Iowa History Daily: September 19 - A Dream Deferred

Iowa History Daily: On September 19, 1862, Adeline De Walt (Reynolds) was born on a farm in rural Benton County near Vinton. Although she always wanted to be an actress, it wasn’t until she was 78 years old when she made her debut on the silver screen.

Born during the American Civil War, De Walt Reynolds reminisced on one of her earliest memories taking place when Union soldiers returned to Benton County after mustering out. When her father discouraged her childhood acting dreams, she instead lied about her age to get a job teaching country school. After she unsuccessfully appealed to the school board for fair wages when she learned her male equivalents in the county earned more, she left the teaching profession.

Adeline De Walt married a local man named Frank Reynolds and they initially settled in Vinton before opportunities took the couple to several stops throughout the country as they had four children. Moving to San Francisco in 1905, De Walt Reynolds struggled as a single mother after the untimely death of her husband. When the great San Francisco Earthquake destroyed the secretarial school she attended in 1906, she focused on raising her children. After her children grew up, she went on to graduate from University of California at Berkeley with honors at the age of 68.

Starting in on her acting dreams at Berkeley, the dream finally came true when De Walt Reynolds debuted by playing James Stuart’s grandmother in the 1941 film “Come Live With Me.” Several roles followed, and her most notable performance came as the mysterious Madame Zimba in the 1943 classic “Son of Dracula.” She also appeared in the 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments,” the final role of her acting career. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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