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Notes for Ella Frances Miles

1904 Ella Frances Miles graduated from McDonald Institute, Ontario.

1909 Ella Frances Miles graduated from Columbia University.

Ella Frances Miles was a Home Economics Instructor at Kansas State Agricultural College.

Notes from Jack (John Francis) Schafer: When I was a young teenager, I appreciated listening to my mother tell of her background and growing-up years, sometimes leaning nearby while she ironed. Being considerably younger than my brother and sister, I had her somewhat to myself in this particular era. Mother was born in Chicago in 1886, the second of nine children. Her name was Ella Frances Miles. Her parentage had a largely Canadian background with mostly English and northern Irish ancestry. Her father was an executive in the Armour Co., being the son of a former Armour partner (deceased 1891). Her early childhood was in LaGrange, a western suburb, from where her father commuted to his job in downtown Chicago by commuter train.

I know very little of her actual childhood, the things a child does or plays with. My information appears generally to be more of the "bean-counting" variety. Marion was two years older, "Johnny" (Frederick) was two years younger. The three of them, as the older children, went on some sort of a train vacation with their father some time before Mother was ten years old.

Following these three, there were Marshall, born in 1889, Dorothy in 1892, Douglas in 1893, Evelyn in 1895, Frank or "Dop" in 1896, and Peggy (Margaret) in 1899.

The winter of 1895-96 was especially tragic. Douglas--age 2--and Johnny--age 8--both died, of different childhood diseases of the era (Douglas: diphtheria, Johnny: meningitis), during that winter. Mr. Miles was diagnosed with tuberculosis to which he later succumbed, and I believe that Marshall also was very ill. I remember being very impressed with these happenings as our family, a generation later, seemed particularly free from these sorts of tragedies.

In 1898, the family moved from LaGrange to Omaha, Nebraska, where Mr. Miles was in charge of the Armour and Company operations. Presumably, this move was made on account of his health, either for a "better" climate or for a less demanding position. Mother's first year in high school at age 13-14 occurred in Omaha. Although only staying in Omaha for two years, she maintained contact with two friends, at least up into my childhood years.

The following year, the family moved to Longmont, Colorado, where Armour had a small plant at which Mr. Miles nominally worked, and the climate was "better." His health had deteriorated, and he spent much of the time in bed. Mother's second high school year was at Longmont. The parents also spent some time in Arizona, and Mr. Miles passed away early that year.

At the end of the school year--in 1901, the family consisting of Mrs. Miles and the seven surviving children, moved to Hamilton, Ontario, where Mrs. Miles' closest family members lived. Mother spent her third and last year of high school in Hamilton. She graduated from a three-year high school program at age 16 in 1902. She thus had three years in high school, each in a different city.

Mother remembered going to the beach at Lake Ontario, but not going into the water. As far as I know girls of her generation sat on the beach but didn't swim. Although we went to lakes in later years, I don't believe that she ever swam.

Mrs. Miles had two much younger sisters, Sarah and Nettie, who helped her with her young family, ranging in age from two (Peggy) to 17 (Marion) the year that they moved to Hamilton. She was 39 herself. The family income was greatly reduced, but apparently resources were adequate so that they were not poor, and Mrs. Miles did not work outside of the home.

Following high school graduation Mother enrolled in MacDonald Institute, in their initial year as a home economics school in Hamilton. After one year in Hamilton, the Institute moved to Guelph, I believe as part of the Ontario Agricultural College, later Guelph University. When in Guelph in 1984, Joyce and I visited a city museum which included several exhibits on the University and its components and their early history.

Mother moved with the Institute to Guelph, and graduated in 1904 from their 2-year program at age 18. (Her paternal grandmother died in Chicago earlier that year at age 64.) Although qualified to teach, Mother was too young to obtain a position, so returned home to Hamilton. Marion had graduated from a high school 4-year program the same year that Mother also graduated from high school and went on to a 4-year college nursing program, so was no longer at home. With Aunts Sarah and Nettie available, along with Mrs. Miles, I don't recall Mother talking about being heavily involved in child care during this period.

She went to work as a secretary for the Otis Elevator Company. Eventually, she obtained a position teaching junior high "domestic science" in Hamilton. During the summer of 1909 Mother attended graduate school at Columbia University in New York City, as an opportunity to upgrade her teaching credentials. She was 23 years old and had been out of college for five years. She returned to her position at Hamilton in the fall, but obviously was searching for new opportunities.

In the fall of 1909 Mother answered an advertisement in an educational journal or responded to a professional recruitment ad and accepted a position as Instructor in Home Economics at the Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University). I believe that she arrived by train in Manhattan, Kansas, on New Years Day of 1910, a few weeks short of 24 years old. The Kansas years seemed to me to be her years of closest friendships. It must have been a year of program expansion. Several young women joined the faculty that year. Their names are those that I remember best from my youthful conversations. Mrs. Van Zile was the Dean. There has been a Van Zile Hall on the KSU campus for many years. This new young faculty were apparently her "girls.".

One of Mother's duties was to be in charge of the home demonstration program in which the students lived in cottages under her supervision and practiced the elements that they had learned in class.

My dad, a Kansas State graduate and an assistant in the Agronomy Department, returned to Manhattan with his new Master's degree from the University of Illinois in the summer of 1910. I don't know when they first met, but they courted over the next two years, and often double-dated with Mother's close friends from the Home Ec faculty. Upon his return from Illinois, Dad was promoted to Instructor in Agronomy, so these two daters were both instructors at the College.

Mother and Dad were married on August 16, 1912. Grandmother Miles and her five younger children had moved back to La Grange, Illinois. The wedding was held in her home. Dad's youngest brother, Raymond, an undergraduate at Kansas State came with him as best man. Dad and Mother honeymooned at the Wisconsin Dells and returned to Manhattan for the 1912-13 academic year. Mother lost her job immediately as did all married women of the era. They bought a home on Humboldt Street in Manhattan near the University. (Some 55-plus years later, when I lived in Manhattan, Dad and I toured this house, during one of his visits with us, courtesy of the then-current owner.).

Several of their contemporary friends were married about this same time as Mother and Dad. The two couples that I remember best are the Calls and the Conrads. Both Mrs. Call and Mrs. Conrad were Home Economics instructors with Mother. In contrast to Mother and Dad, these people spent their whole careers at KSU. Mr. Conrad was a long-term Engineering Professor. Mr. Call eventually became the Dean of the College of Agriculture. Of course, both Mrs. Conrad and Mrs. Call lost their jobs as Mother did.

Kansas State maintained a preparatory division for enrolling students who were not adequately prepared for college. Uncle Dop, who was about 16 at this time came to Manhattan and attended this program for a while.

In the fall of 1913 Dad obtained a new position as Professor of Farm Crops at Washington State College (now University), and Mother and Dad moved to Pullman, Washington.

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