Who Is Lois?

Lois Howe was born in Burlington, Vermont in the spring of 1926 to David W. Howe and Marjorie Roberts Howe. She and her two younger sisters grew up a few blocks’ walk from their elementary school and the home of their maternal grandmother.

Lois’ husband Mac described her upbringing:

“Lois Jean Howe and her two younger sisters [grew] up in a newspaper family. Her father, David W. Howe, the eldest of seven children of Willard B. Howe, was a University of Vermont graduate and World War I aviator who carried on his father’s business management of their daily newspaper and his leadership in community affairs. Her mother, Marjorie Roberts Howe, was reared in Boston and was a Smith College [classmate] of David’s sister Katherine. Mrs. Howe wrote book reviews, promoted arts and charities and traveled with her husband on business trips. Lois and her sisters grew up with books and music lessons and with the expectation of the good example they should set in their community. The family spent summers south of Burlington in the Lake Champlain cottage bought by Willard Howe [around 1900]. The school year found them in residence in the roomy, modified carriage house made of the redstone so characteristic of the adjacent University of Vermont campus.”

Lois was the eldest of three sisters and also the eldest of the thirteen Howe cousins and five Roberts cousins, with constant expectations that she would set a good example for them. She grew up with a strong sense of family history, the importance of community service, and the value of education.

Mac wrote of Lois’ memories of her grandmothers:

“Lois had as role models two extraordinary grandmothers. Her maternal grandmother, Nellie Roberts, was born to Scottish immigrants in the Canadian province of Ontario and spent her adult life in Boston, coming to stay with her granddaughters when their parents traveled on business. Lois remembers Nellie as someone who might have been an actress, a dress designer, or a gourmet chef in our day and as one who was a fabulous storyteller. Lois’ paternal grandmother, Annie Bean Howe, lived across from the girl’s elementary school. Lois fondly remembers visiting Grandma Howe’s home regularly and enjoying family dinners there on Sundays. Mrs. Howe lived the example of an active life enriched by her commitment to philanthropy.”

Lois’ keen memory incudes several recollections from early childhood. Once, her father drove her and her sisters out onto Lake Champlain, where they saw where ice was being cut; she recalls her grandmother’s house still had an icebox. In an oral interview in 2014, she recounted that she received a typewriter for a childhood birthday: “It was in the in the fourth grade and my handwriting was dreadful… why not learn now?”

Touch typing was a skill that served her well over her lifetime. She often worked summers at the Free Press, where she “learned the linotype machine to put text into hot metal” for the production of the paper. This early developed skill of typing and of managing printing machines was a foreshadowing of a lifelong interest in and ability to learn emerging technologies.

After attending Burlington High School for two years Lois attended and graduated from Mary Burnham School in Northampton, Massachusetts. She then enrolled in Vassar College, but left before completing the three years required to graduate during WWII in order to marry a former schoolmate just back from service. Two daughters were born before the couple’s eldest daughter contracted polio and succumbed quickly while they were stationed for military training in San Antonio. The marriage dissolved before the couple’s third daughter was born in late 1951.