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Betty Mills: Inspiring women of all ages

Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 3:05 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Betty Mills is a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. But her accomplishments go far beyond her motherly work.

Born in 1926, Mills grew up on a sheep farm near Glen Ullin. Her life has taken her to both the East and West Coasts, and back to North Dakota.

All the while, Mills has been a champion for women. At age 94, she’s still going strong, inspiring women of all ages.

Mills is an avid reader.

“I read a couple books a week,” she said.

The 94-year-old reads just about anything; John Grisham novels are her favorite.

“He always has a lawyer in it, so that matters to me,” Mills explained.

That’s because Mills has been around lawyers most of her life.

“I have a daughter who was a lawyer and a grandson who is also a lawyer.”

Her husband, Bill Mills, was also a lawyer. They met in 1947 in her hometown of Glen Ullin.

“My father died in April of my junior year of college; I came home and met the new young lawyer in town,” she recalled.

Five weeks later, they were married.

“He’s the one that took a chance on me. I didn’t know how to cook!” Mills laughed.

Mills attended grade school in a one room country schoolhouse and graduated from Glen Ulin high school at the top of her class.

“I was valedictorian,” she said.

She went on to college at the University of Minnesota. She studied social work and made the Dean’s List before dropping out when her father passed away.

“We weren’t prepared to deal with it really. My father was so central to the family. And suddenly he was gone. My mother never even written a check,” said Mills.

Mills vowed her life would be different. She wanted to see the world; she and her husband lived in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco before returning to North Dakota. They raised four children and she eventually earned her social work degree. She co-authored a book, wrote a weekly political newspaper column, served on various committees and was instrumental in bringing public television to Bismarck and to the rest of Western North Dakota.

As she looks back on her accomplishments, Mills remains humble.

“You don’t think you’re a remarkable woman?” asked reporter Jody Kerzman.

“No,” she responded with a laugh.

Through it all, she has never forgotten where she came from, a sheep farm during the ‘Dirty 30s’.

“That’s my beginnings!”

She is a proud North Dakotan, and she’s proud of the work she’s done for women. Work she hopes might inspire other women.

Mills has always been interested in politics and hopes she’s alive to see North Dakota elect its first woman governor.

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