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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / Women emerge in the seventies

Hinz, JoAnn
Chapter 19: Two cases in point. A remarkable woman: Grace Pilgrim Bloom (1886-1978),   pp. 149-150

Page 149

19. Two Cases in Point
A Remarkable Woman: Grace Pilgrim Bloom
by JoAnn Hinz
Grace Pilgrim Bloom was perhaps the most remarkable and widely
publicized graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, receiving
degree Master of Science in teaching at age 86 in November, 1972. Some
sixty years of experience had passed since she had been granted the degree
Bachelor of Arts in history from UW-Madison in 1908.
Exhilarated in 1968 by a UW-River Falls extension course taught at
Osceola, Wis., that explored tragedy in the theater, Bloom began pursuing
second degree.
The course work was simply a continuation of Bloom's life-long educa-
tion, but attending classes was difficult. As well as commuting forty miles
River Falls from her home in Osceola, she often also required the aid of
wheelchair or walker to get about on campus. The octogenarian student was
not hampered by a generation gap, however. As she told St. Paul Pioneer
Press reporter Gareth Hiebert in 1971, "I love those moderns on campus,
boys and girls who go barefoot and wear jeans and long hair. They're so nice
to me; open doors for me, help me, ask if I need anything. Why, they're the
most thoughtful young people I've ever met. Gracious and delightful to be
Appreciation and respect for her is exemplified by the Grace Pilgrim
Bloom English Resource Center at UW-River Falls. Here, she provided for a
collection of instructional multi-media materials for use by students, faculty
and area teachers.
During the time between her degrees, Grace Bloom taught school, mar-
ried Swedish immigrant Olaf Bloom, and shared the editorship of two weekly
newspapers with him. She became a competent historian, compiling a detailed
genealogy of the Pilgrim family, a history of the Osceola area titled "Osceola:
Yesterday and Today," and a book, Fifty Years with a Country Editor.
Bloom's vast knowledge of history and interest in its recording prompted
an interview by the oral history laboratory of the area research center at
River Falls.'
Bloom discussed her four years at UW-Madison. She was probably one of
the few students then living to have attended the classes of Frederick Jackson
Turner and Carl Russell Fish.
She described Turner, her advisor, as modest, sedate and reserved and
herself as timid in relation to him. She often paced the floor in the lobby
the Wisconsin State Historical Library before mustering courage to enter
document room, where Turner was available for counseling sessions.
After graduation she taught English in Mondovi, Wis., and history and
English in Osceola. However, as was common at that time, Bloom's full-time
teaching ended with her marriage in 1912. The school board president told
her that her husband should support her, and that her position should be

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