Notable Women of ISU: Mary B. Welch

Welch is a name with strong ties to Iowa State University. Welch Avenue is a well-known street in Campustown, and Welch Hall is a residence hall on campus. The former was likely named after ISU’s first president, Adonijah Welch, but the latter is named for his wife, Mary Beaumont Welch. Mrs. Welch is not known merely as the president’s wife, but rather as a pioneer in home economics education.

Portrait of Mary B. Welch, [date]. University Photographs, Box [#]

Portrait of Mary B. Welch, undated. University Photographs, Box 50

Mary B. Welch was born in 1841 in Lyons, New York. After the death of her first husband, George Dudley, she met and married Adonijah Welch in 1868. Shortly after, the Welches moved to Ames, Iowa, so that he could serve as Iowa State University’s (then the Iowa Agricultural College) first president. Mrs. Welch attended various institutions to prepare for her time as a domestic science instructor at Iowa State. These included Elmira Seminary in New York, the New York School of Cooking, and The National Training School for Cookery in South Kensington, London. Of her time in London, she had this to say:

“Many amusing incidents of that London experience might be told. The only object of the school there was to train cooks for service. It was incomprehensible to the English mind that a woman, apparently a lady, whose husband was, as my letters of introduction proved, at the head of an important institution of learning, should be anxious either to learn or to teach cooking. The question was often asked me what family I was engaged to work for when I received my certificate.” ~ The Alumnus, Vol. 18, No. 5 (reproduced from an earlier issue)

Photo published in The Alumnus, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1923. RS 12/3/11, Box 1, Folder 1

Photo published in The Alumnus, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1923. RS 12/3/11, Box 1, Folder 1

All of this experience in addition to self-study and other life experience played into her teaching. Mrs. Welch organized and became head of the Department of Domestic Economy in 1875, one of the first such programs in the nation. She developed a curriculum around the properties of chemistry, botany, physiology, geology, and physics that applied to domestic science.

In 1881, Mrs. Welch expanded her teaching to outside of Iowa State and taught a class to women in Des Moines. This is considered the first extension work in home economics at a land grant institution. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Welch wrote a cookbook titled Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, along with writings that appeared in various periodicals.

Cover of Mrs. Welch's Cookbook, 1884. TX715.W441.1884

Cover of Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, 1884. TX715.W441

After her resignation in 1883, Mrs. Welch continued to lecture to various clubs, colleges, and the YWCA. She passed away in 1923 at her home in California, leaving behind a legacy that continues today within the College of Human Sciences. In 1992, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

More information on Mary B. Welch can be found in her collection in the University Archives, and some items from that collection can be found in Digital Collections.

Notable Women of ISU: Catherine MacKay @IowaStateU

For this installment of Notable Women of ISU, we’re going to highlight Catherine (also spelled “Catharine”) MacKay. Born in Canada in 1871, MacKay eventually became the first dean of the Division of Home Economics at Iowa State College (University).

Portrait of MacKay, featured in a 1951 article in The Iowa Homemaker. RS 12/1/11, Box 1, Folder 6

Portrait of MacKay, featured in a 1951 article in The Iowa Homemaker. RS 12/1/11, Box 1, Folder 6

At the young age of 16, MacKay took over the maternal role in her large family after her mother died, leaving education behind. Eventually she returned to school and received her Master’s degree from Drexel Institute in Boston in 1905. She also attended the Boston Cooking School as well as Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

MacKay joined Iowa State in 1911, at which time she worked as an assistant to Domestic Science department head Virgilia Purmort. The following year, MacKay took over as head of the department and was named dean when it became the Division of Home Economics in 1913. During her tenure at Iowa State, the Division for Home Economics saw a significant increase in student enrollment, as well as an increase in faculty and staff. MacKay also initiated the use of “practice houses,” which you can read about in this blog post.

Home Economics faculty (MacKay is third from left), 1912. University Photographs, RS 12/1/D, Box 908

Home Economics faculty (MacKay is third from left), 1912. University Photographs, RS 12/1/D, Box 908

Over the course of her career, MacKay was involved in a number of other things. She served as a consultant for the New Housekeeping department of the Ladies’ Home Journal, was a member of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association, served as president of the American Home Economics Association, and worked with the United States Food and Drug Administration, to name a few. She was awarded an honorary Master’s degree in 1917 by the Drexel Institute.

Portrait of MacKay from the 1917 Bomb. RS 12/1/11, Box 1, Folder 9

Portrait of MacKay from the 1917 Bomb. RS 12/1/11, Box 1, Folder 9

Dean MacKay died at her brother’s home in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1921 after a long illness. She was greatly missed by the Division of Home Economics, as evidenced by this passage in an August 23, 1921, article from an Ames newspaper (possibly the Student [now the Iowa State Daily], but it’s not labeled):

“Home Economics at Iowa State without Miss MacKay will seem much like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. She was the heart and soul of the division for so long that she came to personify it. It stood for her and she stood for it.” (RS 12/1/11, box 1, folder 9)

With words like that, it’s no wonder the Home Economics building was later named after her.

For more information, come in and see the Catherine J. MacKay Papers. As always, we look forward to seeing you!

CyPix: Meal preparations

As many around the United States prepare for Thanksgiving gatherings this Thursday, there is a lot of baking, cooking, and setting of tables, just like these two cuties are doing.

Undated photo from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. University Photograph Collection box 918.

Undated photo from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. University Photograph Collection box 918.

While there is not much information about this photograph, these two girls were likely playing in part of Iowa State’s nursery school, a part of the Human Development and Family Studies program where students worked alongside seasoned teachers to develop skills in child care and teaching.

Finding aids for our collections from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, RS 12/4 can be found on our website. Stop in and see us!

The World Wars at Home: Guides and Recipe Books

As mentioned in Tuesday’s post, November 11th was Veterans Day, a day in which we honor all those who have served our country. During WWI and WWII, guides and recipe books were published for the housewives left at home, which provided tips on feeding children, meal planning, home improvement and management, and practical recipes for wartime. Here at the ISU Special Collections and University Archives, we have a collection of these guides and recipe books in the Wartime Guides and Recipe Books Collection, MS 380.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes, by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918 (click to enlarge). MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

During the World Wars, food shortages were common. These would make certain foods such as butter and sugar much more expensive and impractical for heavy use in most households. These recipe books focused on maintaining a healthy diet – or at least, making delicious food – while using alternatives to scarce ingredients.

A dessert recipe booklet, (year).

A WWII-era dessert recipe booklet, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 10.

Here is a WWI recipe for something called War Cake from the Liberty Cook Book (Box 1, Folder 1):

2 c. brown sugar; 2 c. hot water; 2 T. lard, 1 package or less of seeded raisins, 1 t. ground cinnamon, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. soda, 3 c. flour, 1 t. salt

Boil all ingredients but the flour, raisins and soda together for 5 minutes. Cool. When cold add soda sifted in 1/2 the flour. Bake in a loaf 45 minutes, in a slow oven, or in a sheet 30 minutes.

From WWII, here is a recipe for Corn Bisque from Wartime Recipes from Canned Foods (Box 1, Folder 7), which was created to help homemakers stretch canned foods farther:

1/2 no. 2 cream style corn; 3 c. milk; 1 small onion, sliced; 1 T. butter or margarine; 1 T. flour; 1/4 t. salt; dash of pepper

Cook corn and 2 cups of the milk in top of double boiler for 20 minutes. Add onion; continue cooking 10 minutes longer. Mash through coarse sieve if desired. Melt butter in saucepan; add flour and seasonings; blend. Add remaining 1 cup milk; cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add milk-corn mixture; return to double boiler; heat thoroughly. Garnish each serving with sprig of parsley and a sprinkle of paprika. 4 servings.


A proposed cleaning schedule for housewives, (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?).

A proposed weekly cleaning schedule for homemakers, 1944. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 6.

Housekeeping also was (and is) a large part of being a homemaker. The 1944 booklet above, House Cleaning and Home Management Manual by The Hoover Company, offers many suggestions on housekeeping, including possible schedules to follow and equipment to have on hand. Without actually reading the cleaning schedule above, you can see how extensive cleaning duties could be. Examples in the booklet of things to be done daily include preparing and serving meals, washing dishes, packing lunches, planning menus, going to the market and running errands, light cleaning and dusting, caring for children and other family members, and apparently care of fires. Weekly housekeeping work includes washing, ironing, cleaning every room, washing windows, mending and sewing, special baking and cooking, and cleaning the cleaning equipment.

From (title) by (someone), (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?)

From Real Ideas of Real Housewives on Wartime Living, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 3.

Of course, helping the boys from home was also a priority. The above image highlights suggestions on how to help soldiers overseas, provided by actual housewives for other housewives. Some advice includes tips on mailing packages, buying stamps, and sending cakes. This booklet also includes ways to save time around the house, keep clothes looking new, and tips on going to the market.

For more WWI and WWII collections, see our manuscripts subject guides. Looking for more wartime recipes? Recipes from these eras can also be found in the Iowa Cookbook Collection, some of which can be viewed online.

Thank you to all our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us!

CyPix: Late Night Get-together

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

The University Photographer added this to the back of the above photograph:

Every evening just about 10, you might see a gathering just like this in each of the four home management houses on the campus. For this is the time to get together to talk over the days happening and have an evening snack.  Left to right, seated, are Bonnie Rae Kundel, home economics education senior; Thelma Roos, home economics education, senior, Holland; Phyliis Sliron, textiles and clothing senior, Chicago; Marcia Wagner, home economics education senior, Muscatine; Lois Wilson, Child development senior, Beresford S.D.; and Ruth Littlefield, house advisor. Standing, Eleanor Peterson, household equipment senior, Eagle Grove, and Doris Follett, home economics senior, Nevada.

To learn more about home management houses at Iowa State, check out the collections we have in record group RS 12/5 (Department of Family Environment) and the Home Management House Program administrative files (RS 12/5/5). We’ve also posted previously on home management “house babies” and the establishment of Domestic Economy program.

“House Babies” at Iowa State

"Jack" (RS 12/5/4, 1925-1936, box 7)

“Jack” (RS 12/5/4, 1925-1936, box 7)

Imagine that it’s your last year in college. Before you can graduate you have to move in with 8 or so roommates (plus a resident advisor) to a single family house on campus. You will have to keep the house spotless, host a dinner or birthday party, decorate, manage accounts, schedule leisure time, continue with your other classes, and take care of an actual baby for six weeks. You and your new roommates will take turn being cook, accountant, hostess, manager, and “child director,” and you have to do it all for a grade! For over thirty years (1924-1958) female Iowa State students and “borrowed” children formed temporary families in the Home Management houses. By the time the program was over, Iowa State students had participated in raising 257 children.

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Christmas Menus Courtesy of Homemaker’s Half-Hour

It’s that time again! Time to get together with family and friends and celebrate the holiday season. For many, that season means Christmas, and with Christmas comes lots and lots of food. In case any of you are still trying to figure out your menus, here are some ideas courtesy of WOI-TV’s Homemaker’s Half-Hour. While these menus were originally created for Christmas, I see no reason why they couldn’t be used or adapted for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or anything else anybody might celebrate.

Christmas week menus, 1945 (RS 5/6/3, box 40, folder 1)

Christmas week menus, 1945 (RS 5/6/3, box 40, folder 1)

This three-way Christmas dinner menu (broadcast the week of December 17-22, 1945) gives you plenty of options to choose from in each category. Comments were made on the various dishes in this menu throughout the week:

  • Fruit Appetizer: mixed fruit cup or fruit salad or fruit juice
  • Bird in the Hand: Roast goose, roast duck, or “mock duck” from lamb or pork tenderloins
  • Stuffings: celery stuffing, rice and dried apricot stuffing, savory dressing with walnut meats
  • Potatoes: honeyed sweet potatoes or fluffy mashed potatoes with rich brown gravy
  • A Homey Vegetable: cheese creamed onions, mashed turnip or squash or green beans
  • Festive Relish Tray: celery, pickles, carrot sticks, etc.
  • Sweets: spiced currants, gooseberries or cranberries
  • Rolls: assorted hot rolls (refrigerator roll dough) as parker-house, clover leaf, crescent
  • Dessert: steamed pudding or mince pie (choice or carrot pudding with lemon sauce; raisin pudding with foamy sauce, plum pudding, cranberry pudding vanilla sauce, etc.)
  • Beverage

Below are a couple of recipes featured in the notes for this menu’s episodes.

Recipe for carrot pudding and lemon sauce (RS 5/6/3, box 40, folder 1)

Recipes for carrot pudding and lemon sauce (RS 5/6/3, box 40, folder 1)

Some items in other Christmas menus include the following:

  • Christmas dinner, 1946: Oyster baked potatoes (presumably using leftover oysters from Christmas Eve’s oyster stew – a tradition in many families)
  • Christmas dinner, 1946: Molded cranberry nut salad
  • Christmas dinner, 1946: Plum pudding with hard sauce (a combination of butter, sugar, and brandy or rum) for those who fancy an English Christmas tradition
  • Christmas Luncheon or Supper, 1947: Oyster or salsify soup (salsify is a root vegetable that tastes like oysters when cooked; salsify soup is sometimes called “poor man’s oyster stew”)
  • Christmas Luncheon or Supper, 1947: Fruit cake
  • Christmas Dinner, 1950: Chilled grapefruit sections with red hots
  • Christmas Dinner, 1950: Bride’s salad (mixture of fruit including white grapes and nuts folded into whipped cream; lemon juice and sugar may be added to the whipped cream if desired)

Unfortunately we don’t have recipes for all of these items, but I’m sure similar recipes can be found online. Well, maybe not for everything, but then again the internet is full of surprises!

Many more menus – holiday or not – are available in the WOI Radio and Television Records, as well as scripts of Homemaker’s Half-Hour and other productions. Our cookbook collection is also full of some great and interesting recipes, some of which you can view online.

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, we wish you a very happy holiday!

(Vintage) Things to Do in Winter When Its Cold

Plowed road passing a snow-covered farm with farmhouse and swine (09-02-H.IAHEES.529-11-04)

Plowed road passing a snow-covered farm with farmhouse and swine (09-02-H.IAHEES.529-11-04)

Does it (or will it) look like this where you are this winter?  Not a time to venture outside without bundling up! I like to spend winter curled up on the couch, watching a mini-series, and getting some knitting/crocheting/beadweaving/tatting/weaving time in. Being a multi-crafty person I am always interested in finding “vintage” craft patterns, instructions, and ideas.

I gave myself the challenge of finding craft ideas from within our collections. This might seem quite difficult – our collections are strong in agriculture, science, and technology. However, we also document the University and so we have collections that match the major research and teaching areas on campus, one of which is the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. We also have the papers of alumni, rare books, and Iowa-related materials in other areas. So, after scouring our collections I’ve found several fun things you can do indoors this winter!

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100 Years Since the Great War

If there had been any doubt as to the advisability of the creation of the Land Grant institutions, that doubt was destroyed for all time by the Great War. – War Records Committee. “A Short History of Iowa State College in the World War.” (RS 13/16/1, box 2 folder 1)

World War I began in the summer of 1914 and ended in 1919. The United States joined on April 6, 1917 with a declaration of war on Germany. When the United States joined it had a standing army of 133,000. By early June 1917 approximately 9.5 million men had registered for service.

114,000 Iowans enlisted and Iowa State students, staff, faculty, trainees, and alumni formed around 6000 of those serving in World War I.


A service flag dedication in State Gym for 1500 active duty students and alumni, ca. 1918. (RS 13/16/1 box 1, folder 1)

Training Specialists for the War Effort

Iowa State University responded by providing space, expertise, and infrastructure for training soldiers in a number of areas the largest being infantry, engineering, artillery, aviation, and “special.” The majority of these were men, but 29 women from Home Economics also served. 11 were nurses, 10 were dietitians, two were laboratory technicians, and one was a yeoman. One of these women, Pearl Wesley Yates, is remembered with a Gold Star.

The Story of the Gold Star

If you’ve been to Memorial Union you have probably passed through Gold Star Hall which lists the names of Iowa Staters killed in World War I and subsequent wars.

The symbol of the Gold Star was chosen to represent fallen soldiers when President Wilson approved a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of National Defenses for women to wear black arm bands with a gold star for each family member who had died during the war. The campus community in the post-war period formed a not-for-profit corporation (the Memorial Union Corporation) to raise the funds for the building of the Union. Near the Union is a rock plaque inscribed “Dedicated to the men whose lives were lost in World War I.” 119 Iowa Staters killed during World War I are remembered in Gold Star Hall. You can find out more about the lives of the 119 through the informational kiosk at the Union. The kiosk is intended to provide more context and personal information about each person memorialized in the Hall. It was developed by Iowa State graduate student Stelios Vasilis Perdios and based in large part on material found in Special Collections.

Service to Veterans

Cover of Bulletin entitled "Special Training for Disabled Ex-Service Men"

Campus Bulletin detailing the special programs in place to support vocational training for WWI veterans. (RS 13/16/1, Box 2, folder 14)

Iowa State continued working with the military after the war was over by developing retraining programs for disabled veterans. These courses were designed to provide support to veterans who had not previously had college preparation. The classes were primarily focused on agriculture with topics such as “Elementary Beekeeping” and an individualized course of study in Animal Husbandry.

Veteran learning beekeeping

A selection from the Bulletin on Beekeeping training. The original caption reads “Following his completion of work in beekeeping this world war veteran took up work for himself in honey production. (RS 13/16/1, box 2, folder 14)


Want to Learn More?

Iowa State University Special Collections has many manuscript collections relating to World War I:

Our Department of Military Science Subject Files (Record Series 13/16/1) is a great resource for understanding the University’s role in the War. The collection has multiple folders of correspondence related to the World War I (as well as other wars), including several folders of correspondence with soldiers on active duty:

Don’t miss our previous posts in this blog:

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In 1872, when the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (University) decided to create a Department of Domestic Economy, there was no precedent for how to begin such a curriculum. No other land grant institution was teaching in this field, and there were no textbooks. Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of the first ISC president, Adonijah S. Welch, was suggested to head up the department.

“With fear and trembling I finally decided to try,” Mary Welch later reminisced in an essay on “The Early Days of Domestic Science at I.S.C.” for The Alumnus for June 1912, “after telling the committee frankly that I was without experience in that sort of teaching, that there were no established precedents to guide me and no classified courses for me to follow.”

Portrait of Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College President Adonijah Welch. Undated photograph circa early 1900s.

Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College (University) President Adonijah Welch, undated.

In spite of her professed fear, Welch dove in to the task and forged a way ahead. Before she began teaching classes, she took a course at Juliet Corson’s School of Cookery in New York, and later on, she traveled to London to attend the South Kensington School of Cookery, from which she received a certificate.

The London school was established to train young women to go into domestic service for the English upper classes. Welch remembered:

“It was incomprehensible to the English mind that a women, apparently a lady, whose husband was, as my letters of introduction proved, at the head of an important institution of learning, should be anxious either to learn or to teach cooking. The question was often asked me what family I was engaged to work for when I received my certificate.”

On April 2, 1920, Welch answered a note from Elizabeth Storms, then a junior in Home Economics and Agriculture at Iowa State College, asking about “the early days of the Home Economics Department.” In her reply, she writes, “There was very little method of formality in my manner of conducting those early classes. My lectures were intimate talks on the ways and means I had found useful in my own home. …One thing we did to make our work practical was to cook a dinner for a table of eight in the College Dining Room, three days in each week. We were given the same materials from the kitchen that were used for all the tables, but allowed to cook and serve them as we pleased, and I can assure you each table awaited its turn for our dinner with eagerness.”

Welch wrote some of her lectures on domestic economy in a notebook. These lectures covered subjects such as ironing, management of domestic help, cooking, and household accounts. Her no-nonsense approach is apparent in this passage from one lecture: “Avoid primness in your surroundings. Be orderly and neat, but be sensible at the same time. There is nothing more disagreeable than a housekeeper who follows husband, children, and guests about with a broom and dustpan or a floor cloth.”

In 1884, she published a cookbook called Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, which can be viewed in the Digital Collections.

Not only did Welch teach the basics of home management to ISC students, but she also lectured to women’s groups around the state. Around 1882-1883, she gave six lectures to a group of 60 women in Des Moines, in this way embarking on the first Extension activity in the area of home economics.

Wlech resigned from ISC in 1883 but continued to lecture to various women’s groups. In 1992, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

Find out more from the Mary Beaumont Welch Papers in Special Collections.

“Intimate talks” on home management: Mary Beaumont Welch on establishing ISC’s Department of Domestic Economy