Eli M. Oboler Library
Edna M. Dubois (1875-1931)-Biographical Sketch
Edna Maxfield Whited was born in Morrison, Illinois, May 31, 1875.
Edna enjoyed working with children, so she studied to be a school teacher. She accepted a position as a teacher in South Dakota, and soon became an organizer of the Kindergarten Movement in that State.
Edna Whited went to Washington, D.C. as the South Dakota delegate to a national women's club convention. It was during this stay in Washington that she met her future husband, Fred T. Dubois.
Fred and Edna were married in Chicago on January 11, 1899. Since Fred was between terms as U.S. Senator the couple moved to Fred's home base, Blackfoot, Idaho. Blackfoot became the family residence in name, if not in fact, Fred and Edna's remaining years. Elizabeth Mary Dubois, the first of two children was born March 17, 1900. Fred was returned to the Senate for a second term and the family moved to the Cairo Hotel in Washington, D.C., which was home during much of Fred's political career. The Idaho home served mainly as a summer residence during this time. A second daughter, Edna Margaret (Toussaint), was born in the nation's capital, December 23, 1902.
Fred and Edna's marriage was a "happy, cooperative partnership between two intelligent, ambitious persons with strong professional interests." Both were recognized nationally in their realms of endeavor, and served at both the local and national levels in a number of organizations. The couple faced many periods of separation, especially after Fred was defeated for re-election in 1906. Edna spent much of her time managing their Blackfoot properties, while the girls were attending boarding school, and Fred was trying to earn a living through a variety of business ventures, mostly in Washington, D.C.
Edna Dubois was a frequent traveler attending conferences and meetings as a delegate, a speaker, or an interested listener. In 1905 she accompanied a senatorial commission on a trip to the Orient and the Philippines. Alice Roosevelt accompanied the group and Mrs. Dubois served as official chaperone for the President's daughter and two companions. (During this trip Edna was unconscious for 3 days after a carriage accident, in which she was credited with putting her life in peril to save a baby that was in the carriage.) These trips provided much material for Edna in her role as a public speaker.
Edna Dubois was a very capable and active person. She was prominent in numerous organizations, both locally and nationally. At the state and local level Edna was a member of the Idaho Federation of Business Women; represented the Idaho Federation of Clubs at the Cause and Cure of War Council; belonged to the Blackfoot Current Events Club; and organized the Blackfoot Club of Business and Professional Women (which held its first meeting in her home).
At the national level she was treasurer and a founder of the National Congress of Mothers(which later became the Parent-Teacher Association); served as president of the National Society of Children of the American Revolution; and was very active in the National Child Welfare Commission, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Big Brother and Big Sister Movement.
After Fred Dubois' death in February, 1930, Edna obtained a job in Washington, D.C., where her two daughters lived. President Hoover appointed her Director of the Juvenile Division, George Washington Bi-Centennial Commission in August of 1930. The responsibilities of her position, her many activities, and her husband's recent death placed a terrible burden on Edna. It was believed by many that these burdens were a contributing factor to the weakened condition which led to her death. Edna Dubois died August 18, 1931 while visiting relatives in Chicago, and while recovering from a nervous breakdown. She was buried in the town of her birth, Morrison, Illinois.