Grandma was what was known in her day as a “good woman”, who fervently believed it her duty to mold everyone into a better person. Divorced early in her first marriage (to my grandfather), with two little girls, and a boarding house to run, she somehow continued a small boutique millinery business which catered to a few wealthy women in Beverly Hills. In the late 1920’s the economy slowed down, jobs were lost, boarders found cheaper lodging, ladies adornment was found not to be as necessary as another meal, and the boarding house began a number of moves within the Los Angeles area, each time to a less prestigious location. Grandma too, went to work wherever she could.
Aimee Semple McPherson, an early evangelist, began using the media, radio, newspaper and revival meetings to promote her Foursquare gospel. She was a strong, unmarried passionate woman who easily took command of an audience wherever she appeared. Her dramatic approach to life and entrepreneurship greatly appealed to my grandmother, and she began attending Aimee’s meetings, though mostly for Aimee herself instead of her message. Indeed, at my birth, Grandma had an entire congregation of Aimee’s praying for my safe delivery!
By my earliest memory, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, became Grandma’s new loadstar, and poor Aimee was placed in the recycle bin. I think what turned the tide in Mary’s direction, was the fact of Aimee’s supposed abduction and ultimate reappearance stumbling out of a Mexican desert. After a month long absence, it was suspected, and pretty much proven that she had had a tryst with her male secretary who was a married man. Although Grandma was quite fond of the opposite sex, (indeed she had four husbands,) she took personal offense at this betrayal, and Aimee and her teaching were things of the past.
Though she would have been unaware of it, Grandma Nellie slipped easily into the new rising of the women’s movement. She was a Yankee born and bred, strong, independent and opinionated, and yet she loved a good time. In that respect, she had not fit well into Aimee’s assemblage. The fact that Mary Baker Eddy and Aimee were lone women who each founded a powerful religion, drew Nellie like a magnet to each in their turn; Mary lasted the whole of Nellie’s life. As with the learning of any new thing, the study of Christian Science consumed a lot of Grandma’s time during the Great Depression, and as a child, attendance at Sunday morning and evening services as well as Wednesday evening testimonials, was expected of me. I am by nature, irreverent, dubious, and logical, and by the age of 13 I could no longer hide my reluctance to believe, even though I blush to say that the promise of “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes was a great draw! Thus I was a great disappointment to Grandma, who never recognized the fact that in many ways, I was a great deal like her! However, unlike her, I have been married for 65 years (but still counting!)