Myrtle E. Rice Hicks

Honored by:M. Rosemary H. Busset
Brick location:G:7  map

Myrtle Elizabeth (Rice) Hicks was born Nov. 30, 1884, on her parents' farm in Mills County, Iowa. She lived her married life in the western U.S. and died March 13, 1979, in Manhattan, Kansas.

Myrtle was my mother and my friend. She was a teacher and instilled in her three children a love of learning and of music. She was an honor graduate of Tabor College Tabor, IA. In June 1909 and earned a master's degree in English. Doane College of Crete, Nebraska, received the records of Tabor College when it closed in the late 1920s.

Myrtle was an early advocate of women's suffrage and had a keen sense of fairness and justice. Her senior oration at Tabor College was titled "Equal Rights for All; Special Privileges for None."

She strongly supported the Women's Christian Temperance Movement and the Women's Dress Reform Movement. At a time when fashion dictated that women's skirts be floor length or longer, Myrtle wore ankle-length skirts. She designed and made a divided skirt for herself and rode horseback using a standard saddle while the lady's side-saddle her parents provided hung on a rack in the barn and gathered dust.

An account of Myrtle's life must include her devoted husband of 64 years, Ralph Sterling Hicks, my father. They met while students at Tabor College and after graduation were married on March 17, 1915, in the home of Myrtle's parents Charles Milton Rice and Frances (Fellows) Rice of Tabor, Iowa.

Ralph was an artistic man of many talents and interests. A born teacher, skilled carpenter and mechanic, he also shared homemaking tasks and child care when the need arose. Myrtle was a devoted homemaker and a teacher dedicated to the welfare of her husband and children.

After graduation, Ralph and Myrtle, being of an adventurous mind, accepted teaching appointments in the U.S. Indian Service. Their first assignment was at Yanix, Oregon, on the Klammath Reservation. Next they answered a request to pioneer the first Day School at Lukachukai, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. It was a remote area 60 miles north by wagon road from the Agency Headquarters at Ft. Defiance.

They studied the Navajo language and engaged in a unique cultural exchange with their non-English speaking neighbors. Although government policy at that time forbid use of native languages in schools, Ralph and Myrtle taught their non-English speaking students through the Navajo language with great success.

In Kansas City, Missouri. during World War I, Ralph taught auto repair and maintenance to ambulance and truck drivers at the Sweeney Auto School across from the Union Railroad Station. These Rainbow Division drivers served at the front line in battle. After the war Ralph, resumed teaching in the Indian Service. Myrtle and Ralph had three children. When the time came for them to have access to public schools, Ralph secured an appointment as teacher of auto mechanics at the Chemawa Indian Vocational High School near Salem, Oregon, and wrote the curriculum. (1931-1933).

During the Depression, the Chemawa School was reduced in enrollment and Ralph was transferred to teach auto mechanics at the Flandreau Indian Vocational High School in Flandreau, South Dakota (1933-1937). After four years in South Dakota, during the days of the Dust Bowl, Ralph and Myrtle asked for the appointment to open a new day school on the Mescalero Apache Reservation at Carrizo, New Mexico, in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains. They served here nine years.

Here again, they made their day school a community center involving adult education as well as classroom teaching. Ralph maintained a demonstration subsistence acreage with a garden chickens and a milk cow. The food produced was used in the School Lunch program. Mrytle taught food preservation and sewing to the Apache women and girls of the community.

Meanwhile, Ralph and Myrtle achieved a cherished goal when they saw their three children graduate from Iowa State University. Their long years of work plus part time work by the children made the I.S.U. education possible. Their children are Charles Sterling Hicks, born July 8, 1916, at Ft. Defiance, Arizona, graduated in electrical engineering at I.S.U. in 1941, and served with distinction in World War II in radar communication and attained the rank of Army major; Jessie Frances (Hicks) Endicott, born July 12, 1918, in Tabor, Iowa, a registered dietitian, I.S.U. Class of 1942, died November 23, 1968, in Albany, Oregon; and Myrtle Rosemary (Hicks) Busset, born October 4, 1921, in Tabor, Iowa, a home economics (H.Ec.) graduate in 1945, worked as a county extension agent in New Mexico for four years before her marriage in 1949 to Glenn M. Busset of Kansas State University.

Ralph and Myrtle Hicks taught from 1937-1946 among the Mescalero Apaches; then served a year at the San Ildefanso Pueblo in New Mexico, in 1946 and 1947. They retired in 1948 and moved to Monmouth, Oregon, where Ralph built their cherished retirement home.

Next, they came to Manhattan, Kansas, and lived in temporary housing while Ralph did the major part of the building of a home for their daughter Rosemary Busset and family. The house building was my parents' wedding gift to Glenn and me.

Myrtle and Ralph were volunteers for many causes for church, family, and community, and spent a year as VISTA volunteers at Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation from 1965-1966.

Ralph Sterling Hicks was born in Clark County, Wisconsin, on November 28, 1887, and died April 13, 1979, in Manhattan, Kansas.