Welch Hall Namesake: Mary Beaumont Welch

Welch Hall

Mary Beaumont Welch

Mary Beaumont Welch was born July 3, 1841, in Lyons, New York. She received an education at Elmira Seminary and the New York School of Cooking following which she worked for several years as a teacher. Her first husband was George E. Dudley a professor at Michigan State Normal School. After the death of her first husband, Mary remained in Michigan where she met Dr. Adonijah S. Welch, whom she married in 1868.

In 1869, when Dr. Welch accepted the position of President of the newly established Iowa State Agricultural College, Mary moved to Iowa with him and at once became his most faithful and efficient helper in the varied duties devolving upon him in the organization of the new college.

During these pioneer days of education for women, Mary recognized the need for scientific domestic training. She attended The National Training School for Cookery in South Kensington, England and toured many cooking institutions along the east coast. Upon her return to Iowa State, she took what she had learned, along with her previous training in the domestic sciences and became the first professor and organizer of the new department of Domestic Economy. Courses were centered on the properties of chemistry, botany, physiology, geology and physics as they applied to household affairs.

Mary’s work was inventive and marked with such success that it was held with high regard in the area of experimental college achievements. She was sought out as a scholarly lecturer and is regarded as one of the groundbreaking forces in elevating home economics as a field of study.

Mary’s classes were not limited to Iowa State. In 1881, Mary taught a class in Des Moines, giving her the distinction of initiating the first extension work in home economics at a Land Grant Institution. Besides teaching, Mrs. Welch also published Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook.

In 1883, Mary resigned from her position at Iowa State. She continued to give lectures to various clubs, colleges, and the YWCA. She was ardent advocate of equal suffrage and was one of the officers of the State Association.

Following the death of Dr. Welch in 1889, Mary relocated to California where she remained until her death at the age of 83.

In 1992, Mary B. Welch was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.