Wichita, Kansas.



From the very beginning my opportunities in school were very limited. I was the third child of a family of eight children. My parents were very poor and we older children had to work hard helping father fight the wolf from the door. Then too, father did not take the interest in sending us to school that he should have taken, although he was an educated man, and taught school nineteen years. He claimed that we could learn as much at home as we could at school. Holding to this theory he kept us at home. The theory might have worked well, if he had given us fixed hours for study and play; but instead of this he kept us at work on the farm all summer and fall. In winter he would cut and sell wood. Every morning, when the weather was not too severe, he took my two oldest brothers (and me too, when mother could spare me) to the woods to cut or saw a load of wood, while he hauled a load to town and sold it. Of course, I could not cut wood, but I could pull one end of a cross-cut saw equal to either one of my brothers. When the weather would not allow us to go to the woods, father made us study. 30

I had a yearning desire to learn to read and cipher. Still, like all other children, I liked to play, and devoted most of my time to it. One of my cousins, who lived near us, used to come over and play with us every Sunday. She would tell us what a good time she had at school. This made me anxious to go too, and I pleaded with father to let me go, but my pleading was all in vain. He said I would learn more mischief than anything else, and he was not going to send me. Mother saw that I would learn, if I only had an opportunity, and she, too, insisted on my going to school. Still father would not listen to the request.

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At the age of twelve I had never been inside of a schoolhouse. Mother saw that father was making a mistake by keeping me out of school. So she decided to send me without his consent. One day when father came to dinner, he did not see me and inquired where I was. Mother told him that I had gone to school. He hardly knew what to say or think; so at last he said (realizing that he was in the wrong): “If she is determined to go to school, let her go, and let us see what she is going to do.”

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The question then arose, how was I to get my books? I knew father would not get them for me. I told my cousin (Miss Nettie Bruce) my situation, and she agreed to lend me her books the first year. After that I always raised turkeys or ducks enough to buy everything that I needed in school.

I went to the public schools five sessions. During 31 this time I made fairly good progress. An almost uncontrollable thirst for knowledge took possession of me. I was not satisfied unless I had a book in my hand. My teacher told me that I ought to go to college. I thought this was impossible. So I decided that I would teach the next year.

During the summer Professor J. J. Lincoln, one of father’s old schoolmates, paid us a visit. He insisted on my going to college. Father wanted to send me, but was not financially able. Professor Lincoln told him how I could go with very little cost to him. He told him that he could get me a position in the dining room, by which I could pay half of my board. He thought that father could certainly arrange to lend me the other half, and the college would wait until I finished for my tuition. This seemed reasonable, and after a little consideration father agreed to send me.

On September 5, 1906, I started to Elon College, N. C. This was my first trip from home. The first few weeks were trying ones with me. The thought of being two hundred and fifty miles from home without money or friends was almost more than I could bear. But I plucked up courage enough to conquer the homesickness, and just determined to stay. It was not long before I began to make friends.

I entered the sub-Freshman class. Had the faculty allowed me, I would have undertaken two years’ work in one. I went there with the determination 32 to do all that my strength would permit. I managed to get them to allow me to take twenty-six hours’ work a week. This gave me all that I could do. I did not have much time for pleasure like the other girls. As I was kept very busy, the time soon slipped away.

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On April 21 I received a telegram saying, “Mother is very ill. Come home at once.” The next day I arrived at home and found her very ill. I knew that she could not live long. I sat by her bedside until the 9th of June, when God called her home.

My hopes of ever receiving an education were now gone. As I was the oldest girl, and my youngest brother was only four years old, the responsibilities of the home and mother fell largely upon me. I tried to fill her place in my humble way the very best I knew, feeling that this was the only way that I could honor her.

The next fall before school opened I made preparation for my younger brothers and sisters to enter school the first day. How I did wish that I could go too, but I knew that this was impossible, as father could not get anyone to keep house for him. During the winter I devoted every spare minute that I could find to my books; but you may know that I did not find much spare time after sewing, cooking, washing, ironing and mending, and keeping the house straight for such a large family. Of course, my sisters helped me every evening and morning. 33

The next year I decided to teach the public school just three miles away, where I could board at home, and look after the home affairs too. This year, by raising turkeys and teaching I cleared one hundred and fifty dollars, which was enough to pay half my board and other expenses (not including tuition) for one year in college.

Father was very anxious for me to go to college now. Sister being seventeen years old, father said he thought that she could keep house. Still I felt that she could not, and that it was my duty to stay at home, but at the same time I was praying for an opportunity to go to school. Taking father’s advice, the next fall I went back to Elon.

The following spring, before I came home, sister ran away and married. This made the way difficult for me to go back to college, but father succeeded in hiring a housekeeper, and I went back the next fall. Before I came home in the spring someone had persuaded our housekeeper to leave us and keep house for him. Father tried in vain to get another.