restricted access 2. Becoming Mrs. Pauling
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33 chapter 2 Becoming Mrs. Pauling I think of the biggest sweetest most beautiful thing in the universe, and Ava Helen’s love is that thing. My love is just beside it, holding it tightly and caressing it. —Linus to Ava Helen, [February 5, 1923] Time passes awfully slowly when you are not with me, dear love. —Linus Pauling to Ava Helen Pauling, September 30, 19401 Linus tempted fate on the way to his wedding in June 1923. Ava Helen was oblivious until he arrived, miraculously safe and sound, just before the ceremony. Hurrying to reach Nettie’s home in Salem a few days before the ceremony planned for June 17, Linus decided to drive through the night. He had no long distance experience, having taught himself to drive after buying his car in April. In the middle of the night he missed a curve in the Siskiyou Mountains and rolled the car into a ditch. A piece of the crushed roof gashed his leg. He bandaged his own wound while waiting for help.2 In the morning a motorist found the young man and his wreck by the side of the road. Somehow Linus limped the car to Salem. Twenty-five years later he would undergo a similar night of lonely, scary waiting; this time his youth and ardor carried him through. Ava Helen, meanwhile, enjoyed the traditional pre-wedding rituals. Linus had given her a Delta Upsilon pin to mark their engagement the previous year. He also gave her a diamond set in white gold and a large cedar chest—the latter perhaps more intimate and significant to the couple than the jewelry, because it would contain their bedding. Despite their disapproval of this early marriage, the mothers of the bride and groom each gave the couple presents, as did Ava Helen’s sisters and many Oregon Ava Helen Pauling 34 friends. A pie plate and a sterling pie knife, a crocheted bed set, linen pillow cases, a picture of Oregon scenery, and ten dollars were among the couple’s trove in the pre-wedding shower. Nettie’s house offered a satisfying stage for a June wedding. The family engaged a Presbyterian minister to preside; this perhaps reflected the religious preferences of the Miller family. The house was filled with pink and white roses, with blue flowers at the altar. Ava Helen’s sisters and nieces formed the bridal party. Her brother Clay gave her away. (Ava Helen had not seen her father in ten years. He did not attend the wedding.) Linus’s boyhood friend Lloyd Jeffress, now a psychology student at Berkeley, stood as best man. The Pauling and Miller clans turned out for the ceremony. The newspaper reports highlighted Ava Helen’s vivaciousness, her popularity at Salem High School, and her theater activities at OAC. The Salem paper noted Linus as a “Delta Epsilon [sic] man,” a graduate of the “Agricultural college.” The couple’s “wedding journey to various points in Oregon” turned into a night in Corvallis, followed by Ava Helen’s trailing Linus to some of his postings as a paving-plant inspector in Washington and Oregon for one more summer. When she wasn’t with Linus in some roadside town, she spent time with his hard-to-please mother in Portland. That summer was Ava Helen’s farewell to Oregon. Except for scattered visits to their extended families in Portland, the Paulings’ move to Pasadena that fall marked the beginning of their long life together in California. Linus began his second year at Caltech, while Ava Helen kept house in a small rental near campus. During his first year in graduate school, Pauling had learned x-ray crystallography from Roscoe Dickinson and become intensely interested in quantum theory. He met Arnold Sommerfeld, visiting from Germany. Biographer Robert Paradowski reports that some of Pauling’s crystal Linus and Ava Helen Pauling on their wedding day, Salem, Oregon, 1923. Becoming Mrs. Pauling 35 models at that point were better than Sommerfeld’s. During his second year, after his marriage, he took a heavy course load and continued to impress his mentors with his acuity. He also introduced himself to G. N. Lewis, Noyes’s old colleague and now rival for recruiting youthful talent at Berkeley. When Lewis showed some interest in taking Pauling on for a post-doctoral fellowship after he took the Ph.D., Noyes prepared to take measures to retain this prodigy after graduation. After he received his Ph.D. in the...


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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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