Who was M.H. Aitken?
Mildred Helen Aitken
Our school is named after Mildred Helen Aitken who worked as a teacher and as a principal for the town of Seekonk. Miss Aitken was not raised in Seekonk. She was born in 1906 into a family of nine and grew up in a city northwest of Boston called Lowell. Mildred went to Lowell Normal School, today it would be called a high school.
Mildred came to work in Seekonk in 1925 at the age of 19 and worked here for 49 years. One of the most interesting facts about Miss Aitken is that in the 49 years she worked in Seekonk she missed only one day of school! Miss Aitken has left several letters behind which give us a real insight into some aspects of the time she spent in the Seekonk Public School System. In one letter Mildred tells us that "1925 was not a good year for students to graduate from the Lowell State Normal School." Apparently jobs were scarce and Miss Aitken had given up hopes of finding one. She went to a job interview in Boston for a teaching posistion in Seekonk. Prior to this meeting Mildred had never even heard of the small farming community in the southern part of her state. How curious that a place she had no knowledge of would become the center of her life.
Miss Aitken had to report to work immediately because the school year had already begun. She took a train to North Station in Boston, transferred to South Station, took another train to the city of Attleboro and was met at the station by a stranger who took her to the boarding home where she lived during the school week. Mildred lived with two sisters and paid them eight dollars a week for room and board. The letters Miss Aitken wrote refers to these sisters in an affectionate tone, although she did not seem to favor their apple pie.
For the 49 years that Mildred worked in Seekonk she would follow a similar pattern. On Sunday she would take a train down to Seekonk from her home in Lowell and on Fridays she would return to her native city. When she retired from Seekonk Miss Aitken returned to Lowell to care for her mother who was over 90 years of age.
Miss Aitken started her career in Seekonk as a First Grade Teacher at the North School . In 1935 she was transferred to the Newman Avenue School and accepted the role of principal in 1956. The school at that time had 4 classrooms. In 1959 the school was enlarged and Miss Aitken served as principal here until her retirement in 1974. One of the surprises Mildred received at her retirement party was the information that the Newman Avenue School would now be known as the M.H. Aitken School.
In her letters Mildred mentions that one of the programs she was most proud of was the summer school she instituted that helped to prepare young children for the first grade. This was before the days of public school kindergartens and Miss Aitken called this program "her baby."She mentions many times in the letters she wrote that she was proud of how the students she instructed performed.
Miss Aitken had hoped to have her career last for 50 years but her mother's failing health caused her to cut the goal short by 1 year. Mildred returned to Lowell in 1974 and lived there until December 28, 1999 when she passed away. Miss Aitken has left a lasting impression on the town that she had not heard of before coming to work in it.