Hopedale History
No. 418
August 2023
The Howarth Sisters  

Hopedale in August  


Twenty-five years ago – August 1998 – The Second Congo War begins; 5.4 million people die before it ends in 2003, making it the bloodiest war, to date, since World War II.

The bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, kill 224 people and injure over 4,500; they are linked to terrorist Osama bin Laden,

Omagh bombing is carried out in Northern Ireland by the Real Irish Republican Army. Shortly after these events, the group would call a ceasefire in response, signaling an end to the 30+ year conflict.

Fifty years ago – August 1973 – The U.S. bombing of Cambodia ends, officially halting 12 years of combat activity in Southeast Asia according to the Case–Church Amendment-an act that prohibits military operations in Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Vietnam as a follow up of the Paris Peace Accords.

The Norrmalmstorg robbery occurs, famous for the origin of the term, Stockholm syndrome.

One hundred years ago – August 1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge is sworn in by his father, as the 30th President of the United States, as a result of the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding in San Francisco, a day earlier.

The first Velociraptor fossil known to science is founded in the Flaming Cliffs (Bayn Dzak or Bayanzag) of the Djadochta Formation, Gobi Desert, Mongolia by Peter Kaisen on an American Museum of Natural History expedition.

News items above are from Wikipedia.  For Hopedale news from 25, 50 and 100 years ago, from the Milford News and the Milford Gazette, see below this text box.


 The Howarth Sisters

Stiff Winter Campaign Ahead of Howarth Sisters was the headline of a Milford Daily News article published in January 1938.

The article goes on to say, Ruth and Frances Howarth of Hopedale, two of the busiest members of the famous Whitin Community Swimming Association team have a testing campaign ahead of them for the rest of the winter. Entered in meets in Providence, Worcester, Boston and Whitinsville, the Hopedale girls are on the trail of several New England championships, and at least one national title.

A couple of months later, a Milford News article reported, Ruth Howarth of Hopedale added the junior national 100-yard backstroke championship to her list of titles Saturday night when she outswam a highly competitive field in the Bowdoin College pool at Brunswick, Maine.

That summer Frances was in the news. HOPEDALE, July 11 – Frances Howarth, 14-year-old Hopedale girl captured the New England Junior Medley title Saturday at Rosemary Beach, Needham. Frances, who graduated from the Junior High School this year, has had four years of active competition since 1934 when she was the youngest competitor to enter a major event. This is her first championship.”

Also that summer, August 5, came this in the Milford News. Star Natators Enter Hopedale Swim Meet – Second Annual Meet to Be Conducted by Hopedale Park Department Tomorrow Afternoon – Draws Aquatic Stars from All Over State.

It seems amazing to think of it now, but New England A.A.U. swimming races were held at Hopedale Pond at least three times.

Milford Daily News – August 8, 1938 – Beautiful Hopedale Pond provided a homey background for two Hopedale sisters Saturday afternoon as they splashed their way to New England swimming titles which will be written into the records of the New England A.A.U., ranking swimming organization in this section of the country.

Ruth and Frances Howarth, storied daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Howarth of 64 Dutcher Street (the Adin Ballou home) swam to sensational style over a stern field of competitors to win decisively the events in which they were swimming.

In her trial heat of the 300-meter individual medley junior women’s race, Ruth Howard of Hopedale set a new record of the event in the N.E.A.A.U. meet sponsored by the Hopedale Park Department and the Whitins Community Association before about 800 spectators who lined the banks of Hopedale Pond, Saturday afternoon.

Milford Daily News – Boston – February 23, 1940 – Ruth Howarth of Hopedale, swimming under the colors of the Whitin Community Association, turned in a sparkling performance in the 19th anniversary meet of the Boston Swimming Association last night in the Boston Y.M.C.A, pool.

Competing against a star-studded field, the Hopedale girl captured the state 100-yard backstroke championship for women when she turned in a 1:14.8 time and finished several yards ahead of Eina Steuve of the Posse School. Frances Howarth also competed in the event and finished third.

As to what happened to the Howarth sisters after the article above, I began by looking at the town reports for Hopedale High School reports of graduations. They showed that Ruth graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 1940. Frances was class vice-president of the Class of 1942, and she worked as an assistant at the Bancroft Library during her high school years.

There was at least one mention in a news article of the possibility of one or both sisters getting onto the U.S. Olympic team, but any chance of that ended when both the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled because of the war.

Checking the town reports for marriages, Ruth was in the book for 1943. At age 21, she married Gordon Baer, 25, of Hopedale. During the war, Gordon joined the Army. A Milford News article dated September 18, 1945, about Gordon meeting his brother Donald in Germany includes this:

Gordon has a son, William Kenneth Baer, whom he has never seen. The baby and his mother, the former Ruth Howarth, reside in Warren Point, N.J., with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred J. Howarth.

Their brother, S-Sgt W. Kenneth Baer, was listed as missing in action over New Britain the latter part of 1943. Evidently the family wasn’t expecting good news about Kenneth, and Ruth and Gordon named their son for him. In January 1946, the family received a message saying that Kenneth was assumed to have been killed.

With a look on Find a Grave, I found Gordon buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Upton. He died in 1984. I was expecting to find Ruth’s name there too, but no, his wife’s name was Helena Goodridge Baer.

The marriage between Ruth and Gordon ended at some point. The Family Search site and Frances’s obituary show her name as Ruth Haynes. Find a Grave shows her husband’s name as Francis Ivan Haynes. They were married in 1968, and he died in 1999. I haven’t found an obituary for her, but there is a Find a Grave page for her. She died in Delaware County, New York in 2001.

There is an extensive obituary for Frances online, (without a word about her swimming accomplishments) which I’ve added to the page I’ve done on the sisters.  Click here to see that, and complete Milford News articles, of which this page had shortened versions.

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Hopedale News – August 1998

Hopedale News  – August 1973

Hopedale News – August 1923

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