My Grama's Story

by Barbara O'Brien
(Chesterfield, VA)

I have a webstore selling fine fabrics and sewing supplies and was looking for a wholesale source for nice Mother of Pearl Buttons when I found your site! Really enjoyed reading Becky and Ellen and Debby's stories!

My dear Grama Theresa Nester Baker grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. She was born in 1895 or 1896 and when she was 15 or 16 - whatever the age to leave school at that time, her parents thought it was a good idea for her to go to work - so she went to work in the button factory where her older sister Mary also worked. My Grama was the second youngest child in the family, had been a sickly child and was well-pampered! She came home for lunch, which I guess was common practice at the time,(this would've been 1910 or there about) and was all in a dither because the men at the factory talked and acted so rough. It was quickly decided that she would go back to school and not to the factory. She was the first girl in her family to graduate from high school. She helped her mother at home until she married and that half day at the button factory was the only time she ever worked!

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Oct 31, 2009
So funny
by: Kari

Hi Barbara,

Your post is so funny...a classic story...only working 1/2 day her whole life. Yes, she must have been pampered or knew just the right dither to put herself into to get to go back to school. School probably looked pretty good after a morning of factory work. From what I hear those places lacked glamor.

There was a very well known Baker family here in Muscatine. I wonder if she was related. Have you heard of Norman Baker? He invented some sort of calliope and had a radio show, etc.

What is your website and did you find a source for pearl buttons?

Thanks for sharing your Muscatine Button story. You'd love the museum here.

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