I was given a tip on Myrtle Fahsbender, a 1927 initiate of the Sigma Omicron Chapter of Kappa Delta at the University of Illinois. I was told that she would be a fascinating woman to research. And she was.
When I started googling her, the first entry that came up was from the February 12, 1933 Daily Illini. It had the title “Myrtle Fahsbender, Ernst Victor Goller Tell of Engagement.” It went on to state that she was engaged to Ernst Victor Goller of Managua, Nicaragua. Goller was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Goller Seefeld of Tyrol, Austria.
While at the University of Illinois, in addition to being a member of Kappa Delta, Fahsbender belonged to Torch, and was on the business staff of the Daily Illini. She was also a member of Gamma Alpha Chi, Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Chi Theta, and Gold Feathers.
The article continued, “Mr. Goller was educated in England, and is now employed as manager of the Central American office of the Grace Steamship Company. No date has been set for the wedding but the couple will live in Central America after the marriage.”
A snippet from the September 10, 1933, Daily Illini was the second item to come up in a search. The two “were to be married in Los Angeles on Friday.” That would have been September 15, 1933. A notice in the Oakland Tribune for September 16, 1933 had listed among the applications for marriage licenses made in San Francisco the previous day one for Ernest V. Goller, age 35 and Myrtle E. Fahsbender, 26.
Did they go through with the marriage? Did something untoward happen? I have no clue (and would love to know), but the next mention I found was an item that appeared in the August 4, 1936 Daily Illini. Its title was, “Miss Fahsbender Accepts Position in New Jersey.” It announced that she had joined the staff of Westinghouse Lamp company in Bloomfield, NJ. She was to “supervise all home lighting activities of the commercial engineering department. Formerly she was home lighting consultant of the Chicago Lighting Institute.” She started her job with the Chicago Lighting Institute in 1930, when it was formed.
An article in the November 1936 Angelos of Kappa Delta stated that Fahsbender was “enlisted as a lecturer and consultant on home lighting problems, building up this service as one of most importance in the Institute. Her ability as a speaker soon brought her a wide following among business and professional clubs interested in better lighting.”
Futhermore, she “graciously consented to work with the chapters who are building houses this year and next. Any chapter submitting architect’s plans and a wiring diagram can receive her expert advice as to idea lighting arrangements. She further promises to assist such chapters in procuring lighting fixtures at wholesale prices.”
On October 8, 1936, the Altoona Tribune in Altoona, Pennsylvania, advertised a three-day home lighting exhibition at Gable’s Department Store. Fahsbender was the main attraction and she, along with a clerk from the lamp department would “advise Altoona housewives on the latest ‘wrinkles’ in home lighting practice.” Altoona was only one stop for Fahsbender on what appeared to be a fall tour of Pennsylvania department stores.
For the next 30+ years, she wrote, lectured, and gave clinics on home lighting. She wrote a textbook, Residential Lighting, on lighting. She was the first female member of the Illuminating Engineers Society (IES) and became a Fellow of the IES in 1954. In 1968, she received its Distinguished Service Award.
An article in the January 15, 1956 Abilene Reporter-News about the first Home Lighting Clinic in the Abilene, Texas, area provides additional insight, “A nationally known authority on home lighting, Miss Fahsbender is a native of Illinois and received her bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois before studying at the Moser Business College in Chicago. She has served as home lighting consultant for the Chicago Lighting Institute and chairman of the Residence Lighting Forum of the Illuminating Society of which she was the fist woman to be elected a director.” It was also noted that she was a member of the executive committee of the women’s division of the Electrical Association.
She died on May 1, 2001 in New Jersey. She was 94.
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