Minnie Mae Adickes: An Uncommon Woman

For every woman who wrote her name in history, there were thousands who were simply trying to survive and carve out the best life possible. I’m always amazed by these women’s courage and strength to do things I probably wouldn’t have tackled. They inspire me every day.

For over thirty years I lived and worked in Wichita Falls, Texas. One year the heritage society offered a tour of the Riverside Cemetery and some of our historic homes, I climbed aboard faster than you could blink. I learned so much about the area and the people who founded the city.

One piece of information that captured my attention was an early settler named Minnie Mae Adickes. She arrived 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 to raise, the youngest only three months old. She was thirty-two.

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. I really admire that and the fact she valued independence over everything. And I’m sure she didn’t want to be a burden to family.

Pictured below is the Frank Kell family – her brother-in-law, his wife, and seven children. They’re a story of their own.

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 and she found cause to regret that. 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 special ability to provide for herself when her husband died ended up building over 300 homes. She became the city’s first realtor and female contractor. Her extraordinary efforts helped the city to grow and proper until her death in 1931 at the age of 57.

The image 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 still has a working elevator as well as many original furnishings. I toured it many times when I lived there and was simply fascinated.

Each Christmas, they open up the Kell House and have Mrs. Claus come and she bakes cookies with the children.

Minnie Mae never married again. Thomas remained her only love. 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?

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Comments

Minnie Mae Adickes: An Uncommon Woman — 12 Comments

  1. Good morning Linda- Here in Hugoton where I live my next door neighbor Shirley DeCamp, aka Granny to Rob & me, she is 93 years young and a little spitfire. Just to hear everyone in her family, as well as everyone in town speak of her, she was a Mom to everyone one. All her kids say all their friends hung out at their home growing up.
    She had 6 children and practically raised them by herself as her husband work out of town trying to keep food in the table. But Shirley wasn’t only a mom, but a caretaker to her invalid dad, her mom passed when she was a young girl, being struck by lightening. Shirley also worked in the hospital here as a volunteer and her main job was county clerk to the Judge of Stevens county. Although she didn’t do anything as extraordinary as Minnie in building homes, she did have an extraordinary job in taking care of children, her dad, & as everyone tells me, over half the county. She always helped out even when her time was limited. She told me that at one point she didn’t even have a kitchen sink when raising her kids, the tub was where she washed her dishes. Amazing how we can improvise when the need arises.
    I’m so glad her & her husband have adopted Rob & myself, they truly are family to us.
    Have a great Monday. Love you sister friend.

    • Good morning, Miss Tonya………..Shirley is cut from the same cloth as Minnie Mae. Those women had strength in spades. They could do anything they had to. I can’t imagine washing dishes in a bathtub but it got the job done and that’s what matters. I’m sure her kids are equally as tough. They can’t help but be. I’m tickled that Shirley and her husband adopted you and Rob. They’re as close probably as your real family.

      Much love and great big hugs!

  2. I do not have someone like Minnie to tell about. My Grandmother was Minnie Addie though.
    I always enjoy your historical stories about real people.
    I look forward to the next story you reveal.

    • Good morning, Jerri……I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. How interesting that your grandmother was Minnie Addie! I love it. I’ll bet she was as tough as Minnie Mae. They had to be back then to survive. My mother was such a one. She went through hard times that would make you shudder.

      Love you, lady!

  3. What an amazing lady! Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t even imagine turning down my families help and embarking out on the path she took! Thanks for educating me and keeping me in awe!

    • Good morning, Stephanie……I’m happy that you enjoyed learning about Minnie Mae. She was really a strong woman and so independent. I can’t imagine her turning down her brother’s help. That is the mark of a determined woman. She didn’t want a handout even from her brother.

      Much love and hugs, Warrior Buddy!

  4. It is absolutely amazing what a person can do if they try. This is a great story and she overcame huge odds. I think the most extraordinary woman I knew personally was our mom. She could do so much with so little. I’m always inspired when I remember. Great post, sister.

    • Hi Jan…….I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Minnie Mae. She was sure the type of woman I aspire to be. And I agree about Mom. Where there was a will there was a way and boy she could find it. She went through difficult, harsh times that would’ve destroyed a lesser person. She had a will of iron.

      Love you, sister! 🙂

  5. I can’t think of any stories right now but I am sure there are plenty around here. Minnie was a special lady. I enjoyed your post.

    • Hi Quilt Lady…..I hope you’re doing well and getting ready for Christmas. It’ll be upon us before we can turn around. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Minnie Mae was sure a hardy soul.

      Merry Christmas!

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