Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 29, 2022
Women in History

Tooele women have left their mark on history 

Editor’s note: March is National Women’s History Month. Last week we published an article about some of Tooele’s women — government and business leaders — that are currently contributing to Tooele County’s History. Today we feature women of the past from our pioneer heritage to more recent times that have contributed to Tooele County’s story. These women we have selected are just a sampling of the many women, past and present, that have and are still playing a role in Tooele County’s history. 

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we are reminded of women of the past who have contributed to Tooele County’s history.

One is memorialized with a statue outside Grantsville City Hall.

Hilda (Anderson) Erickson was born in Sweden in 1859.

Erickson’s family moved to Utah from Sweden in 1866.  She was seven years old when along with her mother and two brothers, Erickson crossed the plains from Nebraska where they lived at the time.

“They had a very hard time, as it was in the cold time of the year and it was very stormy,” the Daughters of Utah Pioneers wrote.

The family arrived in Salt Lake City in Oct. 1866, making their trip 10 weeks total from Omaha, Nebraska to their final destination.

Erickson grew up in Grantsville, married John Erickson. She stayed for a while in the Ibapah area, where she helped care for sick individuals.

Erickson and her husband moved to Grantsville, where they lived in a small bungalow on Main Street.

Erickson was known for her strong character and diverse job titles. During her professional career, she had cared for the sick, helped teach individuals to read, tailored, helped women give birth as a midwife, worked as a merchant, and even became a director of a bank.

“Once she received word from a distant place that she was urgently needed, so without hesitancy, she mounted a horse and rode 25 miles over a mountain trail to the relief of a suffering woman,” the DUP wrote about Erickson’s time as a midwife.

Erickson was probably the first woman to drive a car in Tooele County, according to the DUP.

“She still drove her car at the age of 99 going along to Tooele and around town,” they wrote.

Erickson died 1968 at the age of 108.

Erickson’s life is memorialized by a life-sized bronze statue commissioned by the Sons of the Utah Pioneers that sits in front of Grantsville’s City Hall.

The statue depicts Erickson riding side-saddle on a horse.

Erickson is known for her grit, determination, and willingness to help anyone who needed it.

Emma (Johnson) Atkin’s family traveled to Utah from Sweden in 1859 where she was born in 1863, according to information from the DUP. 

During her childhood, Atkin would stay home during the winter while her two brothers attended school. In the warmer months, Atkin would attend school with her sister while her brothers helped out at home in the fields. 

Although Atkin’s childhood was hard, she enjoyed working. 

“She was never afraid of work, having learned to work hard from her youth up” DUP wrote in an informational packet. “She has helped her father in the fields, helped her mother weave and spin…”

When Atkin grew up, despite her father’s wishes, she traveled to Salt Lake City to learn the art of dressmaking. 

By learning this skill, Atkin was able to support herself, several other individuals, and her family when her husband fell ill. 

“Of one thing she was very proud and thankful, the fact that she could be so independent,” DUP wrote. 

In 1909 a baby was dropped off on her doorstep and she adopted it as her own. 

Atkin passed away on March 14, 1925.

“These women represent the dozens of women that settled in Tooele County,” Marilyn Christiansen, with the DUP, said speaking about the pioneer women. “They came from distant lands into unfamiliar and unforgiving territory of desert…They took what talents and gifts they have been given and used them to better themselves and their community…They were unselfish, resourceful, caring women who bloomed where they were planted.”

A more recent Tooele pioneer-spirited woman was Maxine Grimm.

Grimm was born on May 18, 1914 in Tooele City.

In 1932, she graduated from Tooele High School as valedictorian and her college education was delayed for a while by the death of her mother, the Transcript wrote in 2014 after interviewing Grimm.

Grimm eventually continued her education at the University of Utah and graduated in 1937 with a degree in retailing and businesses, and four minors; music, drama, physical education, and French.

After her college graduation, Grimm attended New York University on scholarship, where she obtained a master’s degree in retailing.

After graduating from NYU, Grimm came home to Utah to work as a buyer for department store chain ZCMI.In 1939, she married childhood sweetheart, Veldon Shields, who died a year later from natural causes.

After marrying her childhood sweetheart in 1939, Veldon Shields, who died just seven months later, Grimm returned to New York where she immersed herself in work, Grimm told the Transcript.

In New York, Grimm worked as the secretary to the president of the Retail Association of New York.

Her boss, being Jewish during World War II, worked to smuggle Jewish people out of the war zone and find them a place to live in New York. Grimm got involved in helping him.

After the Pearl Harbor attack when the U.S entered the war, Grimm felt it was her duty to do something to help her county, so she joined the Red Cross. 

In 1942, she was assigned to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, then to New Guinea to work in a hospital before being sent on to the Philippines, where she helped organize a refugee camp, Grimm told the Transcript.

As the war ended, Grimm took over the infamous Tokyo Rose’s studio and broadcast, which she used to do public relations work for the Red Cross as well as promote her faith.

Grimm and her husband, U.S Army Colonel and Manila-based entrepreneur, Edward Miller “Pete” Grimm, who she married in the Philippines in 1947, worked together for their church. The couple also entertained generals Douglas MacArther and Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1988, after her husband passed away, Grimm settled back in Tooele.

Grimm’s life was full of devotion to family, helping others, her faith, and helping her country.

She served as a member of the BYU Roundtable, chairwoman of the Tooele County Museum, a member of the Salt Lake Opera Board, and chairwoman of the Utah State Centennial Commission.

Grimm has also helped preserve the Benson Gristmill, served as chairperson for the Utah Attorney General’s Safe at Home Committee, and was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Tooele City Police Department for her years of service, the Transcript reported.

Grimm passed away at age 102 on Feb. 10, 2017.

Beverly Jean White, known for being a pioneer in women’s rights, was born on Sept. 2, 1928 in Salt Lake City, according to her obituary.

White moved to Tooele when she was 12 years old  and grew up living with her aunt and uncle after the death of her mother.

She graduated from Tooele High School where she met her husband, Floyd White, in 1947.

White loved being involved in politics. She helped elect her husband to the Tooele City Council, and her father-in-law to the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office several times.

“She was proud to be a Democrat and there has never been a moment in her life she hasn’t loved this great county,” her obituary read.

White became Utah’s longest serving woman legislator in the House of Representatives. During the 22 years she served, she was chairwoman of the Social Services Committee and sponsored the ERA Amendment in Utah.

She was also Utah’s first female to be appointed to the Board of Pardons at the Utah State Prison, the first Utahn to receive the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 1994.

White was the longest serving female member of the Utah State Legislature. 

White served as vice-chair of the Tooele County Democratic Party, secretary of the Utah Democratic Party for sixteen years, and on the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee. 

White passed away last year on May 24.

 

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