Homage to my grandmother on this International Women’s Day


Ava Catherine Roberts Kinnison in 1908 with husband Charles and first child Hilda

On this International Women’s Day, I was thrilled to discover the Fifty-Eighth Catalogue of Ohio Wesleyan University, which lists my grandmother, Ava Catherine Roberts as a resident of Monnett Hall, and the recipient of the Degree of Bachelor of Literature in 1902.

The Catalogue states that at Monnett Hall “the rooms are furnished with the exception of bed clothing and towels.” And in addition to bringing their own linens, each student “should come provided with waterproof, umbrella, and overshoes; also tumbler, teaspoons, knife and fork, for use in her own room.” The regular expenses at that dormitory for women taking only literary studies was $60 to $70 and covered scholarship, incidental fee, board, room, light, and heat for a term of 12 weeks. If students took Music or Art, which I’m sure my grandmother did, expenses went up $15. This did not include books or washing. Books were $3 to $5 a term. Washing was $2.50 to $5 a term but “facilities are afforded whereby those who desire can do a part of their own laundry work.” A comment is made that “charges at Monnett Hall are low compared with the advantages and comforts offered…much lower than usual in colleges of like grade.” However “all extravagances in dress of habits of life is discouraged by the officers of the University, and we hope to have the hearty cooperation of patrons and students in this direction.” In addition, “on reaching Delaware, young women are expected to take a street car, or one of the hacks found at each train, and go directly to Monnett Hall. The hackman will see that the trunks are promptly delivered at the Hall.”

Ohio Wesleyan Female College was established in 1853. It was incorporated into the Ohio Wesleyan University in 1877 “to secure an equal educational opportunity with men” according to the Board Of Trustees minutes from June of 1877.

There were 828 men and 557 women in attendance at Ohio Wesleyan 1902—a significantly higher proportion of women than were in attendance at Stanford University when I was a Freshman in 1961.

Degrees achieved by women in 1902 at Ohio Wesleyan—one hundred and seventeen years ago!

  • Degree of Master of Music (2 of 18)
  • Degree of Bachelor of Arts (13 of 53)
  • Degree of Bachelor of Science (1 of 18) Martha Bellis Hixon (who appears to have also obtained her Master of Music!)
  • Degree of Bachelor of Literature (28 of 41) Highest percentage reflecting that this was the degree obtained primarily to teach. My grandmother taught English and German before her marriage.
  • Degree of Doctor of Medicine (4 of 30) Way to go Edith Crooks, Pearl Hahn, Margaret Alexander, and Elizabeth Weaver!

IMG_0848Ava Catherine taught English and German prior to her marriage to Charles Kinnison. They lived in Willoughby, Ohio and had two girls–Hilda born in 1908 and my mother, Ava Margaret, born in 1914 (seen at 17 standing in this photo).

IMG_0846My mother followed in her mother’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1937 with a Degree in Political Science.

Obtaining a PhD was mandatory considering the history of the women in my family!

A flamingo Christmas

Amid these troubled times, I found my spirits lifted as our family’s traditional Christmas decorations went up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Sharing a home this year with my daughter, son-in-law, and two little granddaughters made it a gala event. Sadly, five hours of unpacking boxes and decking the halls did little to counteract the excesses of turkey day since the leftovers were brought out midway. But out came the family collection of ornaments, each with its own particular history. And only one glass bauble hit the deck and cut one little bare toe.

Paris is remembered, unicorns displayed, and favorite handmade ornaments are unveiled once more, grouped in clusters by little helpers.


The Buddy L train with real steam coming out of its smokestack is patiently brought to life by my son-in-law and hides behind the tree out of reach of toddler hands. IMG_1196

The little ones help Mimi (moi!) reconstruct the Dickens Village and delight again to the miniature ice skaters gliding around the ice rink. IMG_1192IMG_1193

The advent calendar is hung to remind the children and adults to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, the One who can bring this world a much sought after peace. IMG_1197

And, of course, downstairs in Mimi’s quarters, Doc Flamingo’s pink feathered friends are hung from the fronds of their very own Christmas palm tree.   IMG_1183IMG_1184So a Merry Christmas to all from Flamingo SantaIMG_1189And  Happy New Year from this fancifully feathered duo.IMG_1190And Mimi can now take a short rest and look forward to a visit with her son, daughter-in-law and two big boy grandsons up in Oregon in 3 weeks to celebrate more family holiday traditions.

In memory of my mother…

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My brother, daughter, and I at my Mother’s memorial service in 2005

Born Ava Margaret Kinnison in Willoughby Ohio in 1914, my mother led a remarkable life.

She left a sheltered life in a small Midwestern town at the age 18 and traveled across the country to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. At that time the University was of the edge of the desert and she enjoyed riding her horse every day. In addition to being an accomplished horse woman, she was a concert level pianist and soprano soloist. She finished her college career at the University of Chicago with a degree in Political Science in 1937. She was the only woman on the all-male debate team (my Mom NEVER lost an argument!) and lived in the International House because of her devotion to equality for all.

I was her second child, born in 1943, and days after my birth, my father went off to World War II as a Navy Lieutenant on an LST. Sadly, he had told my Mom before he left that he would not return to her after the war. And so, she raised my brother and me as a single parent from 1943 until 1961 when she finally remarried. She had always wanted to be a City Manager but those positions were not open to women in her day, so she became the best medical secretary that ever existed.

In her sixties she and her third husband bought and ran a 400 acre cattle ranch near Oakhurst CA (just miles from Yosemite). I can still see her saddled up and chasing cows! She was dedicated throughout her life to her faith and to being a leader in her church. She even took a trip around the world to visit Presbyterian missions in dozens of countries.

Although we had our struggles as a single-parent family, she instilled a deep faith in me, was a wonderful grandmother to my children, and set an example of what women can accomplish and be in this world.

She would have turned 100 this past year. I hope that in my next decades of life I can have a tenth of her courage to face life as it is.

My love affair with begonias

My love affair with double begonias (probably not their official name but then again I can’t claim even a pale green thumb) began as a child, admiring my mother’s array of these colorful, effusive blooms on our back patio in Southern California. Her magenta fuchias suspended like a troupe of dancing ballerinas ran a close second. Both flourished in the fog drenched atmosphere of La Jolla in the 1950s.

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So I’ve tempted the fates, risking that my plant-killing 2014-07-03 15.48.44tendencies could bring them all to a sudden and ignominious end and planted three of the tender blossoms on my balcony. I even laid one recently deceased bloom to rest in an abalone shell2014-07-03 15.49.42



Fortunately there are two marvelous gardens that I have visited where begonias and all other flora thrive. The first is the Mae E. Lauer Display House at the Mendocino Coast Botantical Gardens.DSC00871 I could take up residence there in a heartbeat, a potter’s bench my bed.

Karen Coast GardensMy photos from a 2008 visit highlight not only the begonias but the haunting beauty of the rest of the gardens which meander down to a spectacular view of the pounding surf of the Pacific that marks theOcean Northern California coast.










DSC00872The other begonia paradise is, of course, the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada.DSC00873DSC00871DSC00910 So if you’re in the neighborhood when I take my last breath, ask my family to surround my casket with mounds of begonia blooms. I like the orange ones the best!