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!


Notable Women of ISU: Barbara Forker

It’s time for our third installment of Notable Women of ISU! This time we’re going to take a look at physical education expert Barbara Forker. Some of you may know her only as the namesake of the Barbara E. Forker Building, or “Forker” as it’s commonly called. The building, originally the Physical Education for Women (PEW) Building, was renamed in her honor in 1997. Let’s shed some light on why this building was named after her.

Barbara Forker speaking at the Forker Building dedication, 1997. [photo location]

Barbara Forker speaking at the Forker Building dedication, 1997. RS 10/7/13, Box 26, Folder 2

Born in 1920 in Kendallville, Indiana, Dr. Forker earned a B.S. (1942) from Eastern Michigan University, a M.S. (1950) from Iowa State College (University), and a Ph.D. (1957) from the University Michigan. Dr. Forker worked at Iowa State in some capacity from 1948 until her retirement in 1990, beginning as a temporary instructor and eventually becoming Emeritus Professor. She served as Head of the Women’s Physical Education Department from 1958-1974, and was the first Head of the Department of Physical Education (the men’s and women’s departments combined) from 1974-1986.

Barbara Forker, 1955. [photo location]

Barbara Forker, 1955. University Photographs, RS 10/7/A, Box 782

Throughout her career, Dr. Forker was active in many organizations and projects. She served as advisor for NAIADS (synchronized swimming team at Iowa State) and “I” Fraternity (honorary for outstanding women athletes). She was president of the Iowa Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (IAHPER), the Central District Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (CDAHPER), and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was active in several other organizations as well, and was a member of three professional fraternities.

Barbara Forker and President Gerald Ford, signed by President Ford, circa 1977. [photo location]

Barbara Forker and President Gerald Ford, signed by President Ford, circa 1977. RS 10/7/13, Box 25, Folder 2

In addition to presenting over 100 speeches and receiving several awards for her work, Dr. Forker notably worked with the United States Olympics from 1975-1984. She was a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports and in 1977 served as a United States Delegate in the Second Educationists Session at the International Olympic Academy. From 1980 to 1984, she was a member of the United States Olympic Committee Executive Board and the United States Olympic Committee Education Council. In her last year with the Olympics, she was Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee Symposium at the Pre-Olympic Scientific Congress.

For more information about Dr. Forker and her impressive career, come in and have a look at the Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10/7/13. A couple other items of interest are this online feature from Iowa State University’s sesquicentennial celebration and this Women’s History Month blog post we did four years ago. Stop by sometime!

 


Collection highlight: L. H. (Lois Hattery) Tiffany Papers

Lois Hattery Tiffany was born on this day, March 8, in 1924, in Collins, Iowa. She received her B.S. (1945), M.S. (1947), and Ph.D. (1950) in plant pathology all from Iowa State College (University). She joined the Botany faculty at Iowa State as an Instructor (1950-1956). Tiffany was promoted to Assistant Professor (1956-1958), Associate Professor (1958- 1965), Professor (1965-1994), and Distinguished Professor (1994-2002). She also served as Chair (1990-1996) of the Botany Department. She retired from the department in 2002 and was named Emeritus Distinguished Professor.

Lois Tiffany (University Photographs box 1036)

Lois Tiffany (University Photographs box 1036)

Tiffany, informally known as “The Mushroom Lady,” taught mycology and botany classes at both Iowa State University and the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. Her research included studies of fungal diseases of native prairie plants in Iowa, a 10-year survey of Iowa’s morels, and a study of the fungus flora of Big Bend National Park in Texas. She also participated in the Midwestern mushroom aflatoxin studies of both corn and soybeans. Her continuing commitment to research led to the naming of an Iowa truffle in her honor. The fungus, named Mattirolomyces tiffanyae, was discovered in 1998 in several locations of Story County’s oak woods.

 

Tiffany also made great advancements for the place of women in the sciences despite the challenges of sexism in the early years of her career. She was the first woman president of the Iowa Academy of Science, the first woman president of the Osborn Club, and the first woman scientist in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be awarded the title of Distinguished Professor.

Botanical specimen container used by Lois Tiffany (Artifact collection 2011-197.01)

Botanical specimen container used by Lois Tiffany (Artifact collection 2011-197.01)

Read more about Lois Tiffany in the Ecological Society of America’s recent blog post. We hold her papers here in the University Archives.


Notable Women of ISU: Carrie Chapman Catt

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring notable women of ISU. To kick off this series, I am beginning with an obvious choice – Carrie Chapman Catt. Catt is known for her work in the women’s suffrage movement and is so notable that a campus building was named after her (Catt Hall). [It’s worth noting that in 1998 there was a controversy about the naming of the building, known as the September 29th Movement (collection RS 22/3/3), and a review committee was formed in response (RS 22/1/8).]

Without further adieu, here is the lady of the hour.

Carrie Chapman Catt's graduation photo, 1880.

Carrie Chapman Catt’s graduation photo, 1880. University Photographs, RS 21/7/A.

Carrie Chapman Catt was born January 9, 1859, to Maria Clinton and Lucius Lane in Ripon, Wisconsin. Around 1865, the family moved to Charles City, Iowa. Catt then attended Iowa State College and graduated in 1880 at the top of her class.

During her time in Ames, she established military drills for women, became the first woman student to give an oration before a debating society, earned extra money as assistant to the librarian, and was a member of Pi Beta Phi.

Post-graduation, she became the high school principal in Mason City and then in 1883 the superintendent of Mason City Schools. While there, she met her first husband, Leo Chapman, editor of the Mason City Republican. They married in February 1885. After his death in 1886, she went to California and worked as a newspaper reporter before returning to Iowa to take on women’s suffrage.

Early on in her suffrage work, she ran into a classmate from Ames, George W. Catt. They were married in 1890. He supported his wife’s work both financially and personally until his death in October 1905.

Carrie Chapman Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1900-1904 and from 1915 until women’s right to vote was attained (1920). In addition, she formed the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and served as president of that organization for many years. When women won the right to vote, Catt encouraged the formation of the League of Women Voters.

Throughout her life, Catt received a great deal of recognition for her work, including many awards such as the Chi Omega (1941), the Pictorial Review Award (1931), and induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. She died at her home in New Rochelle, New York in 1947.

Brochure from a celebration of Catt and the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, 1995. RS 21/7/3, Box 3, Folder 8

Brochure from a celebration of Catt and the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, 1995. RS 21/7/3, Box 3, Folder 8

More information and materials related to Carrie Chapman Catt can be found here in Special Collections and University Archives in the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers. We also have other women’s collections, including the Woman Suffrage Collection. In addition, see this webpage for resources available online. Have a look, and stop by sometime!