Mildred Louisa Vanderbeek Barthel was born during the Great Depression to a religious and patriotic family from Washington D.C. Because of the long- lasting illness of her mother and her father's desire to live close to his office in the Department of Agriculture, Mildred's family moved in with her grandmother, who played a primary role in her upbringing. Mildred's religious and political opinions were formed as she attended the Calvary Methodist Church, listened to political and religious debates around the dinner table, and visited America's historical sites. In 1942, Mildred graduated from high school and enrolled at Western Maryland College. In September 1946, Mildred married John Barthel, a World War II veteran. After their marriage in the Methodist Church, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where Mildred's husband attended medical school. She helped her husband get through medical school by working twelve hours a day at the Hutzler's Department Store as an assistant buyer. When her husband graduated, they moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to set up his practice and begin a family. After Mildred gave birth to a girl, she discovered that she wouldn't be able to have more children. Determined to have a larger family, Mildred and her husband adopted three infants within six years. As Mildred and her husband raised their children, they began having doubts of the Methodist church. They desired to have sure testimonies of God. On October 9, 1963, after investigating several religions, they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. When the prophet of the church asked its members to grow their own food, if possible, Mildred and her husband sold their home and bought 150 acres of farmland. The difficulties of supporting her husband as a university doctor, raising four children, and working on the farm were sometimes overwhelming for Mildred. Besides serving in the church, Mildred volunteered in several community projects, became the President of the Symphony Auxiliary, and served in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. She and her husband later adopted three more children, who were from eleven to thirteen years old. Their home was open to several other children and young adults who needed a place to live before going out on their own.
This collection contains Mildred's autobiography and poetry. Her twelve page typewritten autobiography relates many experiences that helped Mildred become a talented writer. Living in Washington D.C. provided many educational opportunities for Mildred. Her aunt, Rachel, who lived with Mildred in her grandmother's home, often took Mildred to ballets, symphonies, art galleries, and National Geographic lectures. Education became so important to Mildred that she opted to attend college during World War II rather than work in a war plant. Her goal was to learn so much that 'when the world was normal again, she would have something to offer it.' Religion was often debated around Mildred's dinner table while she was growing up. Her father was a devout Methodist, while her aunt Rachel who also lived in the home was a Jehovah's Witness and attended a Presbyterian Church. Mildred's other aunt, Lou, visited frequently and persuaded the adults of the family to listen to Peter Marshal, the outstanding minister of the town. Perhaps because of this varied religious exposure, Mildred's older brother became a Unitarian, her younger brother joined the Church of Christ, and Mildred became a Mormon. Mildred's grandmother was another important influence in her life. As a result of her grandmother's political views, Mildred looked forward to voting so that she could save the country from people like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who according to her grandmother, 'really wanted to be King rather than President'. Mildred vividly remembers the time she stood in a school gym and listened to President Roosevelt speak his immortal work that brought the country into World War II. Her older brother set sail the next week for Norfolk. Mildred's grandmother also subscribed to Christian Science Magazine and was convinced that normal childhood illnesses were cause by incorrect thinking. This belief, as well as Mildred's own belief that her mother missed out on life because of illness, led Mildred to ignore common sicknesses. Mildred was driven to experience life to the fullest and explore those experiences in her writing. After taking creative writing classes at a local university, Mildred began publishing her poetry and short stories. Many of her works received awards, including Honorable Mention and first place award in the Agnes V. Flannery Contest, fourth place in the Iowa Poetry Day Association Contest, first place in the Harpette Patterned Poem Contest, and an Honorable Mention in the Kentucky State Poetry Society. She also won first place in the Iowa Clinic Contest and Iowa Special Contest, and third place in a short story contest. The remainder of this collection contains a cassette tape of 'The Symphony Tree,' recorded January 17, 1965, a six- page short story entitled, 'Take to the Path Gently,' seven poems about America, ten poems about the difficulty of raising children, five poems about the people who influenced her life, and poems that were published for church members in the Ensign.