Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I'm always seeking for a different perspective, one that will bring me up short when I complain about it being too hot, or too cold, or about my foot hurting, or caretaking mom, or Ben not responding the way I'd like him to.

I think that is why I love to read the stories of pioneer women, their lives making my life look like the life of a princess.

As I research the lives of the women of the Lower Yakima Valley, I find that perspective.

Lon Inaba's mother was raised in Japan during the late 1800s. Her father left her and her sister with an uncle who was a Samurai. She was raised as a princess but also with the discipline that attends that tradition. Later she came to the United States the wife of a man of means, hired to teach agricultural methods to the agricultural workers.

When she first arrived in Wapato she saw a barren landscape, but shopping trips to Seattle helped her set up house in the manner to which she was accustomed. Perhaps a bit of a princess attitude, but an attitude that would be tempered over the next decades by discrimination, financial loss, and eventually internment in the camps during World War II.

Asako came to the United States from Japan, also from a family of means. She would spend her life as a farmer's wife in Wapato, helping her husband raise melons and strawberries, teaching her children to make produce boxes so that they could contribute to the family farm, which was on leased land.  At least three of her granddaughters graduated from the University of Washington and a grandson studied agricultural engineering at Washington State University. Asako died in 2003 at the age of 93.

Myoko came to the United States in approximately 1932. She had ten children, three of whom were born in the camps, in 1942, 1944 and 1945.

Ida escaped from Germany into Romania with her young husband during World War II. Eventually they would come to the United States with one trunk between the couple and their young son, who was 5 in the early 50s when they arrived in New York City. They migrated to North Dakota, where they worked for seven  hard years before visiting the Lower Valley. They saw a land of opportunity and moved to the valley. Heinz's mother helped her husband establish a farm. Now in her 80s, Ida still gardens.

These are but tiny vignettes of the multitude of stories about the women who helped to create a land of bounty across America.

I honor them and thank them for giving me perspective.

1 comment:

Jasara said...

I can wait to hear more of these stories. I was thinking of you the day before yesterday because I ran across a photo album by Dorothea Lange. She was commissioned by the Farm Security Administration to photograph the migrant workers who traveled to Wapato and the Yakima Valley in general. I was surprised that Lange was sent to Yakima, since she was such a famous photographer, but I guess the valley was the 4th most important farming community in America at the time. Here's the link:

Thanks for sharing all your curiosities and contemplations with us. It's a privilege to read.