and writing keeps me sane.  The ability to read allows me to learn new things every day.

11. Government-Sponsored Health Care.  If my child is ill, I can take her to the doctor without worrying about how to afford the treatment.

12. Music.  Good music makes me feel a huge range of emotions…there are so many talented musicians in our world.

Please take a moment to think about all the simple things you are thankful for…

I hope that all my family and friends have a wonderful holiday!  Thank you for taking time from your busy day to visit me in Hammond River!


Filed under books, family, food, friends, music

Fun Facts for November 18th…

It’s another slow day, so I’ve dipped into the Today in History site for your amusement:

1. “Just Hold Still, Son!”  It was on this day in 1307 that renowned crossbow marksman, William Tell, is said to have shot an apple off his son Walter’s head in what is now Switzerland.  Bill didn’t just get up one morning with a bizarre idea…he was forced to perform the stunt because he refused to acknowledge the superiority of the new “big cheese” who’d rolled into town, Austrian Albrecht Gessler.  If Tell failed, both he and his son would be executed.  Luckily for Walter, his dad didn’t choke under pressure.  Gessler noticed that William had removed two arrows from his pouch before shooting, and inquired as to the reason.  Tell informed Gessler that if his son had perished, the second arrow was for Gessler himself.  The dictator took that rather badly, and tied Tell up, ordering his men to put Tell on the ship bound for Gessler’s castle at Kussnacht.  Long story short: Tell escaped, and shot Gessler on his return home.  Karma’s a bitch!

Statue depicting William and Walter Tell...

2. Caxton Makes History.  In 1477, Dictes and Sayengis of the Phylosophers became the first dated book to be printed in England.  Produced by English publisher, William Caxton, the incunabulum (an early book that every bookseller wants a copy of) was the “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” of the 15th century, and was translated from the French Dits Moraulx des Philosophes’.  There was no Spellcheck on Caxton’s equipment at the time…

Colophon of William Caxton, 1477...this would have been at the beginning of the book...pretty, isn't it?

3. “Agitate-Educate-Legislate”.  These were the early watchwords of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union when it was formed on this day in Cleveland in 1874.  Annie Turner Wittenmyer was the group’s first president, serving from 1874-1879.  Originally, the WCTU’s purpose was to stamp out use of the “demon rum”, but it soon began advocating for women’s suffrage and other non-temperance issues like prison reform, vocational schools, and free kindergarten.  Still in existence today, the WCTU claims to be “the oldest, voluntary, non-sectarian woman’s organization in continuous existence in the world.”  Without them, we would still be working 12-hour days, and women might still be wearing skirts with petticoats!

WCTU Logo...

4. “What time is it?”  It was due to a proposal by Scottish-born Canadian engineer, Sandford Fleming, that Canada adopted Standard Time on this date in 1883.  After missing a train in Ireland in 1876 due to a misprint in the schedule which listed “p.m.” instead of “a.m.”, Fleming suggested a 24-hour clock for the entire world, linked to the anti-meridian of Greenwich…standard time zones could be used locally, but his “Cosmic Time” would be supreme.  By 1929, most of the major countries in the world had accepted time zones.  In his spare time, Fleming designed Canada’s first postage stamp, the Threepenny Beaver; engineered much of the Intercolonial Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway; founded the Royal Canadian Institute, a science organization in Toronto; advocated for the construction of a submarine telegraph cable connecting the entire British Empire; and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1897.

Globe used by Fleming to illustrate the principle of Standard Time...letters indicate the meridians...

5. Not your average bear.  In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was being raked over the coals by the media for his inability to bag a bear on a hunting trip.  On the last day of the hunt, one of his companions caught a bear cub, and tied it to a tree so that the President could shoot it and redeem his reputation as a great hunter.  Roosevelt refused to kill the bear, saying that he took no pleasure in harming a creature which clearly had no sporting chance of defending itself.  Cartoonist Clifford Berryman published a cartoon showing Roosevelt turning his back on the tied bear, and walking away.  A couple named Rose and Morris Michtom, who ran a small store selling notions, candy, and stuffed toys in Brooklyn, New York, saw the cartoon in the paper.  Impressed with the President’s restraint, Morris suggested that Rose sew a bear like the one in the cartoon.  The finished bear was made of velvet, and had shoe buttons for eyes.  Morris displayed it in the shop window with a label: “Teddy’s bear.”  More than a dozen people wanted to buy it, so the Michtoms mailed the original bear to the White House for Roosevelt’s children, and asked for permission to use the President’s name.  He agreed, and soon the Michtoms couldn’t keep up with the demand for Teddy Bears!  Roosevelt and the Republican Party adopted it as their symbol in the election of 1904, and Michtom bears were on display at every public White House function.  The Michtoms went on to found Ideal Toys, and the humble Jewish-Russian immigrants realized the American Dream!

The original "Teddy Bear" which is now on display at the Smithsonian...


Filed under books, memories, satire

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame Lasted Only Fourteen-and-a-Half…

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.   Andy Warhol, 1968

Hey…it’s ME…writerwoman61!   Is this thing on?

Last Monday, I was just another one of the 273,000 bloggers whose “words of wisdom” appear on WordPress.com whenever I feel like sharing them…after three months of blogging, I had a small but steady following, garnering about 30 or 40 hits a day.  Some of the readers even commented (favourably) on my pieces…

Everything changed on Tuesday…I suddenly noticed comments coming in from people I wasn’t related to, or who weren’t Facebook friends!  And my stats on my Dashboard were climbing faster than I could keep track of them!

Stats chart from last week, leading up to Tuesday...

Something was up…I suspected that my blog might have been featured on the WordPress.com homepage…I navigated my way there…sure enough, there I was: “Freshly Pressed”!  Imagine my excitement! 

A few hours after discovering my newfound popularity, I got this message in my e-mail:

“Congrats! Your post ( https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/music-to-my-ears/ ) has been promoted to Freshly Pressed on WordPress.com. Keep up the good work!

Editorial Czar

WordPress.com | Automattic

(no offense, Joy, but you’re an EDITOR!  Shouldn’t you know how to spell “automatic”?).

I was still in shock, but realized that in the blogosphere, being “Freshly Pressed” is something like winning the lottery!  I was honoured to have been “chosen,” (I seriously wondered if my being picked was completely random – perhaps it was) but if I had it to do over again, I would have made sure they featured a more interesting post: truth be told, that one was the result of a “story prompt” that said to write about sounds that I liked.  Not one of my better efforts (I hope people read some other posts while they were here besides that one, but I suspect not!).  Had I known I was going to be showcased, I also probably wouldn’t have chosen a blurry scanned photo for my blog thumbnail!

I spent the rest of the day (and part of the next one) clicking back to my Dashboard every few minutes, marvelling at my ever-increasing number of hits (“They like me…they really like me!”), and answering comments.  I got almost as many comments for that one post as I had on the whole blog for the three months beforehand!  For the most part, people were very kind (although one fellow felt the need to point out that my dog really wasn’t happy to see me when I got home – he was just excited because his meal ticket was back!).  I checked out the commenters’ blogs, and found a few kindred spirits to add to my growing circle of female blogging buddies (I’ve added their links at the right – they’re all talented writers – please wait until you’ve finished reading mine though before clicking!).  I even got a couple of new subscribers out of it.

By Thursday, my popularity was waning, and my slide to oblivion began in earnest…my page on “Freshly Pressed” had been pushed into the background, replaced by new “celebrities.”

The sad aftermath of sudden fame...

At least I still have my looks…


Filed under blogging, memories