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Jessie Field Shambaugh papers

Identifier: IWA0133

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Scope and Contents

The Jessie Field Shambaugh papers date from 1901 to 1994 and measure 4.5 linear inches. They consist of materials relating to Shambaugh's life, primarily a scrapbook about her career in agricultural education and the early development of 4-H.

The scrapbook contains copies of newspaper articles, photocopies of photographs, reminiscences by Shambaugh and others, including "Walking Through History with my Grandmother," a scrapbook compiled by her granddaughter, Heather Watkins, for a 4-H project, and several histories of the early 4-H. The collection also includes biographical material, writings by Jessie Field Shambaugh, items about 4-H in Iowa, and photographs.

The biographical material folder contains materials pertaining to Jessie Field Shambaugh's life history including two issues of The Palimpsest, the July/August 1981 issue containing the cover article, "Jessie Field Shambaugh: The Mother of 4-H" and the September/October 1983 issue containing an article on Jessie Field Shambaugh's brother, Henry Field.

The writings folder contains copies of articles and poems by Jessie Field Shambaugh, especially those that appeared in Association Monthly, a publication of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).

The 4-H in Iowa folder includes the February 1988 issue of The Goldfinch on "4-H and Iowa"; a postcard of and article on Lois Edmunds, a 3-H member and State Champion Bread Baker; and four newspaper clippings on the re-dedication of the Goldenrod School in October 1994. The photographs folder contains ten photographs depicting both Shambaugh and early 4-H activities.

Also included in the collection are two books shelved in the printed works collection. The Very Beginnings (1963) by Faye Whitmore and Manila Cheshire chronicles the early history of 4-H in Iowa and includes a brief forward by Jessie Field Shambaugh. The Memory Book (1918) originated as a manuscript written by the Field children, Henry, Leanna, Helen, Susan, Martha and Jessie, as a Christmas present for their parents in 1915.

In addition, the collection contains three videocassettes; a slide presentation "Jessie Field Shambaugh: Mother of 4-H," (1991) narrated by her granddaughter, Heather Watkins, an interview with Martin Johnson who was a corn club judge from 1909-1910 and was involved with early 3-H and 4-H in Page County, and "Celebrating 4-H Through the Years," (1996) an Iowa Sesquicentennial program produced by Iowa State University.

In addition to these holdings in the Iowa Women's Archives, the library has a textbook, Community Civics, co-authored by Jessie Field Shambaugh and Scott Nearing. This book, aimed at rural students, tries to teach civics "in terms of [children's] own lives." It is available in the Special Collections department.


  • Creation: 1901-1994


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Jessie Field was born in Shenandoah, Iowa, on June 26, 1881. Reminiscences about her childhood are included in The Memory Book (1918), a manuscript originally written in 1915 by the Field children as a Christmas gift for their parents and later bound in book form.

In 1906, after holding several positions as teacher and school principal, Jessie Field became school superintendent for Page County, Iowa. She left this position in 1912 to become the National Young Women's Christian Association's Secretary for Small Town and Country Work. She married Ira Shambaugh in 1917 and raised two children, William H. and Phyllis Ruth.

During her tenure as Page County School Superintendent, Field initiated many innovations in agricultural education including teachers' institutes and roundtables for updating and sharing materials and methods. She also organized Boys Corn Clubs and Girls Home clubs to teach rural youth modern farming and homemaking techniques. In 1910, she also helped to develop summer farm camps to extend the work of the clubs. The modern 4-H organization originated from these early clubs and camps. In 1909, Field designed a three-leaf clover pin, distributed in 1910 and after, to encourage participation in the boys and girls clubs. She added a fourth leaf to the design in 1911. The clover pins designed by Field were later copyrighted nationally. Because of her active role in the development of activities for rural youth and her development of the clover pin, many people name Jessie Field Shambaugh as the "Mother of 4-H."


4.50 linear inches

3 videocassettes [V34-35, V104] videocassettes

Language of Materials



Shenandoah, Iowa teacher who became school superintendent for Page County, Iowa. She played a central role in the development of activities for rural youth and is referred to as the 'Mother of 4-H.'

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 198) were donated by Ruth Shambaugh Watkins in 1994 and succeeding years.

Marnie Schroer, 1994.
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)