The Millet Museum created the Millet's Pioneer Women exhibit to celebrate our own local women's contributions. As quoted by the CARMN project - "official" history all to frequently ignored the contribution of women. While the notion of the "hand that rocked the cradle ruling the world" is often citied, with respect to museum collections, the contextual material around the lives of girls and women is not generally collected. Domestic artifacts comprise a huge volume of community museum collections but the women who used them and gave them the patina of age are nowhere described or felt. Where women espouse "male" roles, as politicians and policy makers, they are captured in community histories. But all of those "nameless" and "faceless" women who are brides, mothers, sisters, aunts, teachers, nurses -- all of those ways in which women function in communities -- are frequently missing from the pages of history. The Exhibit begins to give these women their rightful play and makes them visible so that their stories can help us to understand the larger Canadian story.
Millet's Pioneer Women 2013
Mary "Helen" Goin
Mary “Helen” Willoughby Goin was born on February 26, 1886, in a little log cabin in Punkin Hollow on Upper Cane Creek near Stanton, Kentucky. She was the eighth of ten children of Moses and Polly Willoughby. The family left Kentucky in 1887, when Helen was one, and with her parents and siblings, travelled by train to Troy, Idaho.
Helen’s brother, Will, introduced Helen to Jeff and after a short courtship, they were married on January 20, 1903. Helen moved to her new husband’s farm and lived there until 1912. The newlyweds faced some tough times after losing their first two sons; however, Helen and Jeff welcomed many, many children after these tragedies. Mary, Nora, Thomas and Margaret were born in Idaho before the family moved in 1912. Robert (Dick) was the first child born on the farm. Edna, John, James, Helen and Miriam all joined the family in the following years. Within 23 years, Helen had twelve children!
In November, 1912, they moved to Millet with all of their livestock, machinery, furniture, and personal belongings by train. Also, Helen’s parents, Moses and Polly came along and stayed for a year. Jeff got the title to the farm on December 24, 1912. This land has been continuously farmed by the Goin family for over a hundred years. Life on the farm was a very busy time.
No one in the family can remember sitting down for a meal with just the immediate family. To feed everyone, there was a huge garden which had to be planted and tended to. The garden had all of the staples that a large family required. They picked hundreds of bushels of potatoes. There were carrots, beans, peas, turnips, lettuce, cabbage, and all of the rest.
During the 30’s, not only were there immediate family, extended family, hired men living in the house, but also the hobos from the train would be fed and given a bed for the night. As well, anyone who was travelling with horse and buggy or sleighs during the winter would have their horses housed in the barn, a good meal, and an overnight stay at the Goin’s. No one was ever turned away!
Helen and Jeff moved into a house in Millet next to where Leanne’s is today on main street. And the grandchildren started coming; 28 in all! Jeff passed away in 1947, and only got to see a few of his grandchildren. But Helen spent the rest of her life being the perfect grandma to all 28 grandchildren!
Enola Lee Howard was born to William Albert Howard and Catharine Alice (Childress) Howard, on March 28, 1887 in Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri. Enola was the eldest of the three children; her brother, William Leonard and sister, Minnie (Howard) Higginson. Enola spent much of her childhood near Harlem, Chouteau County, Montana. It is assumed that this is where she would have gone to school. Her family boarded a teacher at one time, and he taught her to play the organ.
Enola met William Leonard Gray in Montana, and married him on September 28, 1902. They soon decided to immigrate to Canada, and started their journey on October 11, 1902. On this trip, she learned to knit by lantern light. Enola and Leonard welcomed 14 children into their lives, 8 girls and 6 boys, from 1903 until 1929: Pheobe Alice, Enola Rosetta, Pearl Gertrude, Robert (Bob) Leonard, Minnie Adelaide (Addie), Howard Kepford, Bertha May, Ethel Gladys, William James (Jim), Thomas Albert (Bert), Joy Lee, Nellie Hope, David (Dave) Aaron, and Donald Kenneth, all joined the Gray family, and kept Enola and Leonard very busy parents and grandparents.
“Enola worked hard all her life, first as a farm girl in Montana, later in Millet as a farmwife and mother... In her early days on the Millet homestead, in addition to farm chores and all the work of bearing and raising children, she sold chickens and eggs for badly needed cash, and bartered beef for vegetables. Her occupations have, therefore, included laborer, shepherd, knitter, cook, seamstress, laundress, teacher and day-trader,” Tom Gray. Enola was also a part of the Women’s Institute and often rotated suppers with members.
On March 15, 1950, Enola lost Leonard. Her son, Jim, took over the family farm. Enola moved into a small, three-bedroom home in town, and lived there alone until her passing on August 24, 1963.
Winifred’s community involvement was closely tied to the Hillside school and the surrounding district. James and Winifred were both active members of the Hillside Social Club, and often participated in debates held around many districts of the Wetaskiwin area. Winifred was the secretary for the Hillside School District for many years, and was the pianist for Christmas concerts held at the School. She played the piano for United Church services held on Sunday afternoons at Hillside School, conducted by the minister of the Millet United Church. Winifred taught piano lessons to several of the neighbour children.
She was an active member of the United Farm Women of Alberta (U.F.W.A.). Winifred enjoyed being involved with the community because she was interested in politics, enjoyed participating in community debates, and socializing. Winifred’s life revolved around her family and the farm.
Annie Winifred Atkins was born on March 5, 1887, to parents William Henry Atkins and Annie Bryan Adams. Born in Dunmanway, County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland (then known as Southern Ireland), Winifred travelled to Canada in 1910, at the age of 23. When she arrived in Alberta, Winifred had the equivalent of a grade 10 education from Ireland, and received permission from the Alberta government to teach at Sion school. Then, she decided to attend Normal School for one year in Calgary. She eventually came to Millet and taught at West Liberty and later Hillside. She met James Harvey, who farmed at Hillside and was a member of the school board. Winifred married James Harvey on August 17, 1921, in Edmonton, Alberta. They had two daughters, Jean and Phyllis.
Before she was married, Winifred followed a teacher’s schedule. After marriage, she became a farmer’s wife, helping to raise chickens, milk cows and take care of the children. Winifred grew her own vegetables, which were later canned. Winifred and James raised animals for their meat. James hauled wheat into Wetaskiwin to be ground into flour. Winifred used the flour for baking.
Evelyn Agnes Johnson was born on July 19, 1917, at Veteran, Alberta. Evelyn was the second daughter of Elling Bertram Johnson and Anna Marie Anderson. Around the age of five, Evelyn, her older sister, Mabel, younger sister, Irma and their parents moved to a farm about four miles east of Millet, where her brother, Earland was born. Evelyn and her sisters attended grades one to nine at the Sparling School and traveled there by walking or riding bareback.
While growing up, Evelyn was an active member of the Vang Lutheran Church, the Vang Ladies Aid, and active in the surrounding community. For Evelyn, farm life was "just routine.” Evelyn helped with Vacation Bible school, taught Sunday school at the Vang church, and was a member of the church choir. Harvest time was particularly important for the families in the area. Everyone pitched in, helping with chores and feeding the threshing crews, in addition to caring for children and the home.
Evelyn was a founding member of and held several executive positions on the Golden Glow Women’sInstitute which was started in 1948. Through her involvement in W.I., Evelyn was able to enhance her sewing, canning and preserving skills, and won first place ribbons on most of her entries in the W.I. constituency handicraft competitions. Evelyn was a leader withthe Millet Mermaidens Girls Club (W.I.G.C.) for many years, teaching girls skills such as sewing, knitting, and most importantly, public speaking. Evelyn actively supported her children in their 4-H activities.
Evelyn married Anton Hegge on February 2, 1939, in Edmonton. Evelyn and Anton welcomed four children: Elnora, Alton, Edwin and Joanne. Following Anton's death in 1964, Evelyn was employed with Mullen Insurance. She married Jim Mullen in 1967, and welcomed Eddie, Phillip John, and Marilynn into the family and into their home in Millet. In 1974, Evelyn and Jim moved to Wetaskiwin. Evelyn was "coerced" into becoming the treasurer at the Seniors Centre. Also, Evelyn held several board positions and was head of the Catering Group for years. In 1984, Evelyn was honoured as Wetaskiwin’s Citizen of the year.
Evelyn continues to live in the home she shared with Jim, after his death in 1995. Her home has been, and continues to be, the center of many family gatherings throughout the year. Family and friends continue to be important to Evelyn, and she takes great pride in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Amalja Comm was born on November 18, 1896, in Ludwipol, Poland. She was the second in a family of six children. The First World War found Amalja’s family homeless, frightened, cold and hungry. They were deported to Siberia for political reasons. After the war, the family returned to the farm in Poland, but the farm was in ruins. What a daunting task it was to start over.
Amalja married Emil Kurtz on June 7, 1922. They worked on rebuilding the Kurtz farm which had been destroyed by WWI. When rumours began about another war, they decided to sell the farm, and immigrate to Canada. Their destination was Alberta. They immigrated on July 18, 1927, with their young daughters, Hildegard, and Antonnia. They travelled across Canada by train, and finally settled on a quarter of land eleven and a half miles west of Millet, in the Porto Bello district. Amalja and Emil welcomed a son, Walter, and four more daughters: Margaret, Elsie, Lily, and Eleanor, during their time on the farm.
Unbeknown to Emil and Amalja, starting to farm in a new land in 1930, turned out to be very poor timing. Those times became known as “The Great Depression”, and they were totally unaware that they would be experiencing the “Dirty Thirties”, which proved to be an ordeal for man and beast. Amalja worked alongside Emil on the farm, cutting out small roots with a grubbing hoe and pickaxe. She knew she had to be self-reliant in order to survive.
It was important for Amalja to grow in her faith and nurture her family in faith. Attending church was a big part of their social life and gave them an opportunity for an outing. Upon its formation, Amalja became involved with the Lutheran Church Women.