The First Century

It is perhaps telling that Martha Ann Miller and her husband signed up for sailing lessons as soon as they both retired in their 60s.

English: Photographer: Alicia Williams User:Es...

Scarlet Fever 2007 Photographer: Alicia Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And, she continued on with a trip to Israel they had both planned after he died suddenly of a heart attack at 80.

It is this determination to wring every bit of life out of every day that keeps readers glued to Miller’s autobiography, “The First Century: And Not Ready For the Rocking Chair Yet.”

Told with the no-nonsense style I recognize in a fellow Midwesterner, Miller was raised on an Indiana farm.

But, she credits her winning a 4-H baking contest and the prize of a four-year scholarship to Purdue with changing the direction of her life.

After graduation, she moved to Arlington, Virginia, taken in by a couple she’d met in college, until she could get on her feet.

She lived in Arlington the rest of her life.

Miller leads readers through the sweep of history in this country.

She remembers the first light bulbs on their farm – one in the house and one in the barn.

And, she was one of the volunteers to teach two of four students to enter the first integrated school in Virginia.

She drove a Model T Ford on the farm at the age of 11.

She describes how grateful she was to live on a farm during the Great Depression because, “farmers fared the best during the first few years because we always had food to eat.”

But, there were no jobs available when she graduated from college in 1934 until she moved to the Washington, DC area and found a teaching job in Home Economics.

She had the good sense at the time to continue her education in the evening and qualify for teaching mathematics.

Only a few years later her Home Economics class was eliminated.

She switched to math until she retired.

Ms. Miller’s life was touched by one of the most important discoveries in the twentieth century.

Scarlet fever was so common and so feared in the last half of the 1800s and early half of the 1900s that a beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, centered around a child who had contracted the highly contagious disease.

Helen Keller, born in 1880, was believed to have lost her hearing and sight to scarlet fever at 19 months.

Penicillin, now used to treat scarlet fever, was discovered in 1928.

It was first used in the U.S. in 1942, when there was only enough supply to treat 10 patients.

Mass production was ramped up to protect U.S. troops in advance of the invasion at Normandy in the Spring of 1944.

Its discoverers received the Nobel Prize in 1945.

In the 1950s, it became widely available.

Ms. Miller’s oldest child was lost to scarlet fever in 1945.

Miller’s stories of her life indirectly impart the lessons she would pass on:

  • Take care of family
  • Live within your means
  • Enjoy what each day and year brings
  • Contribute to your community
  • Anchor your family in your church.

But, to make these lessons more explicit, she closes with a chapter of lessons she hopes the reader has not missed:

  • Make time for what you value
  • Honesty in all things
  • Help others when they need it
  • Open your home in hospitality
  • Be patient with your partner
  • Leave the world a better place.

And, one final lesson from one who has earned the right to advise us as she embarks on her second century of vibrant life:

Take your vitamins!

Click below to listen to the three-part interview with Martha Ann Miller.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:


You can buy a copy of The First Century: And Not Ready for the Rocking Chair Yet, from amazon by clicking on the title.

Soft cover and hardcover versions of her book are available.


Read more about Martha Ann Miller in:

The Washington Post, “Arlington’s Martha Ann Miller, 101, Publishes Her Autobiography, Just As She Said She Would

Sun GazetteCentenarian Holds Court, Recounts Battle for Better County Schools.


Do your grandchildren know anything about the times you’ve lived through?

What significant events do you have personal stories about?

Would you act differently if you knew what you know now?

To you and helping your grandchildren understand their place in history.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru, Grandma to two awesome grandchildren

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


Related posts

Enhanced by Zemanta