Making the Grade

Plucky Schoolmarms of Kittitas Country

By Barb Owen
Washington State University Press, Paperback, 9780874222999, 190pp.

Publication Date: February 2009

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In the early 1900s, a student with two years of high school could attend Ellensburg Normal School for one academic year, pass an examination, and receive a teaching certificate. Elsie Hodgson did just that. In response to her application, the clerk of the Tarpiscan School wrote, "You can teach our school... Sharpen up your six shooter, we got some ornery kids in these parts." Ready for adventure, she accepted the offer and found kind, hospitable people, who treated her with respect and affection. In Making the Grade, thirteen former Kittitas country schoolmarms reflect fondly on their days of teaching in remote locales between 1914 and 1939. Usually, their classes were small with multiple grade levels in a single room, and the new educators also served as janitors, fire builders, cooks, and water haulers. They reported few difficulties with discipline. The schools often functioned as hubs for their communities, and popular social activities included holiday programs, plays, spelling bees, box socials, picnics, and dances. The young women confronted numerous challenges. For most, it was their first job. They were away from friends and family. They lacked supplies. For several, the experience also was an introduction to country life. Elsie Hodgson learned to ride a horse. Helen Donald Hadley's students showed her how to harvest wild onions that grew among rocks behind her schoolhouse. Emma Darter Utz rejected the idea of a field trip--coyotes and cougars prowled too near her school. Others contended with mischievous pet monkeys and swarms of bees. Facing these ordeals with creativity, dedication, and pluck, they enhanced the lives of many children, and earned the adoration of their ruralpopulations.

About the Author
Without realizing it, Barb Owen found herself one day with a new, life-changing, responsibility, being a caregiver. Life was flowing along for her as a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother and artist. Barb began pursuing artistic avenues at a young age when she began teaching music at the age of 16. Her love of the arts included everything from music to working with paper, fiber, fabric and metal which ignited her lifelong passion of inspiring others to trust their creative spirits. Barb didn't have any idea that life could change in the heartbeat with a collision between her life and that of the caregiver. As a wife of more than 35 years, she was enjoying life with her husband, alone, for the very first time. Nothing in Barb's life was more important to her than being a wife, mother and grandmother. Nurturing and encouraging came first. But just as her life was settling into a nice rhythm, balanced between husband, adult children and artistic ventures, the role of caregiver interrupted, stalling everything. Her parents were in crisis. Her siblings were absent. And, everyone looked to her to take the helm. Rarely does anyone plan or aspire to be a family caregiver. You might know in the back of your mind that caregiving is a possibility someday, but you stow it away in the "maybe-but-I-sure-hope-not" file. Such was the case for Barb. Living in the same town with her parents, she couldn't ignore their obvious aging and decline. Responsibility and learning about eldercare fell entirely into Barb's lap. Through her journals and sketchbooks, Barb chronicled her caregiving experience that later provided the raw material for NORMAL Doesn't Live Here Anymore: An Inspiring Story of Hope for Caregivers. Each chapter, reflection, and suggestion for self-care grew out of a deeply personal journey. Barb's greatest desire is that her words and images might give the reader-the caregiver-the one thing they need most during their own caregiving journey-HOPE. Today, Barb encourages caregivers through her website http: // and is once again enjoying her life with creative abandon.
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