Category Archives: Women in History

A Benton County Leader

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Whether she’s fighting for civil rights or natural resources, Annabelle Jaramillo is known as a strong voice in Oregon, and a leader who represents Benton County.

She’s worn many professional hats: in addition to being re-elected to a third four-year term as Benton County Commissioner on November 4, 2008, she’s also been the Citizens’ Representative for Governor Kitzhaber; a research botanist; a development director; a civil rights advocate; a teacher; and a diversity, motivation, employment, and computer trainer.

Jaramillo has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees of Science from Portland State University, working as a research botanist for the USDA Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, from 1974 until 1987. She served as both the President of National Image Inc., a national Hispanic civil rights organization, and the Executive Director of the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs. From 1995 to 2000, she served as a senior staff member for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s as his Citizen’s Representative, responding directly to citizen concerns. In 1997, Kitzhaber named Jaramillo to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Board (NEJAC), an EPA body that assists federal agencies in the development of environmental justice strategies. Jaramillo’s service with NEJAC ended in 2001.

She was elected as a Benton Count Commissioner in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Want to know more?

What’s Cooking? OSU Grad Mercedes Bates… aka Betty Crocker!

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It’s true! But those of you who have been regular readers of this blog probably knew that after seeing this post in 2007.

Want to know more about the woman? Check the Wikipedia article on Mercedes Allison Bates.

Love the woman, but want to know more about the icon? Wikipedia has a great article on Betty Crocker, with wonderful links at the bottom!

Focus on Faculty: Ida Burnett (Callahan)

Today we’re going to shift from students to faculty, featuring a short biography of Ida Callahan– although, she was also an 1881 OSU grad!

And again, thanks to George Edmonston for all his work on the history of OSU on the Alumni Association site, he makes my job easy …

“One of the legendary faculty members in the history of OSU, Ida Burnett was a standout student while in school and was hired immediately after graduation by President Arnold to assist W. W. Bristow in the preparatory department. She is the only woman pictured in one of the earliest known photos of the Oregon State faculty, taken in 1883. She rose to become assistant professor of English at OAC and during the early 1920s was president of the Oregon Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was much sought after at alumni reunions for many years, and it was an honor among women returnees to be photographed with her. Today, a women’s residence hall just east of the Kerr Administration Building is named in her honor.”

Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8th

alice-biddle-1870-graduating-class.jpgNationally and internationally, this is the month to celebrate the wide-ranging accomplishments of women all over the world. As a Flickr Commons member, we’re joining with the other Commons institutions to put up photographic sets that recognize and commemorate International Women’s Day. Want to see what we’ve put together? Go to Flickr Commons and do a search for the tag “womensday,” which is what all the institutions have used to identify those photographs that are part of this observation, or take a short cut by clicking here. You can read about the flurry of activity on the indicommons blog. And, if you just want to go straight to our set, check out OSU Archives Celebrates International Women’s Day March 8th. Remember, viewing is good, commenting is better — we want to hear from you, so log in to Flickr and use that comment box!

It’s never enough to put up pictures, so for the next 15 days, we’ll be posting a little bit about each of the women featured in our Flickr set, starting with Alice Biddle. And who better to quote than George Edmonston when celebrating Ms. Biddle, the first woman to graduate from OSU?

“Alice Biddle, from Corvallis, was actually one of three students in Oregon State’s first graduating class in 1870. The other two were men with the last names of Currin and Veach, but Alice is the one we most remember. Perfect grades. Perfect attendance. OSU’s first woman graduate. To top it off, a Bachelor of Science degree in the liberal arts. And she was only 16.”

Want to know more? George has written a wonderful piece on Biddle, which can be found on the Oregon State University Alumni Association page.

OSU Buildings Named for Women

aerial-osc-2.jpgThanks to the OSU Retirement Association for compiling this list!

The exact number of OSU buildings named for women is not as clear cut as one might hope. To paraphrase a recent U.S. President, it all depends on how you define the phrase “named for.” Under the strictest possible criterion, “named for” requires naming in honor of a single, specific, identifiable person.

Using that criterion, here is their list of thirteen (13) qualifying buildings, in alphabetical order.

  1. Azalea House: Named for Azalea Sager, a Home Economics Extension leader who raised the money to build this women’s co-op.
  2. Bates Hall: OSU Home Economics graduate Mercedes Bates went on to become not only the original Betty Crocker but also the first female Vice President of General Mills.
  3. Callahan Hall: Ida Burdette Callahan taught English for 40 years, lived in women’s residence halls, and was one of three women responsible for starting the Corvallis Public Library.
  4. Dawes House: This house was the home of Melissa Martin Dawes, Professor of German.
  5. Gladys Valley Gymnastics Center: Named for Gladys Valley, who was a huge fan of gymnastics.
  6. Heckart Lodge: Zelia Heckart ran a local boarding house for men for many years.
  7. Kidder Hall: Ida Angeline Kidder, librarian from 1908 to 1920, fought constantly for better library facilities for the growing campus.
  8. Milam Hall: Ava Milam Clark was Dean of Home Economics for four decades, from 1913-1952.
  9. Plageman Hall: Named for an early staff member who was a nurse for student health services.
  10. Richardson Hall: Ms. Richardson donated the resources which allowed for this facility to be built.
  11. Sackett Hall: Beatrice Walton Sackett was a member of the Board of Regents.
  12. Snell Hall: Margaret Comstock Snell, M.D., was Head of Household Economics from 1889 to 1909. The building now called Ballard Hall was the original Snell Hall and was a women’s dormitory. Dr. Snell established the first College of Home Economics in the western United States, which began as a single classroom on the third floor of what is now Benton Hall.
  13. Waldo Hall: Like Beatrice Sackett, Clara Waldo was a member of the Board of Regents.

If we range beyond the strict boundaries of the Corvallis campus, we can add a 14th entry: Potts Guin Library, HMSC: Marilyn Potts-Guin was the founding librarian at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, on the Oregon Coast at Newport.

Two buildings are named for couples or families which, of course, included women: Dixon Recreation Center: Jim and Jeanette Dixon were long time members of the Department of Physical Education and championed recreational sports. Valley Library: Our library recognizes the generous contributions of the Valley family, which includes Gladys (noted above) and her daughter, Sunny.

That brings the list to 16. But we aren’t quite done.

The list grows to 17 when we add the one building most recognized of all for acknowledging the women of OSU: The Women’s Building: This one speaks for itself!

**Larry Landis, University Archivist and unequivocal campus building expert, reminded me that Halsell Hall was named for Carrie Halsell, OSU’s first African-American graduate.**

[This listing organized by Gary Tiedeman, based mostly upon information gathered and assembled by Jo Anne Trow and partially upon additional material found in the OSU Archives.]

Betty Lynd Thompson: “Art Imitating Life”

ThompsonFor Betty Lynd Thompson, the phrase “art imitates life” perfectly captures the spirit of her 44-year legacy of dance at Oregon State. Having specialized in the study of creative dance at the University of Wisconsin, Thompson sought out further training in the New York City studios of modern dance innovators such as Martha Graham, with whom she regarded as a friend as well as a mentor. When Thompson came to Oregon State in 1927 to fill the post of Assistant Professor of Physical Education, she was solely responsible for all dance coursework taught on campus. In this position, Thompson not only taught basic rhythm and movement in addition to her specialty of modern dance, but she also instructed students in a wide range of dance styles-from square and tap to ballroom and folk. After 1945, the addition of other faculty in dance allowed Thompson to focus her teaching efforts into the areas of modern and creative dance.

Away from the hardwood floors of the Women’s Building, Thompson was also known for her scholarship in the field of dance. In 1933, she wrote a textbook for dance instructors, Fundamentals of Rhythm and Dance and founded the Oregon State chapter of Orchesis, the modern dance honorary society, in 1931.

During a volunteer stint with the USO in 1946, Thompson discovered another passion: ceramics. Dance movements that inspired Thompson to devote her life to instruction and study began to take form in clay in a hobby she called “danceramics.” To refine her sculpting skills, Thompson took a term off to study ceramics at the University of Washington. Her talent in shaping clay into figurines engaged in modern dance positions earned her a spot in an exhibit of Northwest artists at the Seattle Art Museum in 1948.

Reported in a 1948 Barometer article as having a kiln and pottery wheel in her basement studio on campus, Thompson sculpted at least a couple dozen of the clay dancers (see photograph above). Some of the figurines were designated to be trophies for recipients of dance-related honors such as the “Orchesis Senior Award.”

Even toward the very end of her life, dance still defined Thompson’s soul and being. In 1971, the last year of her teaching career, Thompson still actively taught classes in conditioning and dance. At a 83rd birthday celebration organized for the longtime instructor by her friends, Thompson got on a stage and demonstrated that she could still move with a grace exemplified by the dancers she molded in clay.

A month later, she passed away.

Documentation of Thompson and her life of instruction, dance, and art at OSU can be found among photographs, films, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and examples of her “danceramic” sculptures in the Betty Lynd Thompson Collection in the OSU Archives.

Ava Helen Miller Pauling: Linus Pauling’s Greatest Discovery

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Ava Helen Miller was born the tenth of twelve children on a farm near Oregon City, Oregon on December 24, 1903. After graduating from Salem High School, she attended Oregon Agricultural College, where she met Linus Pauling in 1922, her teacher in a chemistry course for home economics students, though an undergraduate himself. A shy twenty-one year old, Linus had quickly learned that to earn the respect of his classes he would need to establish his authority by asking tough questions and holding high expectations of his pupils. And so it was that on the first day of the term, Pauling “stood at the front of the room” and asked, “‘Will you tell me what you know about ammonium hydroxide, Miss…’ (I then looked at my class book and selected one of twenty-five names at random) ‘…Miller?’ As it turned out, Ms. Miller knew quite a bit about ammonium hydroxide. Two years later Ava Helen and Linus were married and living in Pasadena, California, where Linus eventually distinguished himself as among the greatest scientists in human history.

By assuming the responsibilities of their home life and four children, Ava Helen enabled Linus to spend his time immersed in scientific study. Perhaps more importantly however, it was Ava Helen who persuaded Linus to devote half of his time to the pursuit of world peace. Horrified by the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War II, Ava Helen successfully convinced her husband that if he did not contribute his fame and intellect to the burgeoning anti-nuclear movement, there may soon cease to be a world in which he could pursue his primary passion – that of scientific research and discovery.

Together, Linus and Ava Helen worked tirelessly on behalf of numerous peace, civil liberties and women’s rights causes. Most significantly, the Paulings organized the Appeal to Stop the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, a petition signed by approximately 9,000 scientists when submitted to the United Nations in 1958.

In 1961, Ava Helen and Linus arranged the Oslo Conference Against the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, a symposium on the prevention of further development of nuclear weapons. Sixty scientists from fifteen countries attended. The conference’s recommendations were essentially identical to the nuclear nonproliferation policies announced by President John F. Kennedy the next year – a landmark achievement which garnered Linus Pauling his second Nobel Prize, for Peace, in 1963. In accepting the prize, Linus was quick to point out the major contributions made to the petition effort by his wife, noting that “In the fight for peace and against oppression, she has been my constant and courageous companion and coworker. On her behalf, as well as my own, I express my thanks.” In addition to inspiring her husband’s humanitarian causes, Ava Helen was closely involved with several peace and civil liberties organizations herself. For three years, she served as National Vice-President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was a board member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for seven years and a lifelong member of Women Strike for Peace. In various capacities, Ava Helen likewise traveled throughout the world giving lectures on peace and human rights. On one notable occasion in 1964, she delivered an address to an audience of over 100,000 people at a peace rally in Athens, Greece.

Among the several awards that Ava Helen Pauling received are: the Janice Holland Award of the Pennsylvania chapter of Women Strike for Peace, an honorary doctorate (Doctor of World Peace) from San Gabriel College, and the Ralph Atkinson Award of the Monterey County Chapter of the ACLU. This last honor reads: “…to Ava Helen Pauling, who spoke out against the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942… challenged the inquisitorial committees of Congress in the 1950s and 1960s… and has actively supported the ACLU and its programs for half a century.”

Ava Helen passed away on October 7, 1981. She and Linus Pauling shared fifty-nine remarkable years together. Whenever asked what his greatest discovery was, Linus always replied, “My wife.”

“Harriet is of a nature for her work. She is careful of details and exacting,” 1955.


The spirit of Harriet Moore, the first University Archivist, still lingers in our shelves. In the notes she’s written on recycled memos in the Memorabilia Collection, in the approximately 30,000 items in Harriet’s Collection, and in the stories from retired librarians who remember when Harriet interviewed them for a job when they were students. Even in my short time here, I could write paragraphs about the woman.

Moore’s affiliation with OSU spanned more than 70 years, from her arrival in 1920 as a student to her days as the University Archivist.Her professionalism and dedication to the historical record is present in all of the staff in the Archives: she established this as a place where serious work is done.

Harriet Louise Forest was born in Miles, Iowa, at the end of the 19th century. In 1910, when she was 14, her family moved to Oregon. Four years later, in 1914, she entered Reed College as one of 13 students in a US Army Medical Corps cooperative program with the University of Oregon Medical School. Moore became a reconstruction aid in physical therapy in spring of 1918; she received orders in October of that same year and was awaiting deployment in New York when the World War I armistice was signed. She stayed in New York until the end of that year, when she was transferred to both Camp Gordon and Fort McPherson in Georgia, and then to Walter Reed in Washington D.C. She served for three years, then resigned to finish college.

She started at OAC in the summer of 1920, but was called away after one term to work as a physical therapist in Tacoma, Washington. She returned to OAC and graduated in 1922 with a BS in Vocational Education; just a few days after graduation, she was married. She spent the next academic year in Corvallis, resuming her studies in 1923. In 1924, she earned her MS Vocational Education, the first master’s degree of it’s kind awarded at OAC. Her master’s thesis was entitled: “Functional periodicity in women.” In case her studies weren’t enough, from 1923-1926, she and her husband were chaperones at Shepard Hall.

For the next 30 years, Moore traveled with her husband throughout the country as his Department of Agriculture job required, she raised her children, she worked as a physical therapist, and she cultivated her passion for history. In November of 1929, she drove, by herself, from Pasadena to Orlando — it took her 5 1/2 days, and she did it in a Model T. The family lived in New York, Washington DC, Yakima, Pasadena, and Orlando; they found themselves stationed in Washington, D.C. on three separate occasions, which allowed Harriet to pursue her interest in historical and genealogical research.

In 1945, her husband accepted a position on the Extension staff, and they returned to Corvallis. At the request of the Daughter’s of the Revolution, she began recording information on head markers in Benton County cemeteries. A 1997 Gazette Times article said this of Moore’s adventures: “She often had to crawl on hands and knees through brambles to find grave markers and, once, she was thoroughly rump-stung by angry bees whose hive she had disturbed.”

Her work at the library began in 1955, when she was hired by Marie Jackson as a Library Assistant in the cataloging and reserve room. The Archives were established in the fall of 1961, largely the result of the growing quantity of University records and historical materials that were inundating the library: Harriet Moore was the natural choice to be in charge of maintaining “some kind of order to this mass of material.” Her job was “sorting, classifying, labeling, and filing piles of papers, books and pictures.” Coincidentally, the 1960s also saw the state enact a state-wide Records Management program. In anticipation of her new position, Moore paid her own way in the summer of 1961 to a training offered by the National Archives and American University.

The Archives was set up in the basement of Gill Coliseum; unfortunately for Moore, the accommodations weren’t as nice as those we have now — there was no air and there was no heat. By 1962, Moore had a student to assist her in the Archives, a column in the Oregon Stater entitled “Archives would like to know about this,” and a career as a professional archivist. Two years after opening in Gill, the Archives moved to Kidder Hall.

Moore’s monthly reports offer a window into her both her job as an archivist, and to her as a person. These reports document the amount of material received and weeded, notes on the weather and facilities, and highlights of her reference work. She was committed to historical accuracy, and expected others to take facts as seriously as she did. This is a quote from her November 1964 report: “During the past year, I have asked students who come for historical data to let me see their first drafts, in order to check their accuracy. It is so easy for them to pick up misstatements that have been carried in earlier publications. She was a stickler for the details.

Moore retired in 1966, but remained in a part-time position until 1968. Even in retirement, she received almost daily inquiries on local history — and answered many from memory.

Margaret Anderson, in a letter just after Harriet’s death in 1995, writes “[n]ames like Snell and Cordley and Kerr — that we think of as buildings — were people to Harriet. Often people connect with pictures and documents in the archives.”

Helen Gilkey: Master Botanist

Dr. Helen Gilkey in botany laboratory with students, circa 1920 (HC 946).Botanist Helen Margaret Gilkey earned a master’s degree in botany from Oregon Agricultural College in 1911 and the next year enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of California at Berkeley. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Botany at Berkeley when she completed her degree in 1915. She continued as a scientific illustrator at Berkeley until 1918, when she returned to OAC as an assistant professor. She was also appointed Curator of the Herbarium, a position she held for 33 years, until her retirement in 1951.

Under Gilkey’s watch, the college’s herbarium grew from 25,000 to 75,000 plant specimen. Gilkey wrote more than 40 articles and books during her academic career and was one of the world’s leading experts in underground fungi (truffles) and tubers.

In 1996, Gilkey was inducted into the Berkeley Women’s Hall of Fame.

In 2003, Sharon Rose, Willamette University Biology Professor, curated an exhibit of Gilkey’s botanical illustrations at Willamette’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Read full story about Sharon Rose’s research.).

The Helen M. Gilkey Papers are available to researchers in the OSU Archives.

Mercedes Bates, also known as Betty Crocker

Mercedes BatesIn honor of Women’s History Month, University Archives will be posting items on strong, pioneering women who have worked at or attended Oregon State University. It is fitting that we start our first post with a woman who helped shape the image of an endearing female American icon — Betty Crocker.

Mercedes Bates was born in Portland, Oregon and was a 1936 Home Economics graduate of Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). After leaving OAC, Bates began her career working with southern California Gas Company overseeing their home service department. Then in 1948 she decided to go into business for herself, with a loan from her father, she opened a freelance food consulting business. Her food consulting business gave experience with food presentation in TV commercials. Bates was able to parlay her experience in 1960 as a senior food editor for McCall’s magazine, where she worked for four years.

In 1964 Mercedes Bates embarked on long career with General Mills, serving as the director of the Betty Crocker Kitchens. During her tenure as director, Bates was responsible for updating Betty’s persona as American women’s roles were changing. In 1966 Bates became the first female vice president in General Mills history. Not only was this a first of General Mills but this was also a first in the food industry itself. Bates would remain at General Mills until her retirement in 1984.

Retirement did not slow Bates down. She was active with a number of charities and other organizations including, the Girl Scout Council, the 4H Clubs of Minnesota, and the American Home Economic Association. It was while serving on the board of American Home Economic Association that Bates came back to OSU. A site visit by Bates lead to a generous gift for OSU, and in 1989 donated $3 million dollars to OSU. At the time it was the largest one-time donation to the University. The Mercedes A. Bates Family Study Center was opened in 1992 in her honor. The building housed programs that focused on studying families throughout their lifespan. Bates passed away in 1997 at the age of 81.