Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Idilia was the daughter of strict Scottish immigrants. She had no freedom at home and her father did not want her to work. She tells of getting jobs, only to have her father show up at her workplace and physically bring her home. During World War II, Idilia sought out a defense job and got one, working for the Ohio Crankshaft Company. This defense job, from which she could not quit or be fired, allowed her to rebel against her father’s strict rule and live independently for the first time. Idilia eventually joined the U.S. Navy WAVES.