restricted access 1. The HIM Book
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9 chapter 1 The HIM Book: 1903 to 1923 Some day I will figure out which volume my love occupies and how much it weighs. —Ava Helen Miller, June 19221 Like many people without money, I grew up with very little self-confidence. —Ava Helen Miller, November 19792 They lived happily ever after. Many twentieth-century women were brought up to expect or hope for this joyous culmination, as they were taught to merge their identities with those of their husbands: their childhoods just a prelude to “happily ever after.” In previous centuries, married women had sacrificed their legal identities along with their fathers’ names. By the 1920s, when this particular love story unfolded, state property laws had been moving away from “coverture” for a hundred years. But it would be almost another century before most American women assumed a cultural as well as technical right to autonomy within marriage. Thislovestorywasalittledifferent.Tobesure,thetwoOregonadolescents who met in college and married a year and a half later looked a lot like their peers at the Oregon Agricultural College. Both of their families were middle class, at least in aspiration, but lived often on the brink of respectability: both were mother-headed households challenged to make ends meet. While Ava Helen Miller followed at least three siblings to Oregon Agricultural College, and lived with family members in a house near campus, Linus Pauling broke away from his doting and needy mother to follow his passion for chemistry down the Willamette Valley from Portland. Both young people were bright, Ava Helen Pauling 10 Left: Ava Helen in 1914, approximately ten years old. Below: The Miller girls in 1912. Annotations by Linus Pauling. Right: The Miller girls in a family car. Ava Helen is on the left. The HIM Book: 1903-1923 11 naïve, and used to hard work when they arrived on the Corvallis campus, Linus Pauling in 1917 and Ava Helen Miller in 1921. Born in 1903, Ava Helen Miller was the tenth child in a family of twelve. Her father, George Richard Miller, had emigrated from Hamburg, Germany. He was a teacher and then a farmer in Beavercreek, Oregon, a rural hamlet southeast of Portland.3 Apparently he took up a 160-acre plot in pursuit of some landed dream. He was also a liberal Democrat with socialist ideas.4 Ava Helen’s mother’s parents had migrated to Oregon by covered wagon. Nora (Elnora) Gard, one of their daughters, became a suffragist. As would happen for her sixth daughter, Ava Helen, Nora met her future husband as a student in his class.5 They married in 1886. George Miller was almost thirty and Nora Gard just eighteen. Ava Helen inherited her father’s eyes and absorbed his ideas. Some of the sisters remembered Ava Helen as her father’s special pet. The many Miller children learned to argue politics around the dinner table. They also learned to work the farm. George was hard on the children, probably very hard. There is an unverified family story of the sheriff coming out to the Four Corners farm and warning Nora Gard Miller that if he heard any more about the sons being abused, he would arrest her husband.6 Miller may also have been rough with the daughters—all, according to family legend, except Ava Helen. When Ava Helen was nine, her parents divorced and her father left the household and eventually also Oregon. Special pet or not, she recorded starkly as a college student: “My father went out of my life when I was nine years of age. I don’t remember much about him.”7 Ava Helen saw him at least once more, in March 1926, when she and Linus passed through Chicago on the way to Germany for Linus’s Guggenheim year.8 Her father had just remarried and lived with his second wife, Minnie, for about twelve years. Minnie Miller died in 1938, and George Richard Miller in 1949.9 Ava Helen Pauling 12 Sometime after her parents’ divorce, her family left the farmhouse and moved to nearby Canby, so the children could attend school. The youngest three girls were the “little girls” together. Despite a broad age range, the family seems to have been tightly knit, at least during Ava Helen’s childhood, and the long line of girls took many opportunities to pose for snapshots. They were strikingly pretty, with deep-set eyes, and their four brothers were conventionally handsome. George and John Miller were significantly...


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Subject Headings

  • Pauling, Ava Helen.
  • Pauling, Linus, 1901-1994 -- Marriage.
  • Women political activists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Political activists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Pacifists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Social justice -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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