Edith was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland on May 25, 1928, the younger of two daughters. She was an excellent student of Swiss history and Germanic philology at the University of Basel and interested in Germanic and Romance languages and the migration patterns of peoples in the early centuries. Her interest in religion drew her toward Quakerism. As a graduate student in the summer of 1953 she was drawn to a youth camp sponsored by The American Friends Service Committee where she met Clifford Cole, a graduate of Whittier College. When the two-week camp was over, they traveled together by bicycle for the rest of the summer. When they decided to marry Clifford returned to California to find a job and Edith traveled with her sister to Australia. Edith and Cliff reunited in Honolulu and were married under the care of the Honolulu Meeting in 1955.
A teaching job for Clifford drew them to Claremont where they welcomed their first child, Samuel, in 1956. The births of Daniel, Sarah and Benjamin were followed by the inclusion of their chosen child, two-year-old Hannah.
From 1966 to 1969 Edith and Cliff took their large family to Bogota, Columbia where both parents taught at, and the children attended, Colegio Nueva Granada, the American School in Bogota. The youngest child, Aaron, was born early in 1967 in Columbia.
Upon the Cole family’s return to Claremont, in addition to raising her children and actively participating in Claremont Monthly Meeting, Edith earned her PhD at Claremont School of Theology, working as a school psychologist and volunteered with Peace Brigades International making use of her fluency in multiple languages in striving for world peace as well as promoting accessible education, especially for girls.
Edith’s daughter Sarah had married Arif Zaman, a Pakistani whom she had met at the Cole home while he was a Harvey Mudd College student renting a room at their house. The Zamans were living in Lahore when Edith visited in 2002 on the occasion of the birth of Sarah’s seventh and last child. It was on this trip that Edith learned of the lack of schools for girls in the Afghan refugee camp near the Afghan border.
Largely because of Edith’s urging and with the help of many other Quakers, and others, the establishment and continuation of schools for these girls has become a major ongoing project supported by many. The school was one of Edith’s last projects to which she gave tirelessly until West Nile virus left her dependent on others. She was with Sarah’s family in Lahore when she died on July 2, 2014.