Mae Randall Parkhurst Swanson ~ Hard-working Businesswoman 1879-1952
By Sandra Schumacher
|Mae recalled that it was a challenging job because it
was difficult for her to understand the testimonies of
people with Scandinavian accents, a sound new to her ears.
She had a good head on her shoulders, and before long was
working for the county treasurer at a time when most
transactions were done in cash.
Still close to her parents, Mae took a trip to Portland, Oregon with her father. There she met Paul Parkhurst, who had left a comfortable life in Templeton, Massachusetts to mine gold in the Klondike with several friends. The adventure was not successful, but they did not return to the East Coast, choosing instead to remain out west. Paul and Mae married in Everett around 1907. She continued to work for the county and was promoted to County Cashier. It was a good job and convenient since the couple lived a few doors away from the courthouse.
|Throughout the marriage, Paul had never been well, due
to an illness he contracted in the Klondike. His death left
Mae with three children under the age of seven. Mae’s
daughter Helen Parkhurst Sievers remembers her mother as a
very resourceful, generous and hard working woman. Helen
remembers, “She stepped out in the world at a time when most
women were in the background.”
Mae recognized that she needed more income in order to raise her children, so she opened Vanity Bazaar, a variety store on Hoyt Avenue in Everett. Later she would open opening The Variety Store in Snohomish. She counted Pilchuck Julia as one of her many customers, and, because of Julia’s recurring leg problem, often had to drive Julia home. By 1925 Mae decided that she would ply her business skills in the Delicatessen business and opened Parkhurst Deli in Everett with her sister Lydia.
|Her retail business may have continued for years were it not for a late rent payment on her Lake Stevens home that resulted in the loss of her home and all of her household belongings. She and the children were forced to start over with the help of Mae’s father. May applied for a position in the cashier’s office in Everett again, and was gladly rehired due to her fine work record over the years.|
|In 1928 she remarried Everett’s beloved Fire Chief,
Charlie Swanson, a long time family friend. During her
retirement years, Mae enjoyed fishing and boating with her
husband, and divided her time between Everett and Baby
Island Heights. Emphysema took its toll on Mae, who said
that she “probably contracted it by talking too much!”
In December 1952, the city of Everett lost one of its earliest female business owners, as well as a respected employee. Never the victim, she rose from adversity and built both a strong family and a successful career.
Source: Helen Parkhurst Sievers
©2006 Sandra Schumacher, All Rights ReservedTo learn more about Mae Randall Parkhurst, see the story of her daughter, Helen Parkhurst Sievers, on this web site.