Published today on the Rafu Shimpo (L.A.’s Japanese Daily News) web site:
Documentary project sheds light on two Caucasian women standing against the grain of society at Gila River.
Claire Mix was always puzzled by the fact that her mother, Ruth, didn’t like fireworks. Firecrackers made her jump, and she dreaded the Fourth of July. When she was 12 years old, Claire found out the truth. Ruth Mix had spent her adolescence in what she described as a “war zone” — the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. The sound of fireworks reminded her of the gunshots she would hear as guards fired at the fence of the concentration camp from the watchtower to stave off any escape attempts. According to Claire, these experiences changed her mother forever.
Ruth Mix volunteered at Gila River for three and a half years, from 1942 to 1945, as a nurse’s aide in the camp hospital. At 5 foot 8 and a half inches, with bright red hair, Ruth stood out as the only Caucasian on staff. It took a lie from her mother, Frida, to get the 15-year-old onto the grounds, where camp administrators were told she was 18. However, Frida thought it was important for her daughter to understand the injustice against her fellow Americans and to do what she could to help them. Her motto was, “we must right a terrible wrong.”