MISS MARJORIE BATES
I was a child who thought history classes were B-O-R-I-N-G.
My taste in reading leaned toward biography but I did not connect those works with history. Biographies were interesting stories. I particularly enjoyed reading about women. One of earliest biographies I remember was Ann Petry’s 1955 book Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad. I discovered an amazing person who made a difference in challenging times.
One of the few school papers that survived many moves was my eighth grade book report on Rebel in Petticoats: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Winifred E. Wise. That same year, I received the one and only “D” of my entire school career, in the most boring of all classes: history.
Two years later, Miss Marjorie Bates changed my attitude. She taught American History at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana. No matter what event we studied, Miss Bates knew an intriguing sidelight. I see her in my mind’s eye, a plain and stout woman with short cropped hair, pausing in the midst of discussing the impact of some war to tell how the general’s horse got its name or what a bystander witnessed while hiding in the outhouse. She gave life to dusty history and I began to read with an eye for the intriguing tidbits of story in the events we studied.
Today, I read and research history. I write biography and historical fiction–mostly focused on women–and short stories often based on my own family history.
Thank you, Miss Bates!