Edith Emerald Johns (1915-1999) was born on the Nebraska reservation of the Winnebago Tribe and named Patche-Ka-Danga which means “Keeper of the Home Fires.” She was sent to a boarding school intent on stripping her and other Winnebago children of their culture and customs.
As a young woman, Johns went to nursing school, became a registered nurse and moved to Chicago in 1939 where she worked at several hospitals. Also known as Edith Big Fire Johns, she became active in Chicago's Native American community, co-founding the Chicago American Indian Center and serving on its Board of Directors. She was a caseworker at St. Augustine's Center for the American Indian and taught medical courses at the Native American Educational Services College. Throughout her career, Johns was especially interested in pediatric healthcare including child behavior, nutrition and development.
Instead of enjoying a relaxing retirement, Johns joined the Peace Corps at the age of 65. Her two year assignment was in the West Indies where she provided medical services. Returning to Chicago, she volunteered at the Pacific Garden Mission, as a Cook County Court Watcher and with the O’Hare Airport Travelers and Immigrants Aid where she assisted with infants arriving for adoption, runaways, and immigrants in need of assistance.
Why this stop? O’Hare Airport, where Johns volunteered, is just one stop away from the Blue Line Rosemont stop.
Get involved—Travelers Aid Chicago continues to provide help to refugees, repatriates, passengers with special needs, runaway youth, recipients of humanitarian aid, severely injured military passengers, passengers with developmental delays and others. If you would like to be like Edith and volunteer, learn more here.
Women’s L Project Connection — Edith Emerald Johns co-founded the Chicago American Indian Center. The current President of the American Indian Center’s Board of Directors is Chantay Moore.