Lou Henry Hoover

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Lou Henry Hoover
First Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
PresidentHerbert Hoover
Preceded byGrace Coolidge
Succeeded byEleanor Roosevelt
Personal details
Lou Henry

(1874-03-29)March 29, 1874
Waterloo, Iowa, U.S.
DiedJanuary 7, 1944(1944-01-07) (aged 69)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeHerbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1899)
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles
San José State University (DipEd)
Stanford University (BA)

Lou Hoover (née Henry; March 29, 1874 – January 7, 1944) was the wife of President Herbert Hoover and served as the first lady of the United States from 1929 to 1933.

Marrying her geologist and mining engineer husband in 1899, she traveled widely with him, including to Shanghai, China, and became a cultivated scholar and linguist. She made extensive study of languages including Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, German, Italian and French. As First Lady, she oversaw construction of the presidential retreat at Rapidan Camp in Madison County, Virginia, and was the first First Lady to make regular nationwide radio broadcasts.

Early life and education[edit]

Lou Henry, age 17, on a burro at Acton, California, on August 22, 1891

Lou Henry was born in Waterloo, Iowa, to Florence Ida (née Weed) and Charles Delano Henry, who was a banker by trade.[1][2] Lou grew up something of a tomboy, first in Waterloo, and later in the California towns of Whittier and Monterey.[1] Charles Henry took his daughter on camping trips in the hills, which was her greatest pleasure in her early teens.[1] Lou became a fine horsewoman. She hunted and preserved specimens with the skill of a taxidermist. And she developed an enthusiasm for rocks, minerals, and mining.[1]

Lou began her postsecondary schooling at the Los Angeles Normal School (now the University of California, Los Angeles). She then transferred to San Jose Normal School (now San José State University), from which she obtained a teaching credential in 1893. She next went on to Stanford University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in geology. It was there that she met her future husband, Herbert Hoover, who was then a senior. She was the school’s only female geology major at the time, and received her B.A. in geology in 1898.[3]

Marriage and travels[edit]

Time Cover, April 21, 1924

Before Herbert Hoover graduated from Stanford in June 1895, he and Lou made a decision to delay wedding plans while she continued her education and he pursued an engineering career in Australia. In 1898, the year Lou graduated from Stanford, Hoover cabled her a marriage proposal, which she promptly accepted by return wire.

Herbert and Lou were both 24 years old when they married on February 10, 1899, at her parents’ home in Monterey, California. Although she had been raised Episcopalian, Lou decided to become a Quaker.[4] But because there was no Quaker Meeting in Monterey, they were married in a civil ceremony performed by Father Ramon Mestres, a Roman Catholic priest of the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo.


The day after their marriage, the Hoovers sailed from San Francisco for Shanghai, China, where they spent four days in the Astor House Hotel.[5] The newlyweds soon settled into their first home, a large house in Tianjin. They lived in China from April 1899 until August 1900.[6] Hoover's job required extensive travel throughout remote and dangerous areas, which they did together.[7] Mrs. Hoover was present with her husband during the Boxer Rebellion.

Mrs. Hoover studied Mandarin Chinese while living in China. Her Chinese name was 'Hoo Loo' (古鹿; Pinyin: Gǔ Lù【胡潞,Hú Lù】) derived from the sound of her name in English. In the White House, at times, she would speak to her husband in it to foil eavesdroppers.[3] To date, she is the only First Lady to speak an Asian language.

Mrs. Hoover was also well versed in Latin; she collaborated with her husband in translating Agricola's De Re Metallica, a 16th-century encyclopedia of mining and metallurgy. The Hoover translation was published in 1912, and remains in print today as the standard English translation. During World War I, she assisted her husband in providing relief for Belgian refugees. For her work she was decorated in 1919 by King Albert I of Belgium. She was also involved with the American Women's War Relief Fund, which provided ambulances, funded two hospitals and provided economic opportunities for women during WWI.[8][9]

As First Lady (1929–1933)[edit]

Radio broadcasts[edit]

A portrait of Lou Henry Hoover by Richard Marsden Brown hangs in the Vermeil Room of the White House.

Mrs. Hoover distinguished herself by becoming the first First Lady to broadcast on a regular and nationwide basis. Although she did not have her own radio program, she participated as a guest speaker on a number of occasions between 1929 and 1933, often advocating for volunteerism, or discussing the work of the Girl Scouts. Radio critics praised her for having an excellent radio voice and for speaking with confidence.[10]

Presidential traditions[edit]

As First Lady, she discontinued the New Year's Day reception, the annual open house observance begun by Abigail Adams in 1801.

She played a critical role in designing and overseeing the construction of a rustic presidential retreat at Rapidan Camp in Madison County, Virginia. It was a precursor of the current presidential retreat, Camp David.

Family life[edit]

The Hoovers had two sons:

Later life and death[edit]

Lou Henry Hoover died of a heart attack in New York City on January 7, 1944. She was found dead in her bedroom by her husband, who came to kiss her good night. She was originally buried in Palo Alto, California. Her husband was devastated by her death and never considered remarrying.[11] Following Herbert Hoover's death in 1964, she was reinterred next to the former president at West Branch, Iowa.


Girl Scouts[edit]

She served as the national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1922 to 1925 while Hoover served in the cabinet of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. She served as president again after leaving the White House, from 1935 to 1937.[12]

Camp Lou Henry Hoover in Middleville, New Jersey, is named for her and run by the Heart of New Jersey Council of the Girl Scouts.[13] She funded the construction of the first Girl Scout house in Palo Alto, California. The oldest Girl Scout house in continuous use, it is now called Lou Henry Hoover Girl Scout House.[14]

Stanford University[edit]

Lou Henry was an avidly athletic young woman, and by her senior year at the university, she was a member of the Basket Ball Committee, Vice President of the Women's Athletic Association and an active member of the Archery Club.

The Lou Henry Hoover House, which she designed and where the Hoovers lived, on a hill in the Stanford University campus is now the official residence of the President of Stanford University. It is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Other memorials[edit]

Lou Henry Hoover Elementary School in Whittier, California was built in 1938 and was named in her honor. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.) from Whittier College in 1928.[15] Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Hall built in 1948 at Whittier College, where she had been a trustee until her death, is also named for her.[16] In 2005 Lou Henry Elementary School was opened in her honor in Waterloo, Iowa. One of the brick dorms known now as "The Classics" at San Jose State University is named "Hoover Hall" in her honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Allen
  2. ^ Hart, pp. 129–33
  3. ^ a b "First Lady Biography: Lou Hoover". National First Ladies' Library. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  4. ^ Gummere, pp. 6, 520–21, 571; Hart, pp. 129–33; Hill, pp. 829–32; Hynes, pp. 2–10.
    Lou Henry’s Quaker heritage is extensive: beginning with William Woolman (1632–1692); passing to his son, John Woolman (1655–1718), and his wife, Elizabeth Borton (1664–1718); passing to their daughter, Elizabeth Woolman (1685–1755), aunt of Quaker preacher John Woolman (1720–1772), and her husband, Robert Hunt (died 1716); passing to their son, Robert Hunt (1709–1764), and his wife, Abigail Wood (1715–1747); passing to their son, Robert Hunt (1745–1805), and his wife, Abigail Pancoast (1743–1827); and finally passing to their daughter, Abigail Hunt (1781–1843), and her husband, William Henry (1777–1862), a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.
  5. ^ Allen, p. 23
  6. ^ "Herbert Hoover and China". World Association for International Studies. November 21, 2001. Retrieved January 13, 2018. The Hoovers arrived in China in April 1899 and lived through the siege of Tienjin. Being an engineer, Mr. Hoover and his detail were responsibie for maintaining the battleworks; Mrs. Hoover worked as a nurse. Although both Hoovers knew how to fire a gun, there is no evidence that they ever shot at the boxers. They left China in August 1900.
  7. ^ Preston
  8. ^ "Lou Hoover". history.com. Archived from the original on March 9, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  9. ^ "Helping in Britain: The American Women's War Relief Fund". American Women in World War I. January 9, 2017. Archived from the original on September 27, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  10. ^ For example, see Larry Wolters, "First Lady to Give First Talk At White House" in the Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1931, G9.
  11. ^ Jeansonne, Glen; Luhrssen, David (2016). Herbert Hoover: A Life. Penguin. ISBN 9781101991008.
  12. ^ "Lou Hoover and Girl Scouts". Hoover Presidential Library.
  13. ^ "Camp Lou Henry Hoover History" (PDF). Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2017. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  14. ^ "Girl Scouts Palo Alto, California". Palo Alto Service Unit. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". www.whittier.edu. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  16. ^ "Historic Campus Architecture Project: Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Hall". Council of Independent Colleges. Retrieved January 20, 2015.


  • Allen, Anne Beiser and Jon L. Wakelyn (2000). An independent woman: the life of Lou Henry Hoover. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press
  • Gummere, Amelia Mott (1922). The journal and essays of John Woolman. New York: The Macmillan Company
  • Hart, Craig (2004). A genealogy of the wives of the American presidents and their first two generations of descent. North Carolina, Jefferson: McFarland & Co., Inc., pp. 129–33
  • Hill, H. H. (1881). History of Lee County [Illinois]. 873 pages. pp. 829–32. Genealogy and history of the Robert and Abigail Pancoast Hunt family, including a transcription of their Quaker wedding document.
  • Hunt, Charles Cummins (1906). A genealogical history of the Robert and Abigail Pancoast Hunt family. Columbus, Ohio: Champlin Press, pp. 127–28
  • Hynes, Judy (1997). The Descendants of John and Elizabeth (Borton) Woolman. Mount Holly, New Jersey: John Woolman Memorial Association
  • Preston, Diana (2000). The Boxer Rebellion: the dramatic story of China's war on foreigners that shook the world in the Summer of 1900. New York: Walker
  • Agricola's De Re Metallica, translated by Herbert Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover, full text (650 pages) and illustrations

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time
April 21, 1924
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by