Project Launch: Ada Hayden Online Exhibit & Digital Collection

Black and white portrait of Ada Hayden

Ada Hayden’s photograph
from the 1908 Bomb.

May 29th of this year marks 100 years after Ada Hayden graduated as the first woman to receive a PhD from Iowa State. Who was Ada Hayden? She was a botanist, educator, ISU faculty member, ISU alumna, ecologist, illustrator, photographer, and, as she may be best known for: staunch advocate for prairie preservation. The list could continue. Hayden grew up in Ames, Iowa. While she was attending Ames High School, Iowa State’s botany professor Louis Pammel encouraged her to enroll at Iowa State, and she graduated with a B.S. in botany in 1906. She received her masters from the University of Washington in St. Louis, and did work at the Missouri Botanical Garden while there. She then returned to Iowa State as an instructor and received her PhD in 1918.

After graduation, Hayden remained at Iowa State, becoming an assistant professor in 1929. She remained at Iowa State for her entire career, in 1919 becoming Assistant Professor of botany, and in 1934 Research Assistant Professor at the Lakes Region Agricultural Experiment Station and curator of the herbarium (which would later be named after her).

Scans of Ada Hayden's Bachelor's and Ph.D.'s certificates

Ada Hayden’s B.S. (top left) and Ph.D. (bottom right) from Iowa State College
(now Iowa State University).

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of her graduating with a PhD from Iowa State, the Digital Initiatives unit has put together an online exhibit exploring here years here as a student, and expanded the digital collection which holds a selection of items from the Ada Hayden papers (RS 13/5/55) and other archival collections held in Special Collections and University Archives.

Originally comprising scans of Hayden’s beautifully hand-colored lantern slides of prairie vegetation which she most likely used for her public presentations on prairie ecology, the digital collection has grown to include a selection of her correspondence, photography, illustrations, and creative work. Also included are images of Ada Hayden and a few biographical resources – including images of her mother and father, and the press release announcing that Iowa State’s herbarium was being named after her. The expanded digital collection was envisioned as a way for people to get a better understanding of Hayden’s work outside of her publications. As an insight into her creative process, included is a poem she wrote about the Iowa rose and notes she probably used while composing the poem.

Scan of letter from Iowa State botany professor Louis Pammel to A. K. Petersen

Letter from Iowa State botany professor Louis Pammel
to A. K. Petersen
(box 7, folder 1b of the Louis Pammel

The correspondence in the digital collection (from the Louis Hermann Pammel papers) covers Hayden’s student through professional years, and includes correspondence from Hayden as well as others such as botany professor Louis Pammel. In the letter above, Pammel is responding to a letter from an A. K. Petersen which requests “a man” to teach summer school. Pammel emphatically responds “I cannot suggest a man to you…but I am glad to suggest to you, a lady in my department; Dr. Ada Hayden who is my ‘right hand helper’…She is one of the most capable teachers we have on our staff…” To read more of the correspondence which provides an insight into Hayden’s student and professional life, please visit the digital collection!

The digital exhibit focuses on her time as student here at Iowa State. It was created as a supplement to the digital collection, since documentation of her student years is limited. Much of what we know comes from the student yearbook, the Bomb. The exhibit primarily draws from yearbook pages and university photographs to help illustrate Hayden’s time here at Iowa State. She was an active undergraduate student, participating in a variety of campus organizations – including serving on the Bomb Board during her junior year (while Hayden was a student, the juniors created the yearbook for their class, naming the yearbook after their graduating year – therefore the 1908 Bomb was published in 1907). The exhibit also provides a window into what campus was like during her Hayden’s years (1904-1918), and provides an opportunity for visitors to test their knowledge through a few quizzes. Check out the “Resources” page if you’re interested in learning more about Hayden, or visit the Special Collections and University Archives to look through her papers and other archival collections (a selection of which are listed in the Resources page of the online exhibit).

Screenshot of homepage of Ada Hayden's Student Years webpage

Homepage of the new digital exhibit which explores Hayden’s
student years at Iowa State (1904-1918)

And, in closing, I would like to thank the hard-working and dedicated staff of Digital Initiatives who helped make both of these projects happen! Lindsey Hillgartner (production coordinator), who managed the digitization of the materials, Lori Bousson (web designer) who designed and created the layout of the exhibit (which is far more work than this brief description implies), and Kim Anderson (unit lead) who provided support and advice throughout. And to everyone listed for their editorial assistance!

And, without further ado, please visit the expanded Ada Hayden digital collection and the new Ada Hayden online exhibit to learn more about Iowa State’s first woman PhD!