The Heroines

Kathlien Edmiston

is honored with a Large Paver from Mr. and Mrs. Jim Albright, Dr. and Mrs. John Albright, Mr. and Mrs. E.B. Bickley, John Bickley, Mr. and Mrs. Jon Callen, R.K. Edmiston, Dr. and Mrs. Herbert M. Lindsley, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Lindsley, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Massey, Dr. and Mrs. Phil McKnight, Mr. and Mrs. Rob McKnight, Susan V. McKnight, Mr. and Mrs. Walt Rising, Barbara B. Segraves, Mr. and Mrs. Steven C. Woods, and Mr. and Mrs. Dick Yetke.

 Kathlien  Edmiston It didn't happen by design. Six families moved to the 200 block on North Terrace in Wichita, KS during the 1940s and early 1950s. What started as "new neighbors" became six women and their families who developed lifelong friendships. The sixteen children grew up in a loving, nurturing, and secure extended family. The relationship grew close enough that we had six mothers and fathers whom we affectionately called "aunt and uncle." They were always there to support each others family... during the many fun times, as well as the times of pain and sorrow. Collectively, our memories of those years are countless and vivid. We honor our six mothers as heroines who were such a significant part of our lives as children and as adults. These six heroines... Mary Albright, Jane Bickley, Kathlien Edmiston, Barbara Lindsley, Margaret McKnight, and Arline Rising... taught us, through their lives and friendship, the true meaning of caring and love.

The daughter of Kansas pioneers, Kathlien Robertson was raised at a time when a "woman's place" was a far different locale than it came to be. Her Christian Science upbringing gave her an abiding faith that all things are possible if one believes strongly enough, and that all things happen for a reason if one can just look past the crisis of the moment.

She claimed to have been a wallflower throughout her years at Wichita High School (now Wichita High School East). According to Kathlien, it was her experience at Wichita University (graduated 1933) and her sorority, Sorosis, that allowed the wallflower to bloom. Her association with Dr. Hugo Wall, her mentor, professor, and boss at WU, engendered a life-long interest in politics as the art of the possible.

It was also at "her University" that she met the man (E.K. Edmiston, '36) whose support for more than five decades would play no small part in her singular accomplishments. Her community work began in earnest shortly after her marriage to E.K., with involvement in the Junior League and the Community Arts Council.

When she became involved, she wanted to orchestrate all aspects of the project. She did it her way; all the time making you think it was your idea. The master politician who never ran for office herself.

Once appointed to the Board of Regents of Wichita University, the institution became the center of her efforts. Her own children (Robert K. Edmiston, '66 and '68, Kathlien E. Massey, and Kelly E. Callen) often noted that the University was their mother's fourth child. Because of Kathlien's passion for giving something back to the community she lives in, all three children have developed a love of community work.

The political campaigns she managed were for candidates "friendly" to WU from local City Commissioners to Governors. When it came time for the lobbying effort to bring WU into the state system, two of the chief lobbyists were women: Kathlien Edmiston, working on the Republican side, and Judith Aitken, working on the Democratic side.

With the admittance of her University as a state institution, Kathlien's attention turned to service on the WSU Board of Trustees and other community work. She was asked to work on the Wichita Building Commission and chair several "events" for the Republican party.

Though never running for office herself, through the intercession of friends, she was appointed to an unexpired term on the Wichita City Commission. Not content to regard the position as merely a care-taker role, she joined in with her customary zeal. A lifelong commitment to her city culminated in a brief tenure with her appointment as Mayor of Wichita. She views her appointment to the City Commission and office of Mayor the pinnacle of her life's work in politics.

Kathlien Robertson Edmiston serves as lesson that one can live by a code, even in the rough and tumble world of politics, and still maintain one's integrity and dignity. The words community and service are not sound bites; but part of the basic human condition.

Submitted by her children Robert Edmiston, Kathy Edmiston Massey, and Kelly Edmiston Callen. (See also Mary Albright, Jane Bickley, Barbara Lindsley, Margaret McKnight and Arline Rising.)

September 12, 1998