The 1949 graduate of Minneapolis Roosevelt High School pushed and pushed until she broke through the gender barrier.
Yes, 17-year-old freshman Nadine Ewen was told, you can join the University of Minnesota Marching Band in 1949 as a drum majorette.
Nadine Bristol, who later gave much of her life to students studying abroad, died Nov. 30 after battling cancer. She was 82 and most recently lived in Prior Lake.
For the most part since its inception in 1892, the U Marching Band was male-only, apart from women filling in during World War II while many men were fighting overseas, according to historical accounts.
“Upon entering the U as a freshman in 1949, she approached the band director and lobbied for him to take her on as a drum majorette,” Kate Habegger said of her mother. “After several attempts, he finally gave in. She was a little go-getter.”
And while there’s no way to know for sure the cause and effect following Nadine’s informal inclusion among the marching men, the Girls Auxiliary Band was formed the next year with her as a founding member. The Marching Band formally welcomed women starting in 1972.
Nadine Bristol grew up in Portland, Ore., where she was taught how to twirl a baton by a favorite teacher during recess. She and her family moved to Minneapolis when she was 12, and Nadine continued to twirl.
In 1950, she accompanied her father on a trip to San Diego, twirled in a parade there and also met Clint Bristol, “a handsome sailor … who would ask her to a local dance that evening and eventually become her husband of 61 years,” Habegger said.
They married in 1952. Clinton attended Macalester College in St. Paul, and Nadine became secretary to Macalester’s dean, J. Huntley Dupre.
“It was her deep respect for this man of great knowledge and his stories of world travel that instilled an ongoing interest in travel, learning and cultural understanding,” Habegger said.
Building on that attraction to far-flung lands, the Bristols welcomed a student from Peru into their family in 1976 for the school year.
“It was this positive experience that prompted Nadine to accept the offer to become the president of the Richfield chapter of AFS [American Field Service],” Habegger said.
Habegger’s sister, Lizanne, told her parents in 1978 about a Vietnamese mother and her children who were evicted and needed a place to say.
The Bristols took them in “for as long as they needed to get back on their feet,” Habegger said.
“This kindness in their time of need was never forgotten” by Anthony, a young son in the family, Habegger said. “[He] kept in touch and years later asked them if he could take their name, Bristol, as his new American name on his newly acquired medical license.”
Habegger said Anthony Bristol was among those on their way to the Twin Cities for Nadine Bristol’s funeral.
Nadine Bristol kept in touch with dozens of foreign exchange students, either welcoming them upon return visits to the states or traveling overseas to see them.