• Heavy Machine Shop

    Thomas Edison

    National Historical Park New Jersey

Mina Miller Edison

Mina Miller around the time of her marriage to Thomas Edison.

Mina Miller around the time of her marriage to Thomas Edison.

NPS Photo

Mina (pronounced my-na) was perhaps better prepared to be the wife of a famous man. By the time she met Thomas Edison, his name was already a household word. She had a more worldly education, having graduated from Akron High School and having attended Miss Abby H. Johnson's Home & Day School for Young Ladies in Boston. Besides, her father was a millionaire inventor himself.

 
Mina Miller Edison at home doing needlework.

Mina Miller Edison at home doing needlework.

NPS Photo

Mina Miller was born on July 6, 1865, the seventh of eleven children. She met Thomas Edison at the home of a mutual friend of her father and Edison, the inventor Ezra Gilliland. Her future husband claims he taught her Morse code so that they could converse in secret, even while the family watched. This is how Edison claims he proposed marriage and how she responded "yes." The two married on February 24, 1886.

 
Mina and Thomas Edison.

Mina and Thomas Edison.

NPS Photo

The couple moved into Glenmont, the Edisons' new home, after their honeymoon in Florida. At age twenty, the new Mrs. Edison became a stepmother to Mary's three children. It was not an easy task. She was less than ten years older than stepdaughter Marion. Although Mina tried to nurture her new family, Marion later described Mina as "too young to be a mother but too old to be a chum." Her role as Mrs. Thomas Edison was also difficult: Edison frequently stayed late at the laboratory and forgot anniversaries and birthdays. Yet he seemed to love his "Billie." A note found in one of Mina's gardening books reads, "Mina Miller Edison is the sweetest little woman who ever bestowed love on a miserable homely good for nothing male (sic)"

As Thomas Edison supervised his "muckers" down the hill, Mina hired and supervised a staff of maids, a cook, a nanny and a gardening staff. She even called herself the "home executive." After 1891 she, not her husband, owned the house. (This protected the house from being seized to pay
Edison's debts if he went bankrupt.) Here is a partial list of the organizations she belonged to: The Chautauqua Association (where she served as president of the Bird and Tree Club), the National Audubon Society, the local Methodist church, the John Burroughs Association, the Daughters of the American Revolution (she served for a year as its national chaplain), the School Garden Association of America.

Four years after Edison died, Mina married Edward Everett Hughes, whom she had met during the 1870s when their families both had summer homes in Chautauqua, New York. The two lived in Glenmont until Hughes died in 1940, when she once again adopted the name of Mrs. Edison. She lived at Glenmont until her death on August 24, 1947.

 

Did You Know?

megalethoscope

Did you know before Edison invented the phonograph people entertained themselves with a device called the megalethoscope. This device was used to view photographs through a large lens, which creates an optical illusion to create dramatic visual effects.