These documents consist of letters from Mina Miller Edison to her youngest son, Theodore, written primarily during the second semester of his junior year (January-June 1922) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Included is one letter written while the Edisons were vacationing in Fort Myers, Florida, with Thomas's recently widowed cousin Edith. Also included are three letters from Chautauqua, New York, where Mina spent several weeks in May supervising the renovations at the Lewis Miller Cottage and "a hectic 10 days" in June at the biennial meeting of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. The notation "Save" in Theodore's handwriting appears on most of the envelopes.
Mina's interest in Edison's businesses is documented in several of the letters. A letter from January 18 alludes to management problems in the Amusement Phonograph Division, which led to the resignation to division head William Maxwell a month later. A letter from February 26 comments on the "radical changes" initiated by Edison at the plant, which have made their son Charles "very anxious and upset." A letter from February 9 remarks on the toll that long working hours has taken on the health of the seventy-five-year-old inventor. Commenting on her husband's "ashen" appearance after returning home from working all night for the second time in a week, Mina writes that "he has not the strength for that kind of work anymore," adding that her upcoming trip to MIT makes her "afraid that he will just keep that up" while she is away. "I shall try to get a promise from him [of better behavior] if I can," she tells Theodore. In another letter, Mina laments that her husband "is getting to be so very deaf"a disability that inhibits her ability to communicate with him.
Other topics covered in the correspondence include the health of Charles Edison, who was "miserable with a sore throat and ear trouble" during much of the winter; the illness of Thomas Edison, Jr., who was confined in a New York hospital for almost two months during the summer; the death of Llewellyn Park neighbor Benjamin Douglass; Theodore's interest in a Miss Hurlbut, whom he had been dating in Boston; a planned trip to Alaska in which Theodore wants Mina to join him; the marriage of the Edison's longtime housekeeper, Lena McCarthy Doyle; the engagement of stepdaughter Marion Edison a year after her divorce from Oscar Oeser; and a dinner sponsored by the New York Chamber of Commerce in November at which Governor-elect Al Smith and Senator-elect Royal S. Copeland gave speeches. There is also a comment about the Edison's Fort Myers neighbors, the Fords and the Firestones, whom Mina believed were "not very much in love" with each other.
As with the correspondence from earlier years, the letters from 1922 reveal Mina's insecurities and her frustration at her perceived inability to live up to her own ideals of motherhood. "Please dearie, never get tired of trying to build your mother into a better creation," she tells Theodore in the first letter. ". . . I shall strive to improve." The last letter ends on a similar note. "I wish that I was a wise, helpful, big souled mother. One whom you could just adore, admire in every way. A comfort and a joy. But I am going to try to do the little I can and you will have to keep on forgiving and overlooking my many short comings." Mina concludes with an expression of hope that Theodore will become "a fine, great man in spite of your mother."
Click here for a list, in Theodore Edison's handwriting, of all the letters sent by Mina Edison, October 1919-May 1924. Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives, Oliver Archives Center.