Cody, Ethel Gildart Fowler, 1881
Ethel Gildart was born in Saline, Michigan, on November 18, 1881, one of eight children born to Henrietta Sawyer Gildartand William B. Gildart, an attorney and editor/publisher of the Albion Weekly Reader from 1905 to 1918. Ethel gained great strength of character, a passionate patriotism, and a dedication to social justice from her parents. After spending her childhood in Stockbridge, Michigan, where her father founded the Stockbridge Sun, Ethel began a career in teaching. She married Rufus Fowler, a railroad employee, in 1915. After his death, Ethel was left with the responsibility of raising their son, Richard. She moved back to live with her parents, who had relocated to Albion in order to be closer to Albion College for the convenience of their other seven children. Ethel subsequently became the first principal of DalrympleSchool. She helped form a parent-teacher association during her two years there, helping overcome resistance from teachers who feared the consequences of parents invading the classroom.During World War I, many black families were brought from southern states to Albion to work in the factories. Most settled in one area of town, and their children went to West Ward School. When some of the families moved into the Dalrymple School district, questions were raised as to where these children should be educated. Ethel believed that they should attend Dalrymple school, and Albion superintendent of schools Don Harrington supported her. Since she was by now the sole support of her invalid mother and sister, Ethel eventually reentered college, graduating from Albion College in 1924. While attending school she taught an ungraded classroom set up for children who had immigrated from Europe. It operated like a one-room schoolhouse and allowed her to become fast friends with many of Albion’s newest citizens. Following graduation Ethel taught for many years at the West Intermediate School in Jackson, which offered her a higher salary, but she continued to reside in Albion and commuted daily on the interurbanrailroad. She was a member of the First Methodist Church and the Albion AAUW. After retiring from nearly 50 years of teaching in 1945, she married Alvin N. Cody, the former superintendent of schools in Flint; she lived there until her death in 1967. Former Albion College professor Robert C. Gildart was her nephew.
Source: Letter from Richard Gildart, Gildart family file,Local History Room, Albion Public Library.
From: Albion AAUW. Some Notable Women of the Albion Area. Albion, Michigan: American Association of University Women. 1998.