Uncommon Thread: The Life of Louise Mott Miles

 

"I wish I could live a life to help others..." Diary, 12 Agust 1927

 

 

Louise Mott Miles was born in Smyrna, TN on November 8th, 1907. She was raised on a farm by her mother, Eva Gregory Mott Unkel, and grandmother, Ida Dodson Gregory.


Gregory Home

(Drawing of Gregory Home, Smyrna, Tennessee)

After graduating from Smyrna High School in 1924, she attended Tennessee College for Women, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in 1926.  It was at MTSTC that she met her husband, Kenneth Brooks Miles.  They were married in 1929, and spent forty-three years together.  The Miles both taught at Central High School, Louise teaching Math and Home Economics, while Kenneth was the football coach.  While the Miles had no children, they nurtured their relationships with students, friends and family, and remained quite active throughout their lives.

Louise and Kenneth Miles

(Louise Mott and Kenneth Miles at Middle Tennessee State Teachers College.)

How does one put into perspective the events from such a long life?  How does one accurately represent a witness to the events and changes of the Twentieth Century? If we look to the motto of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, the society which represents Louise Mott Miles’ profession, perhaps we can see the common threads throughout her life.

The need of exact knowledge
The appreciation of beauty
The spirit of joy
The power of strength
The blessing of fellowship
The satisfaction of achievement
The value of service
The bond of cooperation

Using diary entries, photographs, and other materials from the Louise Mott Miles Papers, this webpage will highlight the life and service of this educator, friend, benefactor and Middle Tennessee State University alumnae. The Albert Gore Research Center wishes to thank the family for their donation of these materials and their help in developing this webpage, based on a physical exhibit at the Albert Gore Research Center.

Louise Mott Miles

 

 

The Need of Exact Knowledge 

Education was always important to Louise Mott Miles. Her diaries indicate that while she was not a fan of her Chemistry courses, she was a devoted student. At the Tennessee College for Women, she was involved with the Craddock and Lanier Literary Societies, and maintained an equally active extracurricular life. At Middle Tennessee State Teachers College, she was the 1927 president of the Mary Murfree Society.

Louise Mott Miles High School Louise Mott Miles High School

(Photograph and Graduation announcement from Miles's high school scrapbook, dated 1924.)

For as many diary entries that discuss going to the movies, basketball games, or on dates, there are accounts of studying in the library, working on lesson plans, and cutting out fabrics for class projects. This dedication to knowledge carried on into her career at Central High School, as she taught and advised countless students.

(From Miles's diary dated 1926-1932, which covered her time at MTSTC.)

The cycle of learning did not end with her own graduation, but carried on throughout her life.  Her diaries indicate that she enjoyed learning new recipes, working on new patterns, educating herself about plants and gardening, and trying to be open to learning opportunities. 

 

The Appreciation of Beauty

To suggest that Miles enjoyed a thing of beauty is a vast understatement.  She enjoyed finding the perfect fabric, or some accessory, to enhance her sewing projects.  While she was not vain about her abilities, she did enjoy creating anything that would bring pleasure to her friends. 
One can point to the many dolls she made as creations of inspiration and beauty.  Miles was not the only one who enjoyed them—anyone who knew her and her craft exclaimed over her dolls.   It was the details, combined with love and painstaking work, which allowed her to create an assortment her famous handmade creations.

(Miles used her Midlanders as a scrapbook to capture her life while at univeristy. Some of the handmade dolls for which Miles was known.)

 The Spirit of Joy


Many diary entries describe events that brought much fun and excitement.  The entry above, where she describes a winter sunset, hints at the joy Miles experienced in her daily life. Whether she and Kenneth are enjoying the John McCormack concert in 1928, or she is creating a new doll, Miles embraced the moment and remained optimistic most of her life.

(Diary entry from Christmas 1997 that tells of how she spent the holiday.)

 

The Power of Strength


Resilient in the face of much tragedy and heartbreak, Miles demonstrated the power of strength throughout her life.  Her childhood was difficult, her mother often suffered from poor health, and Miles herself often suffered from insecurity and anxiety about her life.  While she was a student at MTSU, a close acquaintance, William Woods, died unexpectedly, which caused a great deal of heartbreak.  She was a widow after more than forty years of marriage.  Nevertheless, Miles continued to persevere, usually with the help of her many friends.

(From Miles's diary dated 1926-1932.)

 

“…I’ve never been somebody to primp, I just never have…And it interested me more to help other people…”
Oral History interview, 2008

 

The Blessing of Fellowship


Scrapbooks and diaries suggest a never-ending stream of movies, basketball games, dates, long walks, study group, and church friends for Miles.  She often notes in her diary who has written or called, or which friends she owes a card or letter to. Always one to join in, fellowship was the strongest thread throughout her life.

Dryad Scrapbook

LMM Scrapbook

(Images from Miles's Dryad yearbook from Tennessee Women's College in 1925 and from her high school scrapbook in 1924.)

 

The Satisfaction of Achievement

In many areas of her life, Miles must have found a sense of achievement and satisfaction.  She was a devoted friend, a dutiful daughter, a beloved companion, and a trusted advisor and educator.  She took great satisfaction in her students’ achievements and connected with them as she might have her own teachers and mentors.  She felt a great deal of satisfaction in finishing a new dress, or making damson plum preserves, though her main focus was in her relationships with her husband and students. 

(Louise Mott Miles's official transcripts from MTSTC.)

 

The Value of Service

Early in the Miles’ marriage, it soon became evident that Louise and Kenneth would not be able to have children.  Though this particular topic can be a point of contention in marriage, the Miles family did not dwell on what is an arguable “misfortune.”  Instead, Louise and Kenneth turned their energies to ventures that they could positively influence.  Kenneth became a fixture in high school football, while Louise established a strong focus on academics.

(Mount Olivet Funeral Home and Cemetery.  Tributes. Obituary of Louise Mott Miles, April 9,  2009; Central High School Annual, 1943.)

 

The Bond of Cooperation


Mrs. Miles also continues to contribute to the community and university through her established scholarship.  The scholarship was funded by Mrs. Miles and a close friend through Smyrna First Baptist (now LifePoint) Church.  The scholarship has afforded numerous scholars the opportunity to attend college and pursue careers such as engineering and medicine.  In keeping with her giving nature and in exchange for her generosity, Mrs. Miles simply requested that a photograph and letter from the recipient be sent to maintain a sense of service.

 

 

This webpage is based on a physical exhibit designed by Graduate Assistants Jezel Huston, Rachel Smith, and Cyrana Wyker, under the direction of Donna J. Baker, University Archivist. Exhibit concept by Dr. Jim Williams and Donna Baker.

 

 

 

Louise Mott Miles Homepage

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