Web’s oldest bloggers: Olive Riley and Ruth Hamilton

by shiva

Riley was born in 1899 and would have turned 109 on October 20. She took up blogging at the suggestion of Mike Rubbo, who filmed a documentary on her life four years ago.

“First of all, I had to explain to her what a blog was and that took some doing,” Rubbo said. “Then I got across the idea it was sort of a diary that she would share with the world.

Riley posted more than 70 entries on her blog — or “blob” as she jokingly called it — since February 2007.

On the site, The Life of Riley, and in a series of videos post on YouTube, Riley mused on her day-to-day life. She also recounted living through two world wars and raising three children on her own while working as a cook and a bar maid.

“She had a wonderful memory, and an amazing zest for life,” said her friend Eric Shackle, who met Riley at a nursing home while visiting his wife, who has since passed. “Just two weeks ago, she recalled the words of a song that was popular before World War II, and sang the chorus with me.”

In a post titled “Washing Day,” Riley wrote: “You 21st Century people live a different life than the one I lived as a youngster in the early 1900s. Take washing day, for instance. These days you just toss your dirty clothes into a washing machine, press a few switches, and it’s done.”

She then described how she helped do laundry as a youngster, starting with finding “a few pieces of wood to fire the copper for Mum.” “When the water in the copper began to boil, Mum would add a cupful of soap chips, and throw in a cube of Reckitt’s Blue wrapped in a muslin bag to whiten the clothes,” she wrote. “Then she put in all the dirty clothes, first rubbing out the stains with a bar of Sunlight soap. … that was jolly hard work.”

In her final post, dated June 26, Riley wrote how she felt weak “and can’t shake off that bad cough.”

She wrote of singing a “happy song, as I do every day,” with a visitor to the nursing home, “and before long we were joined by several nurses, who sang along too. It was quite a concert!”

Said Shackle: “The thousands of loving messages she received from fellow bloggers in such places as Iceland, India, Iran, North and South America and Australia helped keep her alive in her final year.

“Her only regret was that she couldn’t reply to them.”

Ruth Hamilton, of Orlando, Fla., USA was born in 1898. She first became a teacher in 1916 in a country schoolhouse in Iowa. As technology evolved, so did Ruth! When radio became popular, she found a way to use it to teach. Ruth was one of the first women to host her own show in New York, on which she taught speech, elocution and English.She moved to Los Angeles in the late 30’s where she taught diction to Hollywood starlets. She even taught in the political arena, becoming the first woman elected to the legislature in New Hampshire.

She taught through the newspaper, writing articles, travelogues and letters to the editor. She even used her own life as an example, writing a no-holds barred 500-page autobiography, “The Hamilton Saga”. And finally, she taught over the internet.The years flew by. She was in her mid 90’s when this fiercely independent woman decided it would be best to move into an assisted living facility. She sadly believed her days of teaching had come to an end. This woman who routinely traveled the world now seldom left her building. The walls closed in on her. She had no purpose, no voice, no passion. I saw this happen to Ruth and it was painful to watch. Until something amazing happened.

Ruth was asked to create content for GrowingBolder.com.Almost instantly, her spark for life reignited. The computer was her stage. The whole world could be her audience. She got right to it. She filed dozens of video blogs at GrowingBolder.com.

The internet had given her voice back. And what a wonderful voice! A woman born in 1898 was now an internet pioneer. She was, in fact, the oldest blogger in the world. She even started getting fan mail from users who sought out her advice. Oh, did she love that!

Blogging made her relevant again. She had so much to offer, so much guidance, inspiration, knowledge and experience to share. I believe it made Ruth happier than she had been in years. But no one lives forever. Ruth filed her final video blogs for us just two weeks before her death. She was very pleased with them…Her final wish was that you would continue to watch her blogs, enjoy, find inspiration and learn from them. What a wonderful gift they are from a woman born of another time, who wanted most of all to help make a difference. Through them, her wit, wisdom and curiosity will live on even longer than her 109 years on earth.

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3 Responses to “Web’s oldest bloggers: Olive Riley and Ruth Hamilton”

  1. Aaron-swinburne on July 28th, 2010 at 7:35 am

    109 years old and learning to write a blog, and sharing her experiances with the world. Well done.

  2. two amazing people, an inspiration to us all

  3. I found these two articles amazing.

    Riley and Ruth lived through both world wars! That’s some mind blowing stuff! I don’t think there would be anyone left in the world that has lived though both world wars, it’s definitely something unique. The way that Riley talks about doing something as simple as laundry is also interesting. We take so many things for granted these days. In the 21st century almost everything is 1 click away. We sometimes forget how much things have changed and how much harder it was back in the early 1900’s. Ruth Hamilton story is amazing as well. I found it very interesting how she talks about the evolution of her teaching career which started in 1916.

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