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Elson, Mary Johnston, 1914-2011



  • Existence: 1914 - 2011


Mary Johnston Elson was born in 1914 in rural Jefferson County, near Birmingham, Iowa. After attending grade school at local one-room schoolhouses, she attended Birmingham High School, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class in 1932. The following year, Mary Johnston began her teaching career at the Crum School in Van Buren County, Iowa, marking the beginning of a teaching career that would span forty-four years. In the summers of 1933 and 1934, she took summer classes at Parsons College, Fairfield, Iowa. After four years of teaching, she had saved enough money to attend Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), where she studied for two years to receive her Kindergarten-Primary Certificate in the spring of 1939. She immediately found a position at the Shellsburg, Iowa, school, where she was hired to teach third grade.   In the fall of 1939, Mary Johnston met Van Elson, and they were married that December on Christmas Eve. The Elsons farmed in the Shellsburg, Iowa area for three years before purchasing a farm between Urbana and Center Point. Mary Elson taught third grade for over ten years at the Shellsburg School, then took time off to raise the Elson's son, John. She returned to teaching in 1958, and about this same time, she became the Chairman of the Division of Art for the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs. Mary Elson taught for a few more years at Shellsburg before seeking a position in Urbana, where she became a kindergarten teacher. In 1966, she received her BA in Education from Coe College, and then took a position at the Vinton, Iowa, school, and taught kindergarten there until her retirement in 1977. After retirement, Mary Elson became involved in numerous volunteer activities and continued to participate in several clubs, including the East Iowa Heirloom Quilters.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Mary Johnston Elson papers

Identifier: IWA0730

Iowa teacher from Jefferson County who taught in rural schools for forty-four years and was active in the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs.

Dates: 1928-2004