An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview

Prologue
Who Was Lou Henry Hoover?

Her friends and colleagues called her "the Lady" -- as they called her husband "the Chief." Among those who had worked closely with the Hoovers during the hectic days of World War I, when they organized relief projects for noncombatants in Europe and later coordinated food production in the United States to support the war effort, these two inspired an admiration that amounted almost to awe. It seemed that there was no problem that this couple -- together or singly -- could not handle, from a calm, logical appraisal to a simple, rational solution.

This was particularly true of Lou Henry Hoover, a woman whose tact and generosity were legendary among those who worked with her. While her husband could at times be prickly, his impatience with those who disagreed with his appraisal of the situation inspiring accusations of arrogance, Lou was unfailingly courteous, thoughtful, and kind. She always knew exactly which of her many friends to call on for assistance with the project of the moment, and exactly what to say to persuade them to do as she wished. Whether it was collecting a boatload of California produce for starving Belgians, enlisting top quality volunteers for her beloved Girl Scout program, or securing financial support for the Women's Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation, Lou Henry Hoover almost always succeeded -- quickly, effectively and with a minimum of fuss.

It is difficult, even now, for a biographer to get at the deeper aspects of Lou Henry Hoover's nature. She was, in the words of her close friend Charlotte Kellogg, "an unusual combination of spontaneity and reserve."1 She rarely shared her private thoughts, routinely burned personal letters, and maintained always an invisible barrier between her public image and her private self. Among the thousands

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