As a sales­woman in the 1930s, Grandma brought home more than just the ba­con.


Dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, my grand­mother Grace Mills Wilber sold Wilknit hosiery door to door in Dal­las County, Iowa. It was a tough time, and she sought to earn sup­ple­men­tary in­come to sup­port her two young sons and to help her farmer hus­band make ends meet. She was such a skilled sales­woman that, in 1931, the Wilknit Hois­ery Co. awarded her a brand new car, a 1931 Ford Model A. That de­pend­able au­to­mo­bile be­came her work “truck,” and she used it to haul in a bounty of ad­di­tional money for her fam­ily.

Even­tu­ally, my grand­mother’s in­cred­i­ble work ethic earned her three ad­di­tional cars.

Re­cently, I saw a 1931 Ford Model A for sale on a lot in a small town nearby. I bought it in mem­ory of Grandma Grace. Ev­ery­thing about the car is orig­i­nal, and I do not plan to up­date it.

On a wall in my house hang two framed pictures that I trea­sure. One shows my grand­mother stand­ing be­side the Model A, sales case in hand, ready to go out on a call. In that photo, a farm chicken hur­ries past the front of the ve­hi­cle. In the other, I tried to recre­ate Grandma Grace’s photo, mi­nus the chicken.

I also have one of the small ledgers that she used to record her or­ders and the black case in which she car­ried her hosiery sam­ples.

Grandma Grace died when I was only 5. Now,

87 years af­ter she earned her first car, I love hav­ing th­ese re­minders that keep her close to me.

THIS 1931 FORD Model A (left) is just like the one Can­dace

Wilber Horch’s grand­mother drove on sales calls, tak­ing the brief­case (be­low) with her.

Grandma Grace’s door-to-door sales job helped her fam­ily’s farm stay afloat.

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