Minnie Mae Adickes: An Uncommon Woman

Here’s another woman who carved her name in history. I lived in Wichita Falls, Texas for over thirty years and each time the heritage society offered a tour of the Riverside Cemetery and some of our historic homes, I climbed aboard faster than you could blink. What I learned about the area and the people who founded it could fill a book. Here’s an early picture.

wichita falls

 

One piece of information that captured my attention was an early settler named Minnie Mae Adickes. She arrived in the city in 1905 with her husband, Thomas Adickes. They were barely there a year when her husband suddenly died and left Minnie Mae with five daughters, the youngest only three months old, to raise.

It would’ve been easy for Minnie Mae to accept the help of both her brother and brother-in-law who were the town’s founding fathers and quite well-to-do. But, she turned them down, saying she’d make her own way. She valued independence over everything. And I’m sure she didn’t want to be a burden on family. Pictured here is the Frank Kell family – her brother-in-law, his wife, his mother and seven children. They’re a story of their own.

Kell Family

So spurning family help, in 1906 Minnie Mae entered into the real estate profession and embarked on a career of building houses. Now as a woman, she could not at that time sign a legal document herself. But she built over 300 homes and never lost a dime. Her only contract was a simple handshake that she never regretted. She built homes for the influential and also for the poor that she let pay out in installments. Her buyers always paid her on time. She taught all five of her daughters to record cash payments in their home weekly.

And so, a woman who didn’t seem to have any ability to provide for herself when her husband died ended up building over 300 homes. Her extraordinary efforts helped the city to grow and proper until her death in 1931 at the age of 57.

The image below of this late Victorian house is one that she designed and built for her brother-in-law Frank Kell and his family. It’s called the Kell House and is now a museum. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and bears both the Texas State and local landmark designation. The house is 5,500 square feet and it still has a working elevator as well as many original furnishings. I toured it many times when I lived there and was simply fascinated.

Kell house

Minnie Mae never married again. She raised her daughters and taught them everything about independence and of the rights of women. During WWI she was chairwoman of the Red Cross canteen division and held parties for officers and men at the local air base. In 1920, Mrs. Adickes was the first woman elected to serve as a member of the school board. I’m sorry I can’t find a photo of her. I hear she was as beautiful as she was intelligent. She’s exactly the kind of woman I want to model the heroines in my books after.

Minnie Mae Adickes was an uncommon woman and way ahead of her time.

Are there any interesting people or history in your area? Do you know of any stories of extraordinary women? Want to share?

Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on FacebookShare on RedditPrint this pageFlattr the authorBuffer this pageDigg this

Comments

Minnie Mae Adickes: An Uncommon Woman — 9 Comments

  1. Wow! What an incredible story. Women like Minnie Mae are few & far between, but the ones who could stand tall and showed perseverance are true pioneers we all can call heroines. I used to live in Windrhorst, TX for a while, I am trying to recall if I ever knew this story. It seems I’ve heard about her, but can’t recall for sure. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have a great week Linda and don’t work too hard.

    • Hi Tonya……..I had forgotten you told me you once lived in Windthorst. Wow! I would not want to live in a place that small. But it’s mostly German people who settled it and there’s still a quite a few. Lots of dairies. I’m glad I could tell you about Minnie Mae. She was a very interesting woman and one I’d love to have met. Very strong and independent and willing to make her own living.

      Love you, sister friend!

  2. What a great strong woman. My husband was born and raised in Wichita Falls TX and had talked about him and his friends going to the Riiverside cemetery many times. We were just there last September for his class reunion. Wichita Falls has a lot of history. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Paulette……Thanks for coming. Always good to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed my post about Minnie Mae. Yes, Wichita Falls has a ton of history and I was always finding something new when I lived there. The Riverside Cemetery has a lot of interesting people buried there. Even a bank robber. He killed a clerk while committing the crime. The citizens caught him and hanged him before the sheriff could arrest him. Also….Jessie James’ sister is buried there.

      We’ll have to get together sometime and talk. Take care.

  3. What a fascinating story. I remember you and Clint taking Rick and I on a driving tour through Wichita Falls where we passed by this house. History is so full of people who never gave up their own self esteem and independence for a hand out. The world could sure learn from her today! Great post, sister.

    • Hi Jan……I do remember that. We had a great time. I agree that people today should learn from Minnie Mae. No one wants to do the work to get what they want. They all want it given to them. Back then, people had pride in themselves and were ashamed to ask for charity.

      Love you, sister!

  4. I enjoyed reading about Minnie Mae here! What an amazing woman to have accomplished all she did following her husband’s death. Sometimes widows just have to “do” in order to make it through “a man’s world” unscathed. I admire women like that, and I think Minnie Mae deserves a story all her own…

    • Hi Alice…….Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you came. I think Minnie Mae could teach us all a lesson in survival. She had backbone and even though the law forbid her from signing a contract, she found ways around it and blazed a trail. She does deserve a story of her own. I wish I could’ve known her. She’s the kind of woman I like writing about.

      Thanks again for coming! Hugs

  5. Running late again, haven’t been on the computer much lately. Thanks for the great story about Minnie Mae.