Edith Griswold was the 12th of 14 children born to Worthington (b. 2/14/1842; d. 10/11/12) and Fondelia (b. 1/30/1843; d. 7/7/30) Griswold. The Griswolds were a prominent family which could trace its American ancestry from 1639. As her younger brother and sister died in infancy, Edith grew up as the “baby” in the family. She was baptized on February 4, 1885.
Worthington Griswold owned considerable land around the family home in Worthington where, in addition to being a civil engineer and surveyor, he served as a member of the Board of Education, as Mayor, and as Justice of the Peace.
Edith rarely spoke of her early years, but letters reflect a normal childhood. An undated note from her Sister Bessie (b. 7/6/1874) promised: We will be loving sisters here after. And make up and we will not have any more fuses.” A 1891 letter written by her Sister Ruth (b. 8/15/1876), mentioned that Edith read a great deal. She was not rebellious. Her Aunt Maggie wrote to compliment her for doing well in school as she: “had not had a whipping yet.” As early as 1888, she had begun corresponding with family members – a habit she maintained for life. During several of her summer vacations, she visited her Uncle Joe and Aunt Maggie Jacobs and seven cousins in Gambier, Ohio. She was always welcome, her Aunt writing: “I guess we can find enough to eat; we’ll try it any way. Uncle Joe can kill a sheep once in a while, or a cow if a sheep ain’t big enough.” In 1894, her mother wrote:
“I hope you are having a lovely time. I am sure you will enjoy the trip and visit. You must run about and play all you can – and not sit and read. You will soon have to go to school again and will need to play all you can now. You must be helpful around the house and keep yourself neat and clean all the time and your things in place.”
Edith graduated from High School in 1901 and continued living at the family home. She taught in the community. There are references to her being at school in correspondence in 1901, ’02, and ’03 when a friend asked, “do you still have teacher’s meetings?” Another of her friends commented: ” . . . how proud you must be to get some “all your own” money for Christmas.”
Edith was courted by a young man named Fred Crowner of whom her family approved, but who Edith tried to discourage. Her Cousin Hattie Jacobs advised her:
“Don’t let your pity or you “sorry you hurt him” get the better of your judgment. If I thought you loved him I would not say anything – but I think you do not – and I think you would not be happy for very long with him – he is too narrow minded and has been babyed too much at home until there is only one way for everything and that is Crowner’s way. I like Fred – you know that – but I still would hate to see any of my relatives sacrificed there. That is what I’d consider it to be – nothing less . . . Don’t sacrifice yourself for your family. It is not your duty – and they have no right to expect it. It is not only cruel, but wicked to do so.”
Edith was more interested in continuing her education. Her brother, Howard (b. 5/1/1878), lived in Oakland, California, which he described as: ” . . . a rather queer place, and for a city its size is very quiet – a bedroom for San Francisco.” She asked him if she could visit and stay on if accepted by the State University at Berkeley. Howard replied:
“I think that if you can get out here, we could manage it so that you could get through a year and perhaps two of them if you could stay away from Worthington that long.
“The trip out here is well worth the cost . . . and then you could miss one of the Ohio winters and still have a year at the University.
“I do not know much about the C. U. except that it is in the northern part of Oakland, Berkeley as it is called, and that it is conducted more on endowments than by state taxation. I believe Mrs. Hearst stands most of the expenses of the institution.
“There are not as many or as fine buildings as at the O. S. U. but that does not make the university less efficient. There are more than 4,000 students there this year and by far the greater part of these are young ladies which statistics certainly look well for the university.
“I do not want to try to induce you to go away from Worthington nor do I want to be held responsible for having you come here. I just merely make the suggestion. It is for you and the folks at home to decide what is best.”
Howard went on to assure her the trip could be made, “for about $75,” and that her expenses would, “hardly be less than $35 per month.” She applied and, on June 21, 1903, was advised that she had been accepted as a student at the University. With Howard’s assurances of help with the expenses, she left for Berkeley where she registered as a freshman on August 17. She was 19. Her mother wrote:
“Have you seen the new Greek style theatre at the California University? I am so glad for you dear, that everything is so pleasant for you – the school, and boarding-place too. You have many things to be thankful for . . . I think there can be no other city with so many attractions as San
Francisco. I am hoping that you and Howard will both be benefited in mind and body. Try to make things as cheerful as you can for him and take good care of yourself. I miss you dreadfully, but I don’t want you “to come back in a few months” if it is best for you to stay – and I think it is. I have always been so sorry the other girls could not go away to School or College – and now that you have the opportunity I would not be so selfish as to let you come back if you can go on through the course – not for anything in the world.”
Edith made her first school home with Howard at 828 15th Street in Oakland and commuted to school by streetcar. Her 1903 diary entries reflect a typical college life: problems with Greek, cutting an occasional class, concern over her weight (which was between 122 & 125 stripped), an active social life with plays, walks, and a fairly steady caller named Alec Pulcifer, with other interests as well, e.g., in September, 1903, she wrote:
“I’ve been having a frivolous time lately. Last night we went rowing on the estuary. I had never met either of the boys, but I had a good time all the same. It was terribly hot in the daytime but it was sunset before we got started and neither too hot nor too cool. Sometimes the sunset colors are perfectly gorgeous, but last night they were soft and delicate, pink and lavender, blue, yellow, gray and after a while, all gray with little stars. You can’t imagine how pleasant it was. The harbor was just as smooth as could be, and all around, the big ships with the tide lapping against them. We walked the two miles home and got here about twelve o’clock. Herbert Breed and I got here first and sat down on the steps to wait for the others. I like him. He is a U. C. and Hastings Law College graduate about 25 years old – way up in society and as ugly as possible. He is very religious, genuine, and he has manners like Miles has. When the others came, I think the boys would have stayed a few hours longer if Mildred hadn’t sent them home. She has the most dexterous way of doing such things . . .”
In the same letter, she makes the first mention of her husband-to-be:
[Mr. Ligda] . . . really amuses me. He accidentally (?) happened to be standing by North Hall steps when I came away from Greek this P. M. When I was about half way down to the bridge he must have remembered that there was no use in his staying there all alone all day and so he came along after me and when he learned that I was going on down town, he accidentally forgot to get off at 33rd himself. Today he asked me how I was getting along with math and when I said I found it getting rather difficult, he said, “I guess I have to give you some lessons in that, huh?” (You ought to hear his accent, it is awfully droll). That was just what I had wished I knew him well enough to ask him to do when I heard that he was considered the best math coach at Berkeley but I didn’t care to when I couldn’t offer to pay him. So I accepted with alacrity – the whole thing amusing me so much. I can’t quite understand why he takes any interest in me. He is so big and jolly and kindhearted that he is very popular and while, of course, I am dressed well enough, there are lots of girls who are “death swells” who like him, and his sister wouldn’t be seen in the streets in the kind of clothes that seem to me correct enough. On the whole, I think it must be because we see so much of each other anyway that it is more convenient to know me than not.”
Edith was sometimes discouraged with the difficulties her courses presented. In November, her mother wrote:
“I do not think you have any cause to feel despondent over your lack of progress at school. I think too you exaggerate the situation. You have been there but a few months with everything new and strange and you were out of the habit of study. I am sure it will come to you. You should not expect to do so much all at once. You not only had to grow accustomed to new surroundings, but fight homesickness as well which you did bravely, my dear. I marvel, not at your want of progress, but how well you have done and borne it all. I am proud of you, my daughter, and I hope you will be able to stay.”
Despite her mother’s assurances, it is clear from a reflective diary entry on December 31 that she was somewhat troubled:
“Feel a little homesick as midnight draws near. Wish I could see all the old friends this little book tells me of. How many failures I have made this year! How terribly I have wroned (sp) one man! How many good opportunities I have wasted! How this little book shows forth the shallowness and worthlessness of my interests.”
In 1904, Howard married and Edith stayed for a while with her Sister Mary. She considered leaving school to reduce Howard’s expenses. Her mother advised against it:
“Dear child, don’t miss the opportunity – if it is possible to hold on. You are the only one of the girls who has had the chance, and we must try to manage in some way to help Howard bear the expense. It can never come to you again. I never had the chance myself and I would have done anything to give a good education to each and all of you – so would your father. I am sure Howard is willing and able to help you. Don’t give up. Howard is honorable enough to tell you if he really cannot afford it. Until he does, I would not worry about it. There is time enough to think of repaying when your College days are over.”
She later moved to 673 33rd Street, Oakland – next door to the Ligdas who were then living at 675 33rd Street. The move provided greater opportunity of seeing Paul Ligda, then 30 and a senior at the University. There is an entry in her diary for 3/31/04: “Talked with Mr. Ligda.” It is followed by a 4/2 entry: “Intro to Paul Ligda,” and a 4/8 entry: “Went out with Mr. Ligda.”
She began sharing street car rides to the University. On 4/12, Edith notes: “Came back from U. on same car w. Mr. L. He offered to coach me in math.” On 4/13: “Went out on same car w. Mr. L. by a peculiar coincidence. Said he would see the math reader.” On 4/14: “Went out to col. w. Mr. L. Coaching lesson at 1-3. Cut math. Climbed Grizzly Peak at 4.” On 4/22: “Climbed part way up Grizzly w. Mr. L.” The math lessons continued as did the cuts, e.g., on 5/2: “P. L. came over and spent evening on doorsteps. Cut math, hygiene, and English.”
Edith’s frequent mention of Paul certainly reflects more than a casual interest in him as does her recording of what were insignificant events, e.g., introducing, “P. L. to Helen,” on 5/3, being, “introduced to Vladimer L.,” on 5/6, and, on 5/12: “P. L. on same car, but did not see me.”
On May 11, Edith advised that: “Howard decided I had better go to Walla Walla,” to spend the summer with her sister, Mary (b. 6/25/1865), and brother-in-law, Sherrard Coleman. Paul was to graduate on 5/17/04, an event preceded by what Edith recorded as the Ligdas: “all night jamboree.” She left for the Walla Walla on May 14, taking with her a picture of Paul.
Edith made no entries in her diary about Paul or her feelings toward him throughout the summer, but they did begin their long correspondence, much of which reflected their growing feelings of warmth towards each other.
There was certainly no loss of interest in Edith by Paul, for on the day she returned from Walla Walla, she noted: “Landed in Frisco. Mr. Ligda called.” She moved to 2226 Chapel Street, Berkeley where she shared space with three other coeds. There are references to “gentlemen callers,” but specific mention of Paul’s calls on 8/18, 9/11, 11/21, 11/22, 11/25, and 12/4. On 12/6: “Library with Mr. L.” An additional call is noted on 1/2/05.
On January 22: “Paul came a little later,” after his return from church. On 1/23, she notes: “Cope & Paul L. called and collided! P. is not coming anymore!?” Whatever discouragement he suffered from meeting another caller, Paul called again on 1/25, but on 1/27, the entry is: “Paul Ligda in evening. “Farewell, and if forever !”” Edith makes no further entries after 1/29, so we can only guess at the problem, but their relationship cooled, and in May, 1905, Edith returned to her home in Worthington for the summer where Fred Crowner resumed his visits. Edith continued a friendly and cordial correspondence with Paul.
When Edith returned to Berkeley for her junior year, she lived in the Hathotle Club, 2245 Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley. Paul was then working in his family’s business in San Rafael. They saw each other from time to time. Her relationship with Fred died a predictable and not particularly lamentable death. On 12/18/05, her brother-in-law wrote:
“By the way, little sister, you will forgive, will you not, if I break a piece of news to you that may drive the roses from your cheeks, the sparkle from your eyes, and blight your whole future life ect., ect.,? Well Fred – our Fred – your Fred – is engaged to Miss Jenny Wilson and the deed is property of the public now. But be brave and endeavor to survive the blow if possible.
“There are other good fish in the sea. Tra la! There are other good fish in the sea!”
The great earthquake and fire apparently caused Edith no particular concern although her mother wrote in June, 1906:
“Have not heard from Howard but once since the earthquake . . . I suppose he is very busy. There must be a world of work to do there now. It seems like foolishness to try to rebuild the city, but I suppose they will – in time. Mary Reston lost her dearly loved doll in the earthquake . . . they slept out in tents the night after the quake.”
At the close of the 1905-06 school year, Edith returned to Worthington after a stop in Fort Leavenworth to visit her sister and brother-in law. She did not return for her senior year. In May, Paul took a job in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two began a remarkable exchange of correspondence ending in Paul’s proposal of marriage, Edith’s acceptance, a cancellation of that acceptance after her family convinced her of a duty to care for her mother, and a next-day decision to again accept. Edith took the train to Las Vegas and reported to her sister on 12/8/06: “I reached here Tuesday and we were married that afternoon.”
The Ligda’s first home was in a camp near a drilling site outside Las Vegas. None of the buildings were permanent and many of the men working the mine lived in tents. She did not mind. In a matter-of-fact manner, she reported:
“We are cut off by washouts and our mail all comes in by way of S. F., some by stage. They hope to have the RR here by 4/1. We have an occasional shooting scrape when one of the men drinks too much, but those things come to be a matter of course in a place like this.”
On Easter, 1907, she wrote her sister;
“Fortunately we will most likely be finished with the tunnel inside of 3 months more, when we can go back to Oakland and be civilized again. I hate to think of leaving here all the same. It’s been an ideal place for a honeymoon and I have been awfully happy here.”
As it turned out, Edith was pregnant. She and Paul decided it would be best if she returned to Oakland and stayed with his mother at 675 33rd Street until Paul either completed the mine or interrupted the work during the summer heat. She made the move in May, 1907 and was welcomed somewhat coolly by her mother-in-law, Emilie Ligda, and her sister-in-law, Valentine, but more warmly by her brother-in-law, Pete, who referred to her as: “the little University girl – a jewel.” Edith did not complain and, in fact, wrote Paul that all had been good to her.
When Paul joined her (without having completed the mine), they moved to a rented home on 5th Street in San Rafael. As the time grew near, her mother grew anxious:
“Oh my darling, I wish I could be with you to take care of you! Take care of yourself – and don’t allow your work to tire you. That is the all-important point about going to a hospital.”
Their first son, Victor Worthington, was born on September 17. Edith’s mother was elated:
“Your news came last night. You dear, brave, little girl. I am so thankful that you are through and safely through, for no matter, with how bright and have a hope, a woman goes to her agony, there is always the risk and you were so far away from us all. I could not help but feel very, very anxious . . . You must have got along well to be able to write a note in two hours time, but you omitted to say whether the little newcomer was a boy or a girl . . . Don’t be discouraged by the poor baby’s looks. Some of the homeliest ones make the finest looking men and women. It is too soon to judge . . .”
Shortly after Victor was born, Paul had to return to Las Vegas to complete the mine. In his absence, his Brother Alec suffered a seizure and, at the family’s insistence, was moved in with Edith who cared for him. Her mother was alarmed:
“I don’t see how you can take care of a sick man, besides that of your baby. I am afraid it will be too much for you and that you will break down . . . You have always had more on your young shoulders than they ought to have had. Take good care of yourself and act with lots of good sense.”
Edith took on the task with genuine concern and kindness. It certainly impressed the Ligdas. Pete wrote:
“Edith is coming over to have Thanksgiving dinner . . . but just imagine the fun with Olga Alexine and the kid . . . Edith has come much closer to Mama . . . Mama and Valentine have changed in their disposition . . . Before they never wasted much love on her.”
Paul returned from Las Vegas in December. Their second child, Mary Barbara, was born on August 12, 1909. Her mother was glad it was a girl: “They are lots more comfort than boys after they are grown. May she be a comfort to you all her life long.” In November, after an absence of over two years, Edith took the two children to Worthington for a visit with her family. She remained through the holidays returning in January, 1910 to a house Paul had rented at 563 E. 24th Street in Oakland. They lived there until later that year, then moved to another rented house at 2473 Prince Street in Berkeley where their third child, Theodore Paul, was born on January 28, 1912. Her Sister Betty wrote:
“We are rejoicing with you . . . how excited all the children must be and how proud Victor to have a little brother. There is nothing so dear and charming as a little baby. You will be busier than ever, but I know you realize the fun you are having too.”
The collapse of the Ligda family business early in 1912 put Paul out of work and the family in serious financial difficulties. Pete, who had been active in that business the longest, and the father of a five month old daughter, went to Southern California in the hopes of beginning another business – essentially abandoning his family. Edith feared Paul might do likewise and expressed her feelings to her husband in a letter of Sept. 15, 1912, saying she felt the only reason he did not leave was the children.
Her fears were unfounded. Paul, after unsuccessfully looking for work near home, took what work he could find anywhere, sending all he could to his wife, who tackled the job of raising the children with the little help he could provide between jobs. Her mother commented: “I believe Paul is the best of sons-in-law.” Her Sister Mary wrote:
“I think Paul is doing splendidly. It takes courage and manliness to do what he is doing and I hope, dear sister things will soon pick up fine with you and you will soon be together again.”
On October 11, 1912, her father died at home in Worthington. His death was expected as he had been ill for some time, but the loss added to Edith’s misery. She sent the children to stay with relatives for two weeks and spent some time alone. She could not afford the trip to Ohio for the funeral. Her mother did travel to California a few months later reporting that: “Edith has very little, but is happy as a bird all day long. She has good sense and judgment.” During her visit, her mother suggested they buy a ranch with enough room for her. After returning to Ohio, she wrote on several occasions promoting the idea. The Ligdas never accepted. She was later to suggest that when Paul was out of a job:
“Sell all your furniture and come here. I want you and need you. Paul could find employment here. You could have the rooms on the east side of the hall and just as much room as you want. There is plenty of furniture, such as it is. It would be so nice to have you here. I am getting old and it is not likely I shall see you again unless you do come.”
In 1913, Paul and Edith moved to a bigger rented house at 2717 Russell Street, Berkeley at the corner of Cherry. There, Edith took work caring for children, and renting rooms in the home. Her mother was initially upset, writing: “Boarders: I would rather send you all you can make on the boarders. You are doing yourself and family a gross injustice.” But she could not afford to help and later wrote:
“I hope you are getting a good income from your rented rooms . . . Keep bright and cheerful for the sake of your husband and children, but in so doing all you can for them, don’t neglect to take all the care possible of your own health and strength remembering how much both mean to them.”
In 1916, Paul found work near home and the family was reunited. However, they continued to supplement their income by taking in boarders- particularly children, mostly from broken homes or wards of the court. In 1919, Edith wrote of getting $65/month from three boarders, the Watermans, who cost her $35/month to feed. In 1920, she said she cleared $30 – $40/month. There were problems. For example, she complained of one departing family:
“It makes me a little provoked to come across so many of my things which they calmly took with them when they moved: dishes, utensils, my pet paring knife, and a can opener (which I have used ever since I started housekeeping because it just suited me), a crib sheet, pencils, a large white cotton blanket, a book or two, and toys. Decidedly peculiar people . . .”
Her mother lamented Edith’s role and worried about her health, e.g., “You are always so brave and cheerful – too bad that you should have to work so hard.” Edith responded:
” . . . as long as Paul is able to work and make enough to support us, I do not feel I have any right or reason to complain. He is very good to me and we have the necessities.”
In November, 1919, the family moved to another rented house at 467 Fairmont Street in Oakland where they were to live for five years. On January 10, 1920, their last child, Myron Herbert, was born. Edith came from a family where the females greatly outnumbered the males. She wrote her mother: “Think of me having three boys! It beats all Griswold records, doesn’t it?” Shortly after, she had to care for her mother-in-law. Her mother observed:
“It is too bad about Mrs. Ligda for I know she must be hard to take care of. You ought not to be obliged to do it. Where are her own daughters? I know how gladly and willingly you will care for anyone who is suffering, but you have so many cares and you cannot have regained your strength after the baby’s birth.”
Toward the end of the year, the last of the boarders left and, with Paul now working as a teacher and a youngster to care for, Edith wrote: “I am taking a resolution to swear off boarders. There’s no money in it and they certainly are a blight on family life.” But she weakened and accepted the Waterman Family, members of which were to remain with her as boarders for years. She longed to own a house: “I wish I could persuade Paul to buy some sort of a little shack of our own, but he will not.” Home ownership was one of the few things on which Edith and Paul never agreed. From time to time and whenever they had to move, Edith was able to talk to him about it. On March 19, 1922, she wrote:
“We have been househunting hopelessly. I hate moving anyway. Paul astonished me last Sunday after we had been hunting all over the city by saying all of a sudden that maybe we better buy a house. I have always wanted to but Paul absolutely refused. The rent we have paid in 15 years would have bought a pretty good house. I rather hesitate to do it now partly because my youthful enthusiasm is gone and partly because I would be told, “I told you so,” if anything went wrong. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We don’t seem to have much money anyway.”
With Victor and Barbara in high school and Paul working on a book, Edith began a book too – about children – at night, “so as not to neglect the house and family.” In July, 1922, she reported to her mother: ” . . . it probably will never be published, but it has done me good to write it. I shall dedicate it to you because I love and honor you so much . . .”
During this same period, she took an active role in attempts to help Paul’s niece, Olga Donsky, get out of Russia and the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. She wrote constantly to relief organizations while attempting to influence her brother-in-law, Col. Sherrard Coleman, to help in the transfer of funds to pay for Olga’s fare home. Her efforts failed, but were indicative of her concern for the Ligda Family.
Edith had a deep love and concern for her mother. As her mother aged, she regularly asked Edith to return to Worthington to visit. Edith longed to do so, but could not afford the trip. Her anguish over her inability to make the trip is captured in a letter of September 1, 1923:
“It is very hard to answer your letter, for I should not like you to know how deeply your lack of understanding and deliberate coldness have hurt me; and yet if I let it pass without answering you will think I did not care, and that may make you feel worse. Whatever will make you happy is what I want, and I never had the slightest notion that you, who have been in my heart the one comfort and symbol of love and understanding through all these long twenty years of separation whose name I have called on in every extremity of pain or sorrow or trouble, could misunderstand my shrinking from such a parting as must follow any visit home I might make in my present circumstances. My separation from you has been an aching wound, a daily grief that has spoiled my pleasure in my home and children but I have always thought that I was sparing you distress by not dwelling on it; never dreamed that I could not count on your knowing without being told that I longed to see you always. If I could come back at any time, I would wish to come, but in the present circumstance it would be like having an amputated hand put on merely to go through the ordeal of losing it again. At any rate that is the way I have solaced myself for not being able to come; I suppose that if it were made feasible for me to take the trip I should pack up with alacrity and come.
“But I did not have any choice about coming. What you call my “decision” is more of a resignation to necessity. You do not seem to understand how poor we are. We have not a penny of insurance or any property except a lot of broken furniture which might bring $50, probably less, at a sale. Each of the children has a $50 Liberty Bond, mostly representing their own earnings or gifts from people outside the family. We have as a result of Paul’s summer work about $300 in the savings bank. This is all that stands between us and utter destitution. Paul has a good position, but he is 51 years old and I am nearly 40. Neither of us is as strong or as healthy as we used to be, and we have four children to raise and educate. Sickness or death would mean utter calamity, and old age offers a certainty of destitution unless we can get ahead now, or unless Paul’s book should bring in a little money, it is hardly likely that they will pay much. It would cost all that we have for me to make the trip, and that without any provision for any one to take care of the family at home. Barbara is barely fourteen, she is working hard at school, and the house work that keeps an experienced grown woman busy most of the day would be too much for her. Paul is trying to do three men’s work at once – he gets up at 5 and works till 10 at night on his book beside teaching and taking daily trips to S. F. to superintend the building there. It would be very discouraging to him to have me away. Victor and Theo need care and watchfulness. Vic might get to running around at nights, and Ted is very irresponsible and unreliable. I would have to bring Herbert with me. He is a rough and noisy child and I suppose somewhat spoiled. He would soon wear out his welcome!
“You see, I have duties here. I never forget all that You have done for me, but I believe that the right way for each generation to pay its debt to its parents is by equal devotion to its children. It is the only way one can pay. If I have failed you it is not in love nor is it in effort to come to you. I have tried very hard indeed to earn enough money that I would feel I had a right to use for my own pleasure and come to see you, but I have not succeeded. I seem not to be much of a success at anything. I am sorry.”
Her mother did not reply promptly so on October 4, Edith wrote again:
“I had hoped to hear from you before this – do please write and make me happy again. The thought of your love and sympathy has always meant so much to me, every hour of the day, that it is a very dreadful thing one of the worse that has happened to me – to have you doubt or turn against me. I am very sorry if anything I said or wrote you displeased you in any way, but l, awkward as I am in expressing myself, it is still incredible to me that you could believe that there was any lack of love behind my expressions. I suppose I was foolish to expect you to know all I felt without being told, but so often it would have meant burdening you with my worries and sorrows to tell you how I depended on you in spirit. If I could not do anything active to be a help to you, I thought I could at least not add to your troubles. Whenever I have been in need or pain or anxiety, I have reminded myself of your courage and endurance and sacrifice for us children, and though I could not of course do as well as you I always tried to follow your example and be as much like you as possible. I would not feel that my life has been a failure if my children could feel the respect and admiration for me that I have always felt for you. And so with your love for me – to remember the old days, your holding me and singing the old songs that I shall never forget – just remembering has been all that I have had of the dearest thing in the world to me, for so many years. I still can’t believe you could be unaware of this – and yet if you had any idea of how cruelly you are punishing me through my love for you, you could not have the heart to do it. So I am in a terrible state of mind – I have to carry on, and do my duty by my family, but my heart is just about broken and I shall never be the same again as before this happened, and all so needless, so unfounded on any reality!
“I keep reminding myself that you are not to be troubled and must be considered, but this thing is too dreadful to accept without a struggle. I wouldn’t meaningly hurt you for all the world. I am just trying to make you see that there is no real reason for doubting me, because I believe it would make you happier to know my love is true, constant, and will never change. It is even strong enough to accept your condemnations without protest if that would make you happier; but I can’t believe that! Why is it that you can doubt me? I have never been able to come home again. I had no choice. Each time you have written that you are getting old and will soon die and want me to come – you call that “teasing me to come” – it has been like a knife in my heart – it has cost me hours of painful weeping in the night, and then after days of severe headache, my head aches more often than not nowadays.
“I love you, no matter what happens. I shall always love you. My love for you is a part of me, an immortal part . . . Please write. I can’t stand it much longer this way.”
Her mother did respond; and the correspondence between mother and daughter continued with no further suggestions Edith come to Ohio.
In 1924, the family again moved – to 386 Alcatraz Avenue in Oakland. They were there for about a year. On February 1, 1925, they moved into a large rented home at 6165 Chabot Road in Oakland which Edith described as a “ruined mansion.” The home had a large yard, the front dominated by a large magnolia tree with fruit trees in each of the side yards and a back boundary marked by a creek. The house itself was two stories with a large living room, dining room, kitchen, pantry and wash room on the main floor along with an area which could be easily converted into a separate apartment; and the bedrooms on the second floor. The front entrance was marked by a rose covered porte-cochere. There were balconies off both floors. Edith loved the place:
” . . . it is a delightful place. I would like to spend all my working time outside, but don’t manage it more than about one day a week, or less . . . How I wish you could see [the yard]. The flowers are simply lovely. There are countless roses in bloom now, also snowballs, Japanese iris, locust trees and many other things. There are big beds of a pink flower and an orange and brown that I haven’t found the name of yet. The cherries are beginning to get some color and will soon be ready to pick if we can devise a way of reaching them. Also a few of the currants are turning red.”
As her children grew and Paul’s teaching position became secure, Edith found more time for herself. In the summer of 1927, she returned to the University of California for the summer session, carrying eight units:
“It was a wonderful experience to get out into the world again after being secluded at home for so long. I made several real friends, and enjoyed the acquaintance of ever so many more. Victor and I had lunch together every day, and that was a treat too. I have not seen much of him since he started to go to college, and I have had younger children to take up my time.”
She was paid for some of the writing she did. That helped create an ever improving financial situation. Edith was able to make regular contributions to her mother whose income was limited. In 1928, she made the long requested visit to her mother and the family, taking Herb with her. Later that year, they bought their first automobile – a 1923 Ford Coupe, which they had for about three months before it was involved in a collision which cost about as much as the car. Motoring added a new dimension to their lives:
“We have had many trips in our auto and seen many interesting things: Carmel Mission in Carmel, Mission Delores in S. F., the art exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, Drakes Bay where Sir Francis Drake landed so long ago, many bits of ocean beach where we have had our lunches, and last Sunday we went to Golden Gate Park . . . We saw the seals in the aquarium, the natural history museum, and Japanese Tea Garden.”
Barbara wrecked the car in 1930. The Ligdas promptly replaced the Ford with a used Buick Sedan and continued their trips, once venturing across the border to Tijuana.
She did have trouble with Ted who was cited by the Juvenile Authorities. Her mother commented:
“I am sorry dear, that Ted makes you so much trouble. Try to be as patient with him as you can. I am sure, with such a mother, he will come out all right and, it seems as if any boy must have bad times at some stage of life. It is hard on you . . . and God will lift the burden.”
Ted, after graduating from high school in 1929, left home. Edith was never to feel comfortable with Ted’s life style.
With Herb still in grade school, she was active in the Parent-Teacher Association, serving as the Chabot PTA’s first President in 1930. On July 7 of that year, her mother died and Edith went to Worthington for the funeral. Her mother had sold most of the family property and distributed the proceeds among her sons, but she left the family house to her six surviving daughters, not to be sold as long as any of them wished to live there. Her Sister Ruth lived in the home; it was not sold in Edith’s lifetime.
Edith probably had never felt more fulfilled and satisfied than she did at this point in her life. She had faced the lean years and survived – even prospered and grew. She had invested all her energy into the support of her husband and the task of raising their children. Now, despite the National Depression, they were financially secure. Their three eldest children were no longer financially dependent. It appeared they were to be rewarded for their many sacrifices.
It was not to be. On June 22, 1932, returning from a trip to the Pacific Northwest, Paul lost control of their automobile and it plunged over an embankment. Paul and Edith were both seriously injured, but she managed to crawl to the road and summon help. Both were hospitalized. Edith recovered from her injuries, but Paul did not. He was taken to Merritt Hospital in Oakland where he died on August 6, 1932. Edith was demoralized and suffered from a deep depression. On August 30, she wrote that the physical effects of the wreck were over, but that death would have helped her avoid the loneliness as well as the necessity of attempting to make a living in “times such as these.” She felt abandoned and that no one except Herb needed her:
“It is the thinking that maybe I should have done this and that or not the other that is about driving me crazy now. There didn’t seem to be anybody that both had mature judgment and really personally cared to help me – And there isn’t now either.”
Her daughter-in-law, Caroline, remembers her spending much of her time reading in bed while letting Herb fend for himself. Her sister-in-law, Valentine, despite the cool relationship Edith had with her, tried to visit and help cheer her, but tired of her efforts after several years with no real improvement. Her children helped meet living expenses. Barbara sent $35/month from her salary as a teacher. Victor, after his marriage, and Ted, after the failure of his first marriage, returned to live at Chabot Road, and contributed to their mother’s support.
Edith again supplemented her income by renting rooms in the large house. Grace, Helen, and Tom Waterman continued to sublet the first floor apartments. She later took work caring for an older woman who died in 1942. With the War creating a manpower shortage, Edith found a civil service job as a censor which she held for the duration. She once observed: “Men away from home – such letters as I read now – you would not like to know the horrors of sin and cruelty and obscenity I peruse daily. I would not have believed people could write such things so shamelessly.”
Edith’s love of her work slowly drew her out of her depression. She maintained an active correspondence with Herb and Evelyn and with Victor while they were away during the War. In their absence, she was unable to keep her house in good repair or maintain the gardens which slowly returned to their natural state. The owners, worried over the declining value of their property, accepted an offer to purchase from a couple who wanted to restore the house to its original glory. The Court granted the owners request for an eviction petition on February 25, 1944. Edith had 60 days to move.
Edith looked for a satisfactory rental with no success in the tight wartime rental market. Barbara suggested she buy a house instead. She felt she could do it by using her savings with a little financial help from her children. Herb, Barbara, and Victor assured her they would provide that help if necessary. Once Edith decided to buy, Ted helped her look. Together, they found 2132 Haste Street in Berkeley, a two story home with three bedrooms and a bath upstairs; and a kitchen, living and dining room downstairs. The purchase price was $3,700. Edith paid $1,200 down. She described the only home she ever owned as: “ . . . a dingy-looking house in a not-very-nice neighborhood, but not bad inside.” It was to be her home for the rest of her life.
Edith’s job as a censor was eliminated when the War ended. She then took work with the Weather Bureau at the San Francisco Airport and later at Mills Field. She rose to a supervisory position. She continued employment into 1950 when she retired.
Edith strongly disapproved of divorce, so was disappointed in Ted’s multiple marriages as well as Victor’s divorce and what she perceived as the abandonment of his children. She had warmer feelings for Barbara and Herb, but each family was far removed from Berkeley: Barbara in the Sierras and Herb in Massachusetts. Although each family later returned: Herb to Palo Alto and Barbara to Walnut Creek, their long absences prevented Edith from being directly involved in their lives. She was very proud of her nine grandchildren: Paul Charles born 7/13/34, Susan Mila born 10/7/38, Alan Scott born 6/4/42, Harold Willard Drummond born 4/6/44, Richard Worthington born 1/22/47, James Root Drummond born 10/6/47, Carol Louise born 9/10/49, Victoria Rose born 2/7/56, and Valorie Jean born 3/18/56. She maintained a drawer in her parlor which she kept filled with games and toys which the grandchildren could enjoy during visits. She taught many of them to play checkers, Chinese checkers, and to do jigsaw puzzles.
After she stopped working, Edith again supplemented her income by taking in boarders. She particularly enjoyed providing a home for foreign students at the University, with a partiality for students from Turkey who she housed for years. She was eventually dropped from the University approved housing list because of her refusal to accept single male or black students. Later the City of Berkeley condemned the house for room rentals because the wiring and heating were defective and the sewer was connected to neighboring property instead of to the main sever in the street. She later qualified for Social Security which replaced the rental income.
Edith outlived two of her children. While he was living, her Son Victor was a frequent visitor and did the repairs on the house. After his death in 1955, her Son Herb assumed that role. He died in 1967 and thereafter the house was not kept in good repair. She lived to see the birth of eight great-grandchildren: Pamela Lindstedt born 10/8/57, David Lindstedt born 3/18/59, Paul Lindstedt born 5/10/61, Jill Alaine born 11/15/64, Jay Atkin born 8/4/66, John Arthur born 2/14/68, Todd Eric Drummond born 12/9/68, and Scott Alan Drummond born 4/20/74. The same drawer of toys she kept for her grandchildren was available for the great grandchildren.
Edith was active in the Episcopal Church. Her daughter-in-law, Dorothy, often went to services with her and visited more frequently than her two surviving children. At the time of her death at home on April 28, 1974, her son, Ted, was visiting. She left a will leaving the Ohio property to her daughter, Barbara; her Berkeley home to Herb’s three children; her personal property to Barbara; with the remaining property to be divided: 25% to Ted; 25% to Dorothy; and 50% to be divided among the who did not share in her real property: Paul Ligda, Susan Lindstedt, Victoria Ligda, Harold Drummond, James Drummond, and Alan Ligda.