A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME
A shovel, an ax and a saw
My Mother, Margueritte Howell Boye carried a shovel, an ax, and a saw in the trunk of her car from the time she started driving at about 15 years of age until she had to give it up. You never know when you will come upon a tree across the road.
Shortly after Margueritte was born, her Father joined the U.S. Forest Service as Supervisor of the Selway National Forest in Idaho. The family lived in the small town of Kooskia, Idaho during the winter months. In the summer months, they took a pack train into the forest and lived in a camp with forest workers. Mother grew up learning to be responsible and take care of herself.
Mother and her parents moved to Spokane sometime before she finished elementary school and my Grandparents went into the hardware business. I suspect that my Grandparents wanted a better education for their daughter than was available in the tiny town of Kooskia.
Margueritte, Charles and Ica Howell
Pharmacist in the 1920s
By the time Mother was in high school they lived in a small town outside Spokane and she had to drive to school. Grandpa bought her a Model T Ford and that is when she began carrying the tools. She graduated from high school in about 1924 and attended what was then The State College of Washington in Pullman where she met my Father. He was a houseboy in her sorority. She graduated with a degree in Pharmacy. It was not as unusual as I thought; there were several women in her class. An interesting side note; she took classes from Professor George Watt who later wed my husband’s great aunt, Jerusha Mattoon.
The Business and Professional Women
She worked in the Pharmacy at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane for several years until my parents moved to Port Angeles, Washington where I was born. In Port Angeles she worked at Davidson and Hay Hospital. She loved “Davey” and Dr. Hay and spoke fondly of them all her life. She worked long hours there. Daddy would put me in his little green truck after dinner and take me to the hospital to visit with Mother for a while. Mother joined Business and Professional Women while she lived in Port Angeles. It was to become a vitally important part of her life (and mine). I have heard stories of the ladies staging a “sit-in” in the Office of the Washington State Governor over some social issue when ladies did not do such things. They were properly attired in hats and gloves. I have read the minutes of many conferences she attended in Washington and Oregon where they studied, debated, and created action plans for issues affecting working women and the welfare of children.
WWII: First Aid Attendant at the Grand Coulee Dam
In 1942 we moved to Grand Coulee, Washington, and my Father began working in Mother’s family’s hardware business. The plan was for Mother to work in a local drug store as a Pharmacist, but that did not last very long. World War II had broken out and Daddy enlisted even though he was way past the age when he would have had to go. He said that it was his duty to fight for his country. When all the able-bodied doctors and nurses were called to war Mother was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a First Aid Attendant on the Grand Coulee Dam project. She did everything from treating minor cuts and bruises to driving the ambulance including picking up the victims of fatal accidents on the job.
While Mother was the leader of my Girl Scout Troop we earned the Home Nursing merit badge. It must have made a deep impression on us because one of my friends went on to become a Professor of Nursing and to this day I know how to change a bed with the patient in it.
US Bureau of Reclamation Sanitary Inspector
When the War was over, she stayed with the USBR as a Sanitary Inspector. The USBR sent her to a special training program at the University of Washington for her role as a Sanitary Inspector. The government constructed labor camps at various locations when the Columbia Basin Project was being built. Most of them were a considerable distance from the USBR Headquarters in Ephrata where we lived. Mother would travel to the various camps and inspect the kitchens, restrooms, and living areas to ensure safe and sanitary living conditions for the workers.
When construction of the irrigation canals and other infrastructure was complete, Mother transferred to a clerical job working with the land records relating to the farms awarded to the many applicants. Oh, how I wish she were here today to help me understand the land records I encounter in genealogy research. Mother was not happiest in that job, but by that time my college expenses were looming, so she stuck it out. At this time she began working evenings and Saturday shifts as a Pharmacist at Ephrata Drug.
Mother retired from the USBR when she was eligible and the Columbia Basin Project was winding down and began working full time in drug stores. She must have obtained her Pharmacy Preceptor License at about this time. She especially loved working with the student interns and kept in touch with many of them for years afterward.
Community and church involvement has a long history in my family. My maternal Grandfather was the first Mayor of Grand Coulee, Washington, and my Father served on the City Council. My maternal Grandmother, Ica Lee Hahn Howell founded churches in the small towns where they lived. Mother carried on the family tradition serving as a Civilian Aircraft Observer during World War II, as President of the Washington State Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, District President of American Legion Auxiliary, Worthy Matron of Eastern Star, and other service and leadership positions.
Her leadership in Business and Professional Women enabled my parents to travel to Finland, Brazil, and Japan for international meetings. My Dad accompanied her on those trips and was able to visit Oslo, Norway, from whence his father had emigrated in 1876.
Mother continued to work in drugstores after her formal retirement. At that time, the law in Washington State prohibited drugstores from being open unless a Registered Pharmacist was on duty. To allow owners of stores in small towns around the Columbia Basin to have a day off, she would travel to their store and work there for the day. She was frequently driving alone on lonely country roads at night, so she obtained a Concealed Weapons Permit and carried a handgun. She knew how to use it. Her then 21-year-old grandson was startled, but not surprised, to learn that his Grandma was a “pistol-packing Mama”. While I was visiting in her retirement home one day she said, “Barbara, you have to take the gun home. They have found out that I have it”. On days off, she enjoyed playing golf. One day a rattlesnake made the mistake of getting between her ball and the hole. She dispatched it with her putter. She said, “It was just a little one”.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Mother made a conscious effort to master and practice the domestic arts. Before church every Sunday morning she baked a pie. Her butterscotch pecan pie with towering meringue was spectacular. She liked to try new things like whiskey pie (which my husband refused to eat) and Nesselrode pie. The whiskey pie has become a family joke. At Christmastime every year my son says, “Mom, don’t make whiskey pie”. She enjoyed knitting and needlepoint, but sewing defeated her. I think that skill skips a generation. My grandmother and I were the family seamstresses. Crocheting has skipped my generation. Mother knew how to clean house, but, wisely in later years, she hired a housekeeper.
I learned the virtues of honesty, hard work, and community service from the examples set by both my parents.