Girls Gone Wild 1917 Style

Girls Gone Wild 1917 Style

Nearly every week, a mystery is solved or some interesting twig (or nut) appears somewhere on the family tree. Here is a little news of recent findings.

I came across the following Wausau Daily Record-Herald article from 27 Apr 1917. Driving, shooting, carrying on? It sounds like Alice (Fehlhaber) Aschbrenner and the ladies had a fun day… “they are not near as helpless as some women are classed to be.

“Berlin News,” 27 Apr 1917, Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin), p. 10.

There is so much to love about this article.

It is interesting to know that Fred Aschbrenner had a new car in 1917. While car ownership was exploding, with more than 4.7 million automobiles registered across the US compared to just 140,300 a decade earlier, not everyone had a car.

At the time, not everyone knew how to drive. Especially women. It is wonderful that it was reported that Alice knows how to handle a car. At the time, Alice was a 36-year old, mother of two,  who was mostly occupied with the duties of a farm wife.

Alice Rosalie Fehlhaber Aschbrenner.

Handling a car through the bad roads, no doubt muddy from spring thaws and rains, couldn’t have been easy. At the time, highways as we know them didn’t exist. Auto clubs, tire companies, tourist associations, etc. put up signs along roads to mark routes. These routes often did not take a direct path, but rather winded to pass through cities thus supporting the tourist association, for example, who had put up the signs. In 1917, a law was passed in Wisconsin making it illegal to put up signs marking such trails, without permission from the state. The legislature then authorized the creation of a numbered highway system, overseen by a state highway commission. By late 1917, the commission had laid out a system of 5,000 miles of numbered state highways and, during a single week in May 1918, put up all the associated signage, making Wisconsin the first place in the world with a signed system of route-numbered highways.

Car ad, 27 Apr 1917, Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin), p. 8.

It is easy to imagine Alice, with a car full of ladies, laughing like crazy as they drove over bumpy roads, through the country side, in a Model T or other such automobile of the time. Laura (Fehlhaber) Aschbrenner, Alice’s sister, who was hostess for the event, probably laughed too when she saw the ladies drive up to her house. Alice and Laura had married brothers, Fred and Ed. Laura was the wife of Edward Albert Reinhart Aschbrenner.

Laura Fehlhaber Aschbrenner.

The other ladies mentioned were Frieda Schroeder, Sarah Schroeder, and Christina Hudtloff.  A year after this party, Sarah Schroeder  married Frank George Wilhelm Bernard Aschbrenner and became a sister-in-law to Alice (Fehlhaber) Aschbrenner and Laura (Fehlhaber) Aschbrenner. With the same last name, there is a good chance that Frieda was a relative of Sarah, though census records indicate that they were not sisters. Christina Hudtloff was likely just a friend.¹

We have to be impressed with Sarah Schroeder who was a 23-years old teacher. She was the champion shooter of the bunch. It makes you wonder how often these ladies shot guns. It also makes you wonder what other games and amusements they enjoyed during their afternoon together. Did they gossip? Did they complain about their husbands and children? Was Sarah already engaged to Frank or did the Fehlhaber sisters try to set her up with him and give advice about marrying into the Aschbrenner family?

Sarah Schroeder.

Despite the US entering World War I on 2 Apr 1917, just weeks before this outing, it is good to know that the ladies of the Aschbrenner family were able to have a good time.

Notes:

¹Christina Hudtloff was the daughter of Rev. Wilhelm Hudtloff and his wife Earnstine. In the 1916 and 1918 Wausau City Directory, she was listed as a teacher. Two years later, she was working in Washington, D.C. as a clerk doing war work. In 1930 and 1940, she was a teacher, working for the U.S. Indian Service, in Shannon, South Dakota at the Pine Ridge School for Indians. By 1953, she was living in San Luis Obispo, California where she died on 3 Aug 1976 at the age of  86.

Sources:

“Berlin News,” 27 Apr 1917, Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin), p. 10 (https://www.newspapers.com/image/272490887/ : accessed 10 Feb 2018).

“Historical Overview,” Wisconsin Highways: Highways and Byways of the Badger State (http://www.wisconsinhighways.org/historical_overview.html : accessed 10 Feb 2018).

“State Motor Vehicle Registrations, by years, 1900-1995,” (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/summary95/mv200.pdf : accessed 10 Feb 2018).

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One Comment

  1. JFK shared this comment, “Your FB post about grandma Alice, including great aunt Sarah reminds me of a neat little twist. I believe I heard it at home and was reminded of it by Ruth Aschbrenner a few year ago.

    As you state in the Aschbrenner history, Fred was on the school board and Sarah lived with them while teaching down the road a mile. Well, while walking to school she had to walk by the farm place where Frank lived. Did she just happen to encounter Frank on the way one day or when visiting the Fred Aschbrenner house? Maybe so, but was it just a chance encounter the next time? Well, as you report, a wedding ensued.”

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