Listening to Edith Round of John Day, I'm reminded how wide the scope of opportunity has grown for women in the past four generations. And how women of today feel less able to accept life as satisfactory: They want it all.

Time was when a young gal left home by one of a handful of ways. She could become a teacher, a cook, a nurse or a wife. Edith began her own career path this way and after a year at Normal school, Edith taught for two years in North Dakota following her 1931 graduation from Powers Lake High School. During that time she watched her family's farm be blown away by duststorms. "My mother would set wet dish towels on the window sills when the dust storms came," she remembers, adding "they eventually had to sell and move."

Edith left for Montana with cousins and began cooking for the ranch hands on a big wheat ranch in Dutton. When she left there for Great Falls, she stayed at the YWCA until she landed a job as a maid. Still she was in step with her peers, as many of her friends worked as maids also. "We would chum around together on days off; see a movie, go shopping, take in the sights," she remembers.

When a chance meeting resulted in a letter of recommendation to Sister Germaine at Sacred Heart Hospital, Edith found herself beginning a new careers. She was accepted into the three year program, completed that and passed the state exam in Helena. In 1940, she started working as a special duty R.N.

Her first appointment was a temporary position on the Poplar Indian Reservation. The Sioux people were very friendly. There was a doctor on call, but she was the only medical personnel in the hospital. "I was supposed to have an orderly. He didn't come in though. I'd find him sitting on the porch in the morning. Guess he thought I'd call him if I needed help," she says.

Her next move was to Portland where she began work at the Veteran's Hospital. She was on duty on Dec. 07, 1941. "We'd have blackouts," she remembers. "The hospital had black-out curtains and the nurses went around to check patients with blue cellophane over the flashlights."

She had a fateful blind date while at that hospital. "There was a loggers convention in town and Hines Lumber out of Seneca sent Rex. Mutual friends brought several nurses and loggers together for dinner and dancing. One thing led to another, and Edith and Rex were married in 1942. Arrangements for housing in Seneca fell through, so the two moved to John Day. How did she feel about moving here? "I figured this is where I live, so I did," she says stoically.

She and Rex had three boys in three years. While she tried to stay close to home, she did work some special duty nursing. She also knitted sweaters and made khaki vests for the soldiers. "There was a USO here in town," she recalls "with coffee, doughnuts and conversation."

Tragedy struck in the late 40's when Rex was diagnosed with a brain tumor. "Doctor Jerry (Vanderflute) told me I couldn't count on him getting better. So I went back to work," Edith recalls. The boys, ages 8, 7, and 6, had five more years with their father before he died. How did she cope raising the three boys? "I just did; I fed them and loved them. That's all I could do," she replies.

She found work at the hospital run by Doctor Jerry and Dr. Martha Vanderflute.

She married Louis Round in 1959. They both good naturedly stick to the story that Louis won Edith in a poker game. "We did meet playing cards," she says, adding "that part is for sure." Her children supported the marriage, with her oldest son asking, "Do you think you could get him to marry you, Mom?"

Her work was not over though. She was hired by Grant County Court as the County Nurse. She held this position for 17 years dispensing advice, immunizations and tests. "Between my boys who had paper routes and my job as County nurse, I knew where everybody in town lived," she states.

She retired in 1976 and has since allowed her license to expire. "They can't call me back now, I've let my license run out." These days she is catching up on all thos activities she never had time for: reading, book clubs and travel.

Edith has lived a life with seemingly nor room to contemplate "fulfillment." Conditions were either satisfactory or not. It is this standard which sets yesterday's women appart from today's. As in so many instances, less is more.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

..... Return to Grant County, Oregon Home Page
..... Return to "A Place Called Oregon"