My Mother, Minnie Alice Sea, was born on June 19, 1917. She was named after “Miss Minnie Murphy” a school teacher who was admired by my Grandmother, Lillie Alice Thompson Sea. When my mother was born, women were not yet allowed to vote. That came about while she was a toddler and even then, many women were denied that right, because they had no way to get to the polls unless their husbands, or some other male, allowed them to ride along to the voting place. According to stories from that time, men were concerned a wife, for instance, might vote differently from them and thereby “cancel out” the man’s vote. So, unless a man could be certain the woman he was transporting would vote the same as he, that woman was not likely to have the opportunity to vote at all.
My Mom, as most women of that era, lived in a patriarchal society. She revered her father who was Postmaster, a deacon in the Baptist church and a small business owner. He ran the Gee General Store where the US Post Office for Gee, KY was located and he sold gas as well as groceries, farming supplies and even medicinals like paregoric, camphor and Carter’s Liver Pills. In that store located on a gravel, rural road my grandfather, E. M. Sea, was sought after by people of the community who respected his opinion on such topics as religion, politics, war and the economy. It is no wonder Minnie and his other seven children never questioned his authority nor his wisdom.
As was the custom in those days, my Mom finished school after the eight grade. She worked with her father in the store and post office and, surprisingly, she learned to drive before many women were allowed that privilege. She married Richard Baugh, my Dad, when she was sixteen and he was twenty-five. She gave birth to their first of four children a few years later. The baby boy was born at home with the help of a doctor who my Dad fetched from Lawrenceburg, KY in his old Model T Ford in the middle of the night. He loved telling about how the doctor’s medical bag was in the window behind his head and while my Dad was driving way too fast, downhill, to their house in the “holler” the bag bounced out and hit the Doc in the back of his head. He thought it was a funny story judging by how many times I heard it retold.
For a woman who began life under circumstances that might have made her dependent and timid, Minnie surprised many, including herself, I’m sure. Beside her roles as wife and mother she learned many others in her eighty-one years, leaving her mark on this world in small, but lasting ways.
For several years she raised turkeys and chickens and grew a summer garden and canned its yield to cook for the family throughout the winter. After moving from the farm, she worked in a large factory on an assembly line for several years. Having experience in the family store while growing up made jobs at a small grocery and a dry cleaning store easy for her. She was good with people, always smiling and usually laughing.
The highlight of her long work history came when she was hired by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the Revenue Department where she remained until she was sixty-seven years old. I will always remember a day when I visited her at the Capital Annex in Frankfort, KY. She beamed as she introduced her friends around the big office. Then she proudly showed off her desk complete with an adding machine and file drawers and even pointed out her very own stapler! My Mom, from Gee, KY had arrived in her dream job. And, to make the situation nearly perfect, the Governor of KY was a woman named Martha Layne Collins.