Things I learned while visiting my mom last week on the occasion of her 90th birthday.
When my mother's mother was a girl she worked for a lady named Helga Estby. The Estbys were a prosperous family among the Norwegian settlements on Mica Peak, Idaho, where my grandmother lived. But hard times came with the Panic of 1893, and the bank was about to foreclose on their homestead.
Mrs. Estby, mother of nine children, saw a contest advertised by a New York clothing manufacturer, which offered a prize of $10,000 for anyone who could walk across country from Spokane,Washington, to New York City in six months, while wearing the sponsors line of clothing (wool bicycle dresses). So Helga started out, accompanied only by her 19-year-old daughter and with $15 in her pocket, armed with knives, pistols and a shotgun against the ruffians, tramps and Indians that she would encounter on the way. (In Utah they actually were accosted by a group of Indian braves. The young men were fascinated by the ringlets in the ladies' hair and wouldn't let them leave until they demonstrated the use of the curling iron that they had brought along.)
After many exciting adventures they did arrive in New York around Christmas time, only to learn that the sponsor of the contest had gone out of business. There was no $10,000, nor even train fare back home, so they had to support themsleves in New York as best they could for a year before they could save enough money to return.
Once back in the Spokane area, Helga found herself in disgrace. Not only had she abandoned her children for two years in order to cavort about the countryside in an unladylike manner, but furthermore she had disgraced her husband by advertising to the world that he was not able to support his family! Her remarkable acheivement was never spoken of in their family as long as she lived.
But she left a letter which eventually came into the possession of her great-greatgrandson, a young boy. He wrote an essay about Helga Estby's odysey for a school contest. A college professor who happened to be a judge of this contest was so intrigued that she researched it and has recently published a book recounting the story.
Isn't that interesting?