Uncommon Americans: The Lives and Legacies of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover

By Timothy Walch | Go to book overview

Pioneer Girl: Lou Henry Hoover
and the Girl Scouts

Susan Estabrook Kennedy

To trace Lou Henry Hoover’s career—and it was a career—as a Girl Scout is to follow a joyous path through a life well lived. In the records she and others left of her nearly seventy years, many of her most enthusiastic reflections center on Scouting or on its most essential themes.

Born in Iowa in 1874, Lou Henry enjoyed an active and athletic life from an early age, including hunting and fishing expeditions with her father near the Henry household in Waterloo and around her grandparents’ home in Shell Rock. After the family moved to California in 1887, a teen-aged Lou enjoyed an even more active outdoor life. “My father loved the mountains,” she told a correspondent half a century later, “and every moment that he could steal away from his indoor occupation we went exploring and camping in what would be new country to us.”152

Her extracurricular activities as a high school student ranged from the fan-drill team to a literary club and an appearance as Joan of Arc in a school pageant—she made her “armor” out of hand-cut tin discs.153 At normal school—the teacher-training college of her day—she belonged to the Agassiz Club, a group of young women who met weekly to “make regular additions to the collections in Normal museum” and “have our own drawings of everything possible.”154 Her interest in the out-of-doors undoubtedly contributed to her fascination with geology, which led her to enroll at Leland Stanford Junior University in 1894.

There in a laboratory she met another Iowa native, Herbert Hoover. After he graduated and established himself as a successful mining engineer, and after she completed her degree, they married and embarked on remarkable adventures around the world. She called it “pioneering,” and listed China, Burma, the deserts and mountains of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, the Ural Mountains, and “the trails of the Caesars in the Alps and of the Pharaohs across the Red Sea into Arabia.”155

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