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Iowa History Daily: August 14 - Ada Hayden

Iowa History Daily: On August 14, 1884, Ada Hayden was born in Ames. Botanist, Educator, and Preservationist, Hayden did as much to preserve Iowa’s tallgrass prairie as anyone in the state’s history. Ada Hayden Prairie State Preserve, the state’s first preserve, was named to honor a lifetime of understanding Iowa’s prairies.

Growing up on a Story County farm, Hayden fell in love with the natural world. By the time she reached high school she caught the attention of Iowa Conservation Commission Chairperson and Iowa State Professor Louis Pammel who became a lifelong mentor to Hayden. After graduating from Iowa State in 1908, she went on to study at the Shaw School of Botany and Washington University St. Louis before returning to Iowa State to become the first woman to earn a PhD in the school’s history during 1918.

Hayden then started teaching at Iowa State while continuing her research into Iowa's plant life. She spent time working at the Lakes Region Agricultural Experimentation Station and also curated Iowa State’s Herbarium. During her career she added over 40,000 specimens to the herbarium which today is named in her honor.

Starting in 1931, Hayden narrowed her focus to the prairie plants of the Iowa Lakes region. Her 1943 study of Clay and Palo Alto counties stands as one of the most important books ever written about Iowa’s native plant life. In 1944, Hayden started active work on saving the last of Iowa’s remnant prairies. Working closely with the Iowa Academy of Science, Hayden’s efforts eventually resulted in the purchase of Iowa’s first two major prairie preserves: Kalsow Prairie in Pocahontas County and Hayden Prairie in Howard County. Officially named for Hayden following her death in 1950, the Hayden Prairie State Preserve still stands as a testament to the work of Ada Hayden to protect and understand Iowa’s prairies. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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