Lexington’s Driving Force
Michelle Lynn Elison
The most important source for the personal aspects of this historical perspective came from
hours of oral interviews with my grandmother, Etta Louise Bietz. Her unrelenting attention
to detail became this works greatest attribute.
It was a beautiful afternoon in Lexington, especially for early December. Still in her
Sunday best, Etta Louise Bietz, not quite sixteen, sat in the living room of her family’s
small house on Carlisle Avenue. Her uncle and his family were paying a visit, and Etta was
enjoying delightful conversation with her cousins. They were interrupted by the sound of a
young boy running up the street yelling, “Extra, Extra, read all about it!” Etta’s mother
anxiously handed her a quarter and sent her to fetch the paper, expecting to read about the
latest discoveries in the famous Miley murder case that the Herald had been following so
closely. When Etta read the headlines, however, she found not the Miley murders, but
“Japs Bomb Manila, Pearl Harbor; Naval Battle Raging Near Hawaii”. At first Etta
did not understand the headline; she had never heard of Manila or Pearl Harbor. As she
read further, she began to realize the gravity of this event. Japan had just attacked America.
Her mind raced through different ways that war would change all the people she knew. It
never occurred to her that she was about to play a huge role in events that would forever
change her family, her community, and women everywhere.
On the eve of the Second World War, the country was only beginning to recover
from the Depression, and still trying to hold on to traditional values. The decade of the
thirties tested the fortitude of American families’ fight for survival in the face of
unemployment, poverty, and uncertainty about the future. Etta Bietz’s folks were among
the many who struggled aga