Celebrating our Local Women's History
Stories from Women Living in the Southeast Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Gilbert Historical Museum
Oral history of Lois Ellis Williams

Oral History of Lois Ellis Williams
Interview conducted by Emily Smith February 9, 2008

Mrs. Lois Ellis Williams is an incredibly warm, friendly, and sweet woman.  She is a tiny lady, but when you meet her, you can tell she has a big heart. She has a great deal to share about how things once were, and what is truly important in life.  She can teach us all something about the history of the area we call home.

Lois was born in Steele, Missouri on December 3, 1934. She was one of nine children, which included 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and 4 half brothers.  Her mother, Carrie Nation Weaver, was from Arkansas, as was her father, William Alexander Ellis. They met while attending the same church in Arkansas. They married in 1929 and later moved to Steele, Missouri. Eventually, Lois moved with her family to Gilbert in 1942.  They lived in a house by the water tower, which still stands there today.

Like many others, Lois' family moved to Arizona for the weather and also because of the opportunities for her father, who was a carpenter. Her mother was a housewife and someone Lois admired a great deal. She says her mother "walked into a ready made family" because of her father's children from a previous marriage, and worked hard at raising all of the children and taking care of the household. You can tell by the way Lois talks about her mother that she was a very special person in her life. Lois says that both of her parents were very hard working, very family-oriented, and "they loved us and that you always remember".

When she wasn't at school, Lois and her family could be found doing a number of other activities. They often went on trips with the church or went on picnics to the lake. The building that is now home to Joe's Real BBQ used to be the movie theater where they would go see movies on Saturdays for 11 cents. The Sun Valley Bus Line also went through town, which they would take into Mesa, sometimes to visit the dentist or to go shopping. The family also traveled to Missouri and Arkansas for a month out of the year to visit relatives. When Mrs. Williams was a teenager, she had to leave school after her father suffered a heart attack and could no longer work. She went to work at the Gilbert Pharmacy, where she ran the soda fountain, among other things. She enjoyed her work there, and it always kept her very busy.

In 1951, Lois married Robert L. Williams. He too grew up in the area; his family owned a farm off Power Road in Gilbert. She says her dreams as a teenager were to marry Mr. Williams and have a family. She did just that; they had three children together: two girls and a boy. Mrs. Williams described married life as good and bad, but mostly good. Her life was good, and they both worked hard. Lois was "blessed" to be able to stay home with the kids and loved being a mother. Mr. Williams worked as a truck driver. During their marriage they also lived in both Texas and California. Sadly, Mrs. Williams lost her husband in a truck driving accident in the late seventies after twenty six years together.

Mrs. Williams is a special lady and has a great way of looking at things. She says that life for her generation was "pretty good". She's grateful to be a woman because it meant that she got to be a wife and mother. And as far as being liberated goes, she always felt as if she was, although she still liked it when a man opened the door for her. She also didn't feel as if she was discriminated against because she was a woman. Her sister, Diane Ellis Blount, didn't appear to be discriminated against either. She was the first female police officer in Gilbert, and she was the first to drive the department's new car at the time, the 1977 Nova.

After living in Texas for a number of years, Mrs. Williams moved to Chandler in 1989. She currently resides in Chandler and has worked there as a Certified Nurse Assistant for the past 18 years. All but one of her children still lives in the area. Her eldest daughter, Barbara, lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her family. Her other daughter, Jackie, lives in Globe, Arizona with her family. And her son, Robert, named for his father, resides with his family in Gilbert.

Mrs. Williams has a very good understanding of what is really meaningful in life. By talking with her you get a great feel of how much family and faith mean to her. But mostly you can see what an interesting and wonderful woman she is. She is a pleasure to talk with and is so positive about life you can't help but to smile when in her presence.

Photos courtesy of the family.

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The home in Gilbert where Lois grew up

Class photo circa 1942

Mr. Charles Chilton 7th Grade Class

Family photo from 19..

The groundbreaking of the Baptist Church in Gilbert

Lois' sister Diane, the first female police officer in Gilbert, and the first to drive their new squad car the 1977 Chevy Nova.

Lois Williams today