Edna Nichols, State Teacher’s College, Oshkosh Wisconsin, 1903
For years, I have had a photograph of a beautiful woman on my dresser. I thought Aunt Marge had given it to me, and I believed it was my paternal grandmother, but when I showed Marge the photo and asked her who it was, she said, “That’s not grandma, it must be a relative on the other side.” I argued with her, but she insisted she had never seen the woman or the photo before. Marge was in her early 90s then, and I could tell from other conversations, she was forgetting things, but she caused me to doubt.
Well, not for nothing did I train as a historian. I have resumed work on my genealogy tree again, and decided to clean up the records for my closest ancestors…Dad, Mom etc. Both my parents are gone, so I can’t ask them anything, any more. This means I have to ask the extant records. I have a pile of material supplied me by other family genealogy enthusiasts. Lately, I have been supplementing and cross-checking my own material with information from Ancestry.com.
This morning I decided to look for school photographs. I had found some photos of my near and dear relatives, but did not know how far back I could travel in the documents. This morning, I found Grandma Nichol’s graduation photograph taken in the early 1900s for the Quiver… the Oshkosh WI State Teachers College (part of the University of Wisconsin today) yearbook. The photo exactly matches my mysterious photo (above) and the caption reads….’Beauty is with her every day.’ It also says she majored in Latin.
But of course. After she graduated, Grandma taught High School Latin in Milwaukee until she married in 1912.
My Dad studied Latin for many years, (Mom told me Grandma wanted him to become a priest). While he was alive, Dad included Latin phrases in every sentence he uttered. The last thing he told me before he died, was that I was “persona non grata.”
Actually no, he told me that before Aunt Marge made him talk to me before he died, and the last thing he did was touch my cheek and say, “Is that where that dog bit you?” After that, my stepmother ran me out of her house, yelling, “I knew you would come here and cause trouble.” I had done nothing of course. She, a coarse, ignorant, but extremely wealthy woman was insanely jealous of me.
Infatuated with Roman history, Dad named me for the Goddess Diana. All through my childhood, he took photos of me with Diana wherever he found her. All those photos, but one, are moldering away in my stepmother’s attic.
I studied Latin for several years and then switched to Spanish. I understand many words and phrases in both languages and can speak the latter a bit. I can read simple sentences in all the Romance languages. Today, I discovered the source of my love of these languages … it was my grandmother. David says she is probably looking down on me and smiling because I too pepper my language with Latin phrases. And my daughter is a linguist.