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Iowa History Daily: March 29 - First Lady Lou Henry Hoover

Iowa History Daily: On March 29, 1874, future First Lady Lou Henry Hoover was born in Waterloo, Iowa. An avid adventurer, Lou Henry Hoover’s legacy extends well beyond her husband’s time in the White House.

An avid outdoors-woman known for her horsemanship and taxidermy abilities, Lou Henry’s ‘rock hound’ nature led her to pursue a degree in geology at Stanford University. The only female  geology student at the time, she completed her degree and met her future president husband in 1898. Following a marriage proposal cabled by Herbert from a worksite in Australia, the two married on February 10, 1899, in Monterey, California. 

The following day they sailed for Shanghai, China, where the newlyweds traveled throughout remote and dangerous regions prospecting for mines during the Boxer Rebellion. Lou Henry learned Mandarin while in China, and still stands as the only American First Lady to have spoken the language. Additionally, both Hoovers knew Latin, and they worked together to translate a 16th-century mining and metallurgy encyclopedia for publication. 

Lou Henry also worked with Herbert in providing relief for Belgian refugees during World War I, and King Albert I of Belgium decorated her for the efforts in 1919. During the Great War she also assisted with the American Women’s War Relief Fund, a vital organization providing ambulances and support for hospitals. During the 1920s, Lou Henry served as the National President of the Girl Scouts while Herbert worked in the presidential cabinets of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. She returned to the role after her husband’s presidential term, as well, again serving as the head of the organization from 1935 to 1937. As First Lady, Lou Henry Hoover regularly broadcasted nation-wide advocating for volunteerism, the Girl Scouts, and other issues important to her.

Today, Lou Henry rests next to her husband on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch. Additionally, Lou Henry Elementary School opened in her hometown of Waterloo in 2005. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaHistoryCalendar


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