A scrapbook of whatever I'm making, collecting, or just obsessing about
at the moment.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Girl Grad #1: Emma Pinkham

The first girl graduate I want to feature is Emma Pinkham. I have known and been drawn to this image of her for a long time; it is appealing for its lovely simplicity and depth of expression as well as for the mysteriousness that surrounds the portraits of those whom it is utterly impossible to know. And yet I have come to know something of her, in the past few days.

Using Ancestry.com and Family Search, I have learned that she had a long life and, it appears, a happy one.

Emma was born in January 1885 in Orange Township, Ionia County, Michigan, the daughter of George and Dolley (Kennedy) Pinkham. She had an older brother and sister, and a younger brother and sister. In the 1900 census, the four oldest children are listed as "at school." In a city directory later, they will be recorded as lodging in town, rather than living on the family farm. This was a common way to help children attend school more easily.

She was 21 when she graduated from Ionia High School in 1906. I expect it would have been fairly common then to graduate at an older age than we do nowdays, first because one might begin school later, and also because one might have to take time off to help on the farm.

I haven't been able to find Emma on a 1910 census yet, so we can't be sure what she was doing at age 25, but soon we'll be able to make a good guess. The next time we see her is in 1915 when, on October 12, she marries Charles Alexander Balkwill. The marriage record doesn't reveal much about Mr. Balkwill, but we will shortly know more: on the 1920 census, we find that Charles and Emma, both now 35, are living in Grafton, Wisconsin: his profession is listed as "doctor" and Emma's as "nurse."  So now we have our glimpse into what occupied Emma after her graduation: she must have gone to nursing school.

That would not have surprised her fellow Seniors at Ionia High School. Louise Miske's "Girl Graduate" memory book records the official Class Prophecy (written by Adah Shelley as a series of visions): "Next a hospital, and bending over the beds was a soft-voiced, dark-haired nurse. She was my old classmate, Emma Pinkham."

The marriage is noted in the pages of the October 30, 1914 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association:  "CHARLES ALEXANDER BALKWILL, M. D., Grafton, Wis., to Miss Emma Marie Pinkham of Hillsdale, Mich., October 12."

And this gives us two more pieces of information: her middle name is Marie, if we didn't know it already, and she was living in Hillsdale at the time of her marriage. Hmm, Hillsdale was 104 miles south of Ionia. Perhaps she had attended nursing school nearby, or perhaps this was the location of one of her first nursing jobs. The "Official War History of Ozaukee Co. Wisconsin by R. B. Pixley" reveals that Dr. Balkwill was born in Cleveland, Ohio; studied medicine in London, Canada, and served his internship at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI.

The 1930 census reveals a delightful surprise: Charles and Emma, now both 45, are both listed, but now there is a third Balkwill present: Charles A. Balkwill, son, now 6 years old!

Of the remaining years of Emma's life, I have not yet uncovered anything. But she does have a long one: she dies at age 89, in March 1974. Her son Charles Jr. continues to live in Grafton, WI. until his death. I was much surprised, on searching for more information about him, that he only died last month! How odd that I should have missed him by so little... There is a lovely article celebrating his life on the Mueller Funeral Home website. We learn that Emma's son was a photographer, and studied with the famous Ansel Adams. He also loved rummage sales, ham radio operation, and steam engine locomotives. He and his wife Mildred were married for 64 years, had two children, and then grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Emma's was the first life I have ever researched using genealogical methods; I'm sure she had her share of sadness in the world, but I'm glad her unfolding story was filled with so much happy news.

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