| Grace was up to the challenge. She’d
grown up on a farm with parents who had a passion for music.
They’d made sure that their five children not only fed the
chickens and attended the one-room school, but also took
turns cranking the Edison phonograph while the family
listened to classical records. Grace’s favorite times were
the evenings when her family gathered around the piano and
sang, and she hoped to inspire a similar love and knowledge
of music in her students.
When she’d figured out that participating in regional music competitions sparked student interest, she’d felt she was making progress. As it turned out, her most difficult problem was not with the students, it was in dealing with one man—the high school principal. He felt musical competitions were a waste of time and, although the school district transported athletes to sporting events, he drew the line at transporting vocalists. Her selection of a Native American for the high school quartet had provoked even more strenuous objections. “Keep him down where he belongs." he had insisted. When no one would support her in challenging him, Grace quit arguing and simply ignored him. For the most part her strategy was successful. The talented minority student was the star of the high school quartet. Parents provided transportation. The quartet won first place and the girl’s glee group placed second. Although the principal got his revenge by ignoring their victory and refusing to display the pennants they won, there were consolations.
Grace enjoyed teaching, had a growing circle of friends, and
was dating some interesting fellows. Then she met Howard
Bargreen. She was enchanted. So was he. According to
Bargreen family lore, when Howard arrived home after their
first date, he awakened his mother, showed her a picture of
Grace, and said, "Look, this is the woman I am going to
Grace and Howard were engaged that spring, but for Grace, their relationship posed a painful dilemma: at that time, married women were not allowed to teach. It was a difficult decision, but romance prevailed. They were married in the summer of 1931.
| Once the honeymoon was over, Grace was,
in her words, "bored to tears”. Howard worked all day, and
although she was pleased that his friends invited her to
their teas and luncheons, she did not intend to fill her
days with social functions. Did women attend these affairs,
she wondered, "just to be busy".
Then, as if in response to her wishes, she received a
telephone call offering her a part-time position as a
vocalist in Seattle. She was elated, but Howard asked her
not to accept it. “I’m afraid we’ll drift apart,” he had
told her. Like her mother, when faced with a decision in
which her desires differed from her husband's, Grace chose
A few months later she became pregnant, and disappointment was replaced by delight. For Grace, parenting was rewarding, and household management became her occupation. “Instead of going out on my career," she says, "I had four children.”
In time, she found other ways to pursue her love for music. She joined the Ladies Musical Club of Seattle and participated in an Everett women’s group that performed “Musical Readings” at social events and fundraisers. As she describes her life, it is clear that her participation in these activities was one of the keys to her happiness. As she says, "It let me sing.”
| Once the children were in school, Grace
began to address community problems. Throughout her life,
she contributed in numerous, creative and often unsung ways,
leading campaigns –sometimes clandestine, sometimes overt
–to address needs ranging from passing school tax levies to
clothing low income children, helping found a guild to
support Children’s Hospital, and –along with her friend Neva
Stuchell—successfully plotting to assure that Camp Fire
girls got a much needed lodge.
Grace typifies her relationship with Howard as a partnership. “We were so different in many ways,” she says, “but we were a good pair.” He was a successful entrepreneur, served as a state senator for sixteen years, and played a major role in organizing the 1962 World’s Fair. She was the traditional homemaker and community volunteer, providing the support he needed for his successful career, and, from time to time, contributing in other ways. For instance, when the position of personnel director for merchandising at the World’s Fair was unexpectedly vacated, he turned to her to fill it. She enjoyed the challenge, but notes that her “working wardrobe” always included a couple of cocktail dresses hanging from a hook on the back of her office door. It is perhaps a metaphor for her life that when evening came, she easily made the transition from marshalling a diverse army of workers to being a supportive spouse, accompanying her husband as they entertained visiting dignitaries from around the world.
Interviews with Grace Bargreen, September 2001
Videotape, Greater Everett Community Foundation, recorded September 2001
Conversations with Grace’s son, Howie Bargreen, September 2002; February 2007
Phone conversations with Grace Bargreen, January and February 2007
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