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Title: RMWB PART 1: We surrendered our independence

from Roland's memoirs of Ruth

Author: Roland H. Bainton
Date: May 04, 1920

For me in the meantime came the Divinity School at Yale. With Ruth I corresponded occasionally. Then came the war. She thought my brand of pacifism would preclude disciplining children. I replied that disciplining is not killing. Ralph and Gene were in the army. I went to France with the Quaker unit of the Red Cross. After the armistice we stayed on in reconstruction. When then Yale invited me to teach I felt sufficiently secure financially to think of marriage. I sent Ruth an elfish wooden nutcracker from Berne. He was my John Alden. Happily he was not able to speak for himself. I have him still with his genial grin. The approval of my parents meant much to me and that they might have an opinion I asked Professor Bratton whether if Mother and Father came to Walla Walla on church business of course, he could invite them to supper together with Ruth. He heartily complied assuring me that if I won her I would be among the luckiest of mortals. It was all managed very surreptiously, but Ruth told me afterwards that she twigged what it was all about. Mother said, "She's just the one for you." Father, too, was pleased. I sent her picture to Hilda who replied, "You'd better spruce up if you ever expect to win her."


How now should I go about it? The ideal would be to approach the matter in person but could I afford to go out to the State of Washington? Besides there was the question of time. I was struggling to complete the doctoral dissertation on which would depend advancement and salary. I ventured to write. She answered with some misgiving, pointing out that she was short and I was short and children would be short. I referred  her to I Samuel 16:7 which reads "Look not on the height of his stature." She answered that Samuel was selecting a king, not a husband. She was afraid, too, that I was only an academic. I wonder whether she had heard the remark of one of the girls in college who described me as "Little Mr. Theories, a brain on a walking stick." But Ruth did not say no.


I threw caution to the winds and the winds can do a lot for one. Be bothered the expense. Be bothered to the degree. To the State of Washington I went. We had our rendezvous in Spokane in the home of Rhea by whom I was not discountenanced. Then we went to one of the Idaho lakes, Chatcolet, I think. We engaged there a passage on the river boat on the St. Joe. In the interval between our arrival and the take off we rented a row boat for a turn on the lake. It was all so idyllic that time became unreal and we outdid the span for catching the boat. I took the oars and rowed as my mother used to row when she and Father each had an oar and she spun the boat in circles around him. We made the boat and I won the lady. But not quite yet. She very properly desired the approval of her Mother and brother Ralph. We went to White Salmon. I passed and on Independence Day we surrendered our independence.


Then came the question of marriage. When should it be? I was getting only $1200 as an instructor at Yale. She was getting $1800 as a teacher in the Walla Walla High School. We decided to wait a year to build up our resources. During the interval we corresponded almost daily. I have all the letters. After marriage we did not write any more unless in absence. 


The date was set for the 8th of June 1921 and the place Grand Island, Nebraska, at the home of her brother Rol. This halved the expense of going to the State of Washington. We then travelled, by train of course, to New Haven where I received the doctor's degree. I reported to President Penrose of Whitman the two joyous events. He congratulated me on both, adding that of the two, the lady was vastly more important than the degree.


The date of our wedding proved in after years to have been inauspicious. Ever after on the anniversary, I was correcting papers. And to have been married at the close of school was also unfortunate because students and faculty were largely gone. Furthermore I was not free for an extensive honeymoon because I had to prepare for a new course in the fall. When school reopened there was the further handicap that we were the youngest members of the faculty and there were no wives of Ruth's vintage. Bob Calhoun was teaching at Carlton and did not return to Yale until the year 1924-5. Jerome and Mildred Davis came in that year. Jack and Emma Campbell joined us in 1928-9, Dick and Florence Niebuhr and Karl and Elsie Kraeling only in 1931-2. 


Had it been today I feel sure I would have tried to secure for her a teaching position that first year. As it was, I had her enroll in my Greek class. The best that I did was to introduce her to a small circle of friends with whom I had gathered in student days. 

Updated: 05/05/11