Looking through my computer files (such a mess!), I found an old Word document I thought I’d share with you.
When my daughter was 10 she wanted to be a paperdoll centerfold for American Girl magazine. One of the requirements was to interview female living relatives about their childhoods. Her oldest female relative that we knew of (my daughter was adopted) was her great-grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (Zuidweg), who was born April 17, 1912. She passed away in 2000, just two years after my daughter interviewed her.
Here are the interview results.
Edna Mulder never wanted to be called Lucille, especially by her older sister, Dorothy, or her younger sister, Alvena. They were called Dot and Vena, so she wanted to be called Edna. Edna also had two younger brothers, Peter and Charles. Her parents owned a farm in Caledonia, Michigan. Her father came from a Dutch-American family and her mother from a German-American family.
Edna, Clara (holding Pete), Vena, Charles, and Dot
The farmhouse had a big dining room in the middle of the first floor. The kitchen was out in back and had a coal-burning stove/oven. The front room was tiny, with barely enough room for the big wood-burning stove and her father’s rocking chair. He sat and smoked his pipes and cigars in the evening. He played cribbage with a friend with a small chair pulled up to the fire. All the downstairs had linoleum laid on it after Edna grew up and moved away from home; while she was home, it was a wooden floor. The upstairs was two rooms: a bedroom for her parents and one big bedroom for the five children. They slept five to one bed, with the boys sleeping across the width at the girls’ feet. It was COLD up there in the Michigan winters–with no heat. Edna’s father had built the house; most of the furniture was handmade, too, some of it quite old.
Edna’s farm had a big family of cats, but they weren’t house pets. They were kept to kill the mice in the barn. Edna’s job was to put food and water out on the back porch for them. The farm had lots of corn fields, cows, pigs, and an apple orchard. It even had a small stream for fishing, but you had to drive the wagon down there, it was so far away.
But Edna and her siblings were used to long walks. The three girls walked three miles to school everyday and three miles back home. They kept each other warm by cuddling together as they walked. Once in a great while, during the worst weather, Edna’s mother drove all the children to school in a tiny black Amish buggy.
Sometimes the girls were naughty. For instance, they knew their parents had a store charge at the grocery store in Caledonia. A couple of times the girls couldn’t resist and charged a giant candy bar or a banana. (Fruit was a big treat; Edna only saw oranges at Christmastime). When their parents found out later, they would “get bawled out.”
Edna’s family didn’t have much money, except for owning the farm, but her father collected a few hundred books. He had several series of books for children which offered moral and religious instruction, as well as some adventure books. Edna had plenty to read while she was growing up. But she didn’t have a lot of time to read because she always had a lot of chores. Farms need a lot of care! Edna learned to cook basic meat, potato, and vegetable dishes while she lived at home with her family. She also became a good baker, making delicious cookies, pies, and cakes. She wanted to be a teacher or a writer when she grew up, but she also wanted to have a home and a family and to take good care of them.
I’ve posted photos of the farm where Edna grew up before:
Final note: This turned out to be a great project for my daughter and for me because it was about our shared knowledge–some of what my grandmother taught my mother was taught to me and taught, in turn, to my daughter–and we both learned about history through the life of an ordinary girl. And, yes, my daughter did get to be an American Girl paperdoll. You can read the story and see the photos here: An American Girl’s Family Tree