The education of Edith Lockage: Part one

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 30, 2023

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By Carrie Hudson

Intern Reporter

Wesley Village resident Edith Lockage is sitting by her window in a chair given to her by an individual she greatly admired.

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Throughout her 98 years of life, Lockage has few regrets and many stories to tell detailing her career in education, expanding from a Navajo Reservation to overseas in various countries.

Early Life

She was born and raised in what Lockage called the “hills of Kentucky.” Living in far eastern Kentucky during the 1930s was no easy feat.

Lockage describes the struggles of being able to leave her house due to the lack of roads,

“We were back there where there weren’t many good roads, and many of them ran by the creek bed. When the creek was up, you couldn’t use the road. That is where the old saying, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow if the creek don’t rise,’ came from,’” she said.

Lockage remembers her childhood as one that consisted of a lot of groundwork for the community.

“Those were poor days. We had to build everything from scratch. Some have been slower, and up in the hill country, it was slower, because they didn’t have roads or water.” stated Lockage.

Because of the roads frequently being inaccessible, Lockage and her family were often isolated from the rest of the community. This led to her seeking her formative education from mission schools that reached areas without roads.

“A lot of mission schools had come to the hill country at that time. There were people from England that had heard about the mountains of Kentucky and that the people needed help,” said Lockage.

When Ms. Bert first came to Wolfe County from England, she hoped to create a school and orphanage for the children. Many community members, including Lockage’s parents, helped her bring her vision to life.

“My dad would get the men around to help build the orphanage, and my mom helped her collect donations. I always thought that was something really special to help with,” Lockage said.

When Lockage was old enough to attend school, she attended Ms. Bert’s Bethany Orphanage and Mission School, which her parents helped build. At Bethany, Lockage fostered her love of God, which would later navigate her in her career aspirations.

Today, Bethany Mission School remains active and continues to serve the community.

College Life

After Lockage graduated from Bethany, she wanted to continue her education.

“I wanted to become educated enough to be a missionary,” Lockage stated.

For Lockage, she felt her options were limited due to finances. Ultimately, she attended Kentucky Mountain Bible College, and there she studied the Bible completely, and Greek and Latin.

“I didn’t know where else to go. I couldn’t afford to go to regular college,” she said.

Lockage enjoyed her time at Kentucky Mountain Bible College and grew upon her faith. However, when she finished her three-year program, she wanted to continue her education.

During this time, she struggled to find a college she could afford. Fortunately, while at a church service, Lockage met a preacher from Indiana who had connections to Marion College, now known as Indiana Wesleyan University.

Lockage recalled, “I asked him if I could find work to go to college in Indiana. He told me about a couple that was up in society who had children who couldn’t take care of them. He said I could go to college during the day and care for them at night. This way, I could afford to go to college.”

At Marion College, Lockage studied education. Like her choices in college, she felt as if she didn’t have many options in careers.

According to her and the norms of society, in college women only studied education or nursing, and Lockage believed she wasn’t suited to be a nurse.

“I didn’t want to be a nurse, because I didn’t think I could be a good one. So, I studied education because I thought I could be a good at it. Those were really the only options I thought I had at the time,” Locakge said.

While at Marion College, Lockage earned her bachelors in English education with a minor in science while simultaneously studying for a master’s in Elementary Education from Ball State University at night.

“It wasn’t easy stuff, and I was busy. I had to drop out a few times, but I always went back.” Lockage said.

Lockage recalls the late nights her brother and her sister-in-law spent waiting for her to come home from class.

“In Indiana at the time, we had a lot of tornadoes, and my brother and sister-in-law would stay up real late at night to wait for me to get home from my classes. I just wanted to get enough education to be a missionary one day,” Lockage said.

All of the years and energy Lockage put into her education was to be a missionary. After graduating from her master’s program, she finally believed she had enough education to reach her lifelong goal.

Lockage wrote to the Methodist Church about becoming a missionary but was soon hurt when she received a response.

“I wrote to the Methodist church, but I never heard from them. Finally, they said they were looking for a man and a woman, and I didn’t have that – I never was married. That was a real sad day,” Lockage said.

Work at a Navajo Reservation

Despite the change in plans for her future, Lockage didn’t let that stop her from doing what she can to help others. Fortunately for her, she received a scholarship in college to travel to California. There, she and her professor visited a Navajo Reservation.

“It was like a completely different world, and I saw the need they had for teachers. They told me I could have a job there after I graduated.” Lockage said.

After hearing a response from the Methodist Church, Lockage turned her attention to the Navajo Reservation, “I said, ‘I am going back there to help them.’ They needed about as much help as anyone else, and I knew I could help them.”

While Lockage was technically the one who was supposed to instruct the learning, she found herself in a position where she was the one receiving it, “It was everything- everything was new to me. The schools were different, and the houses and the food. They had a government house where I lived. They furnished everything. I never thought of leaving.”

In terms of the school, Lockage found herself having to adapt to the culture of the reservation, “I had never experienced something like that before. The teachers had much more of an understanding of the kids from the parents because we lived right near each other.”

The style of teaching was something she had to adjust, but she relied upon her motive for originally coming: wanting to help.

Lockage said, “We taught different, a bit more direct, but they wanted to learn. They were thinking and asking questions, which is what I wanted. I wanted to give them a good start in school.”

After eight years at the reservation, Lockage eventually left, but not by her desire.

“My mother wanted me to come home because she was sick. I didn’t go home, but I went back in that direction to Indiana. The other teachers at the reservation helped me pack my bags and I left,” she said.

However, Lockage’s career in education was far from over. The rest of her story will be featured in next week’s paper.