Virginia Claypool Meredith

Virginia Claypool MeredithVirginia Claypool Meredith

Location: 512 E. Main St. (U.S. 40), Cambridge City, IN 47327 (Wayne County, Indiana)

Installed 2014 Indiana Historical Bureau, Western Wayne Heritage, Inc., Indiana National Road Association, Purdue University Extension, and Indiana Women’s History Association, Inc.

ID#: 89.2014.1

Text

Side One

As a writer, speaker, stockbreeder, and university professor, Meredith (born 1848) encouraged women to pursue education and careers related to farm life. She inherited Oakland Farm, three blocks south, 1882. Successfully grew business and reputation as farm expert. Appointed to 1893 World's Fair Board of Lady Managers. She was known as "Queen of American Agriculture."

Side Two

By 1880s, Meredith promoted advancement of farm women to international audience through speeches for farmers’ institutes and women’s clubs, and in publications, including Breeders’ Gazette. She led efforts to establish home economics science education at University of Minnesota and Purdue University. First female Purdue Trustee, 1921, she served until death, 1936.

Annotated Text

Side One

As a writer, speaker, stockbreeder, and university professor, Meredith (born 1848)[1] encouraged women to pursue education and careers related to farm life.[2] She inherited Oakland Farm, three blocks south, 1882.[3] Successfully grew business and reputation as farm expert.[4] Appointed to 1893 World’s Fair Board of Lady Managers.[5] She was known as “Queen of American Agriculture.”[6]

Side Two

By 1880s, Meredith promoted advancement of farm women to an international audience through speeches for farmers’ institutes[7] and women’s clubs,[8] and in publications, including Breeders’ Gazette.[9] She led efforts to establish home economics science education at University of Minnesota[10] and Purdue University.[11] First female Purdue Trustee, 1921,[12] she served until death, 1936.[13]

 

[1]  “Virginia Claypool,” 1850 United States Federal Census, Cambridge City, Indiana, 27B, accessed Ancestry.com; “Virginia Claypool Meredith,” Memorial, Riverside Cemetery, accessed FindAGrave.com; Riverside Cemetery Records, Cambridge City, Indiana, Indiana State Library, Genealogy Section.  The 1850 census lists Virginia Claypool, age one, in the household of Austin and Hannah Claypool in Cambridge City, Indiana.

[2] Meredith, Virginia C. , “The Columbian Exposition,” Transactions of the National Council of Women of the United States, Assembled in Washington D.C., February 22 to 25, 1891, edited by Rachel Foster Avery (Philadelphia, 1891), 318-320, accessed GoogleBooks;  Meredith, Virginia C., “Farm Life – Its Privileges and Possibilities,” Forty-First Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, vol. 33 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1892), 540-3, accessed GoogleBooks; Women in Professions Being the Professional Section of the International Congress of Women, London, July, 1899 (London, 1900): 6, 132-134, accessed GoogleBooks; “A Woman as a Farmer,” Indianapolis News, January 3, 1900, 8, submitted by applicant; “Women Assure Heavy Vote in Star Primary,” Indianapolis Star, February 12, 1912, 1, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Virginia C. Meredith, “Broad Meaning of Home Economics,” Indianapolis News, November 1, 1916, n.p., Indiana State Library; Meredith, Virginia C., “The Farm Girl; What Next?” The Purdue Agriculturalist 18, no. 6 (March 1924): 107, 118, Purdue University Archives.

Virginia Claypool Meredith’s writings and speeches reflect her role as an advocate for women, especially in relation to agricultural education and careers. In her 1891 speech to the National Council of Women, Meredith asked, “is it visionary to predict that the real reform of the times is indicated by the present forceful impulse among women to put effort, energy, and ability into industrial channels, where earning capacity is the measure of success?” In 1900 the Indianapolis News quoted Meredith as saying farming is a good vocation for women because their “work is not discounted on account of sex.” In 1912 Meredith told the Indianapolis Star, “I have long believed in woman’s suffrage. I believe it is the right thing…”In a 1916 article Meredith wrote for the Indianapolis News, she links women’s importance in managing the home to the suffrage struggle: “whenever federal and state legislation elevates this employment to a level with other professions that require special training for their mastery, then such legislation becomes highly influential in giving to women the mental judgment, the executive power, and the moral poise that shall fit them to perform adequately the civic and political duties of citizenship.” 

[3] “Virginia Claypool,” Fayette County Indiana, Marriages, 1870-1901, Part 2, Brides, 3, Indiana Marriage Collection, accessed Ancestry.com; “Marriages,” The Richmond (Indiana) Palladium, May 3, 1870, 2, submitted by applicant; “Henry Clay Meredith,” Indiana County Death Records, H-20, 22, accessed Ancestry.com; “Obituary – Hon. H. C. Meredith,” The (Richmond, Indiana) Evening Item,” July 6, 1882, 1, submitted by applicant; “A Woman as a Farmer,” Indianapolis News, January 3, 1900, 8, Indiana State Library; Breeder’s Gazette, December 27, 1883, reproduced in Frederick Whitford, Andrew Martin, and Phyllis Mattheis, The Queen of American Agriculture: A Biography of Virginia Claypool Meredith (West Lafayette, Indiana: 2008), 98. 

According to the Indianapolis News, when Meredith’s husband Henry died in 1882, she “was left to choose between returning to her father’s home or carrying on the business of farming and stock breeding.” Meredith stated she chose to take over the business “not with any hope of success but because work was the only solace within my horizon at the time.”  Only a year after Henry’s death, Meredith ran an ad for a sale of short-horns in the Breeders’ Gazette in which she wrote, “The Oakland Farm Herd was established more than 30 years ago by General Meredith, and afterwards continued by his son, the late Henry C. Meredith. The standard already established for the stock at Oakland Farm will be maintained.”

1874 plat map of Oakland Farm.

[4]  Breeder’s Gazette, December 27, 1883; “Sale of South Downs at Oakland Farm,” Cambridge City Tribune, September 18, 1884, 2, submitted by applicant; “Mrs. Meredith’s Sale of Short-Horns, Cambridge City Tribune, May 26, 1887, 3, submitted by applicant; “The Short-Horn Cattle Sale,” Cambridge City Tribune, April 25, 1889, 2, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; D. M. Jordan, “Indiana’s Cattle Queen,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, reprinted in Malvern (Iowa) Leader, April 10, 1890, 7, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; (Greensburg, Indiana) Standard, reprinted in (Cambridge City) Tribune, April 24, 1890, 2, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; The (Cambridge City, Indiana) Tribune, February 26, 1891, 2, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Woman as a Farmer,” (Greenville, Pennsylvania) Advance Argus, May 26, 1898, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “A Woman as a Farmer,” Indianapolis News, January 3, 1900, 8, Indiana State Library.

By 1884, the Cambridge City Tribune reported on a large and successful sale of stock attended by buyers from many states.  In an 1890 Chicago Inter-Ocean article described Meredith as “one of the most intelligent and successful short-horn breeders in the West.”  In 1898, the (Greenville, Pennsylvania) Advance Argus described Meredith as “one of the most successful and well-known stock farmers in America.”An Indianapolis News article from 1900 reported that Meredith was shipping stock to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois, in addition to Indiana.  The Indianapolis News reported that “probably no stock raiser in Indiana is better known” and that her “success has made her one of the best-known business women of the West” at a time when “in many places such a thing as a woman stock-breeder has never been heard of.”  After Meredith’s reputation as an expert on farm life spread, she began a speaking career through farmers’ institutes. See Footnote 7.

[5] Official Manual of the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Commission (Chicago, 1891), pp. 13, 15, 23-26, 30, 43, 48, 198; Certificate of Appointment to Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Virginia C. Meredith, October 23, 1890, Indiana Historical Society Manuscript Collection;  Virginia C. Meredith, “The Columbian Exposition,” Indiana State Board of Agriculture, Forty-first Annual Report, 33 (Indianapolis, 1892), 510-16; Nancy Huston Banks, “World’s Fair Women,” Harpers Bazaar, January 21, 1893, 46; Moses P. Handy, ed., Official Directory of the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893), 25.

U.S. Congress approved an act, April 25, 1890, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of “the discovery of America.” This act created the national Columbian Commission; on October 21, 1890, the Executive Committee of this Commission officially created the Board of Lady Managers. Virginia Meredith’s official appointment was dated October 23, 1890. In 1892, she reported on progress of the fair and the tasks of Board of Lady Managers to the Indiana State Board of Agriculture. Meredith served as vice-chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Lady Managers; and as chairman of the Committee on Awards.

[6] Medal, Virginia C. Meredith, received February 20-23, 1895, at Interstate Farmer’s Institute, Vicksburg, Mississippi; Vicksburg Commercial Herald, February 23, 1895 in Cambridge City Tribune, March 17, 1895, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “An Act to Provide for the Appointment of Commissioners for the Collection, Arrangement and Display of its Resources and Developments by the State of Indiana at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and Making an Appropriation Therefor [sic],” Laws of the State of Indiana Passed at the Fifty-Seventh Regular Session of the General Assembly, Approved March 9, 1891, 383-384, Indiana State Library;  Certificate of Appointment to Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Virginia C. Meredith, April 25, 1890, Indiana Historical Society Manuscript Collection; “The Dual Site,” Logansport Reporter, September 22, 1890, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Virginia C. Meredith, “The Columbian Exposition,” Transactions of the National Council of Women of the United States, Assembled in Washington D.C.; February 22 to 25, 1891, edited by Rachel Foster Avery (Philadelphia, 1891), 318-320; Nancy Huston Banks, “World’s Fair Women,” Harper’s Bazaar (1867-1912), January 21, 1893, 26, 3, APS Online, 46, Purdue University Archives.

At an Interstate Farmers’ Institute in Mississippi in 1895, Meredith’s contributions were honored with a medal, inscribed “The citizens of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the queen of American agriculture.”  Also reflective of her success and renown in the field of agriculture was her appointment in 1890 to the Board of Lady Managers for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

[7] “Horticultural Report,” Cambridge City Tribune, December 5, 1889, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Charles F. Mills, ed., “Edgar County Farmers’ Institute,” Annual Report Illinois Farmer’s Institute with Reports of County Farmers’ Institutes for the Year 1897 (Springfield, Illinois, 1897), 274, accessed GoogleBooks; Fifty-First Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture 43, 1901-1902 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1903), 270-277, accessed GoogleBooks;  “Farmers’ Institutes,” (Frederick, Maryland) News, February 27, 1904, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; W. Q. Fitch, Farmers’ Institute Schedule, 1924-1925, William C. Latta Papers, Scrapbook 2, submitted by applicant; “Woman Trustee of Purdue Aids in Things Progressive,” Indianapolis Star, September 11, 1927, 8, Indiana State Library Clippings File.

In 1889, Meredith began speaking at Farmers’ Institutes, state-sponsored programs educating farmers, often in association with Purdue University. According to the 1897 Annual Report of the Illinois Farmers’ Institute, Meredith made speeches about livestock, country schools and “The Farmer’s Daughter.” At the Conference of Women Institute Workers at Purdue University in 1901 (printed in the 1903 State Board of Agriculture report), Meredith stated, “To me, it does not make any difference at all whether he makes the bread or the coat, or whether she makes it. . . If woman can do it better, let her do it; if the man can do it better, let him do it. Above and beyond sex is the ability in certain lines of development of the individual.”  Meredith’s speech from a February 1904 meeting at Carthage, Indiana ran in newspapers across the country. The Farmers’ Institute Schedule, 1924-1925 published by Purdue stated that “Meredith was the first woman institute worker in Indiana. She began in 1889 and served two years without any compensation as evidence of her real interest and faith in the Agricultural Extension work.”  In 1927, Meredith told the Indianapolis Star, “I didn’t get any pay for the first two years of my work, even though we went wherever the institutes were held. One of the board members protested against paying any woman for any kind of work.”

[8] Cambridge City Tribune, December 5, 1889, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Officers Elected,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, May 4, 1894, 3, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Women in Professions Being the Professional Section of the International Congress of Women, London, July, 1899 (London, 1900): 6, 132-134, accessed GoogleBooks;  “Had No Invitation,” Logansport Reporter, October 12, 1905, 6, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Waited to Say It and Didn’t Have To,” Indianapolis Star, October 29, 1908, 14, , accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Social Side of City,” Indianapolis Star, February 2, 1910, 7, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Ready for Women’s Clubs,” Indianapolis Star, April 19, 1910, 5, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Expert in Home Economics Who Makes Many Addresses,” Indianapolis Star, February 9, 1913, 33, Indiana State Library; Indianapolis Star, November 7, 1915, 51, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Woman Trustee of Purdue Aids in Things Progressive,” Indianapolis Star, September 11, 1927, 8, Indiana State Library Clippings File; “Indiana Federation of Clubs to Open State Convention,” (Rushville) Daily Republican, October 23, 1928, 1, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Arcada Stark Balz, ed., History Indiana Federation of Clubs (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1939), 58-62, 114-123, 270. 

By 1889, Meredith was involved in women’s clubs. Notably, she served as president of the Helen Hunt Club, a literary club in Cambridge City, and the Cambridge City branch of the Women’s Franchise League. At the 1899 International Congress of Women in London, May Wright Sewall, women’s rights activist and educator, read a paper by Meredith on women’s equality in farm management.  At the state level, Meredith served as president of the Indiana Union of Literary Clubs and honorary president of the Indiana Federation of Clubs when these two organizations merged in 1918. 

[9] “Items,” Breeder’s Gazette, December 15, 1887, 949, accessed GoogleBooks; Cover, Breeder’s Gazette, July 8, 1915, submitted by applicant; “A ‘Virginia C. Meredith’ Page,” Breeder’s Gazette, April 28, 1921, n.p., Hicks Repository, Purdue University Library; “The Virginia C. Meredith Page,” Breeder’s Gazette, May 12, 1921, p. 858, Hicks Repository, Purdue University Library; “Queen Retires – Ideas Live On,” Indianapolis Times, October 10, 1934, Second Section, 1, Indiana State Library; Farmer’s Wife 34 (1936), 5-6, accessed GoogleBooks.

                Meredith was a frequent contributor to the Breeder’s Gazette, starting as early as the 1880s. In 1915, the Breeder’s Gazette put Meredith on the cover of the weekly magazine, calling her “a Gazette’ contributor and an eminent leader in the advancement of farm women.”  By 1921, Meredith was editor of her own page that addressed issues of importance to farm women and children.  In 1934, both the Indianapolis Times and the journal The Farmer’s Wife reported that Meredith’s paper, ‘The Privileges and Possibilities of Farm Life,’ had been published in “every English-speaking country in this world.”            

[10] “Domestic Science in the Agricultural Colleges,” in The American Kitchen Magazine 7, no. 6 (September 1897), 218, accessed GoogleBooks; Annual Report of the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota Fiscal Year July 1, 1897, to June 30, 1898 (Delano, MN: Eagle Printing Co., 1898), 576, accessed GoogleBooks; Tenth Biennial Report of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to the Governor, for the Fiscal Years 1897 and 1898 Ending July 31st (Delano, MN: The Eagle Printing Company, 1899), 18, 21, 52, accessed GoogleBooks; The University of Minnesota Catalogue for the Year 1897-1898 and Announcements for the Year 1898-1899 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1898), 171, 177-78, accessed GoogleBooks; “A Woman as a Farmer,” Indianapolis News, January 3, 1900, 8, Indiana State Library Clippings File; Minnesota Farmers’ Institutes Annual No. 13 (Minneapolis, MN: Press of Kimball & Storee Co., 1901), 9-24, accessed GoogleBooks; “Schools for Farmers’ Daughters,” Indianapolis News, August 24, 1901, 7, Indiana State Library; “News in Minnesota,” Iowa Recorder, June 10, 1903, 9, accessed NewspaperArchive.com.

                Meredith led the organization of a women’s department, which focused on home economics studies as a legitimate science, at the University of Minnesota from 1897 to 1903.  The female students attended many of the same classes as men, while other classes, specific to women, focused on the home. In 1900, Meredith told the Indianapolis News, “This I consider the finest work I have done, though far from being as pleasant as farming. There are now sixty young women enrolled with 230 men. The course is unique – broad enough to embrace home science in all its phases, including the study of horticulture, gardening, elementary agriculture, poultry, and breeds of live stock.”

[11] “Schools for Farmers’ Daughters,” Indianapolis News, August 24, 1901, 7, Indiana State Library; “Purdue Favors the Women,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, August 9, 1905, 6, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; “Mary Lochwood Mathews,” Debris (1915), 168, accessed Purdue University e-Archives; Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Purdue University, September 10, 1921, 366, accessed Purdue University e-Archives; “School of Home Economics,” Debris, vol. 44 (1932), 98, accessed Purdue University e-Archives; Purdue University, Virginia C. Meredith, A Trustee of Purdue University, 1921-1936 (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University, 1936), n.p., submitted by applicant;  “Retiring Dean is Praised for 41 Years’ Leadership,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, January 23, 1952, 5, Indiana State Library Clippings File;  Robert W. Topping, A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1988), 169-170; Queen of American Agriculture, 226-230.

Virginia’s home economics lectures associated with farmer’s institutes and her work at the University of Minnesota influenced the creation of a home economics department at Purdue University in 1905.  In 1912, Meredith’s adopted daughter Mary Matthews became dean of the Home Economics Department at Purdue and remained dean when it became the School of Home Economics in the 1920s.

[12] Purdue University, Board of Trustees, Minutes, July 1, 1921, 305, accessed Purdue University E-Archives; “Our New Trustees,” The Purdue Alumnus, vol. 9, October 1921, 9, Purdue University Archives; Purdue University, Board of Trustees, Minutes, September 21, 1927, 23, accessed Purdue University E-Archives; “No. 1 Purdue Woman Still Active at 87,” Indianapolis Star, January 5, 1936, 1, Indiana State Library; Purdue University, Virginia C. Meredith, A Trustee of Purdue University, 1921-1936 (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University, 1936), n.p., submitted by applicant;  For more information see: Johnston, Thomas R. and Helen Hand, The Trustees and the Officers of Purdue University: 1865-1940, November 1940, 107, 307-8, accessed Purdue University e-Archives.  Edward C. Elliot, President of Purdue University in 1936, described Meredith as devoted “to the advancement of the place of women in our civilization” and as “an ideal University trustee.”

[13] “Virginia Claypool Meredith,” Memorial, Riverside Cemetery, accessed FindAGrave.com; Riverside Cemetery Records, (Cambridge City, Indiana) Indiana State Library, Genealogy Section; Purdue University Campus Map, accessed http://www.purdue.edu/campus_map/.  Purdue University’s Meredith Residence Hall is named for Virginia C. Meredith.