Thursday, August 21, 2008

Helen Miller Bailey

Around town: Doc Bailey lived in La Cañada

By Anita Susan Brenner

We were at dinner with some law school friends. I was holding forth about indicators of hospital quality (“Good gift shop = good hospital”) and the candidates (“Good SNL skit = good president”), when the subject came up.

The subject: Helen Miller Bailey. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. There’s the Helen Miller Bailey Library at East Los Angeles College, the Helen Miller Bailey scholarship and the Helen Miller Bailey Legacy Foundation.

Helen Miller Bailey, PhD, was a historian, a mentor and an educator. She encouraged kids from East L.A. to go to college, to go to grad school and to run for office. She inspired working class kids to go forward.

Our dinner companions that night were Richard and Armida Avila. Richard is a classmate from the UCLA School of Law, now retired from his first career with the state Attorney General’s office. Richard was inspired by Helen Miller Bailey not only to go to law school, but to follow his heart. A published author, Richard is now in his second career as a history professor at two junior colleges. His goal: to inspire the next generation, just as Helen Miller Bailey inspired him.

His wife, Armida, a retired college educator, is also into her second career. This year, she founded wHealthy Living to provide the Hispanic community with new ways of dealing with difficult diagnoses.

As for Helen Miller Bailey (1909-1976), her biographer, Richard Soza, wrote, “Why is her memory so powerful after all these years? This petite, fiesty blonde addressed simply as ‘Doc Bailey’ by many of her students, and known as ‘Dona Elena’ by an entire Oaxacan village, sewed seeds of idealism and human dignity in the minds of thousands of young people from 1930 to 1976.

“In 1930 Helen Lorraine Miller earned a master’s degree in history from University of California at Berkeley, supporting herself by waiting tables at night. She was hired to teach junior high school in the barrios of East Los Angeles She soon met and fell in love with a science teacher at Roosevelt High School, Henry Morle Bailey. They married in June 1932. She spent the next two years working on her PhD in history at University of Southern California

“Helen Miller Bailey began to help her young Mexican American students. She collaborated with a Catholic priest in El Monte, California who identified high potential young men and funneled them to Dr. Bailey who got them enrolled in classes. She worked tirelessly to secure part time jobs for these young men and finding scholarship monies to ensure they were able to complete this first chapter in their education.”

At dinner, Richard explained that long before this sort of social activism was fashionable, “Doc” Bailey battled for equal opportunity. She and her husband bought a home in La Cañada. Over the years, hundreds of students, including Richard, came to La Cañada, to the Baileys’ house for dinners and discussions.

The Helen Miller Bailey Scholarship was created to further her guidance of Hispanic students, but students of all backgrounds may apply.

May the circle be unbroken.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a local resident and a trial attorney with Law Offices of Torres & Brenner in Pasadena, where she handles criminal and civil trials.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE IN the La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

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