What was 4-H like back in the 1940s?
Its purpose was the same. But there weren’t as many available projects. Now there
are more than 100. The girls mostly did clothing and food projects. There were
also a lot of boys and girls who did electric projects, making lamps and extension
cords. Others did gardening.
You’re known for being the first woman in the nation to direct a state 4-H program.
Tell us about that experience.
Well, I broke the mold. Some woman had to do it.
That was 1966. Long overdue, don’t you think?
Traditions don’t change easily. There wasn’t anything wrong with men doing the job.
But when [former state 4-H leader] C.P. Dorsey retired, the opportunity arose.
I turned it down at first because I knew no woman had ever done it. But I was persuaded,
and I’m glad I changed my mind.
I remember my first national meeting of state 4-H leaders. The man in charge said,
‘You‘ll notice we have a woman in our midst. I’d like you to treat her just like
you do the other guys.’ That was a good way for him to introduce me.
I didn’t dwell on the fact that I was the first. At other national meetings, women
would want to meet with me informally to talk about how I responded to the job
and what prospects there were for other women. After I led the way, there were
other women who came along very quickly. They saw that it could be done.
Talk about the longevity of 4-H. What keeps it relevant after all these years?
Having camps and [first statewide 4-H camp in the nation] Jackson’s Mill is a highlight.
The camping programs were there when I started and now it’s still a major force.
Mostly, the objective is on the child. That has kept 4-H strong after all these
years. There was an early 4-H leader named William “Teepi” Kendrick. He once said,
“It’s not the pig but the boy that’s the emphasis.” That mindset has followed all
the way through today. They put emphasis on the children rather than the projects.
How is 4-H crucial in the development of youth? How do those skillsets benefit
It gets them involved in communities and that follows them through life. If you
go down to the state Legislature, you’ll find a lot of 4-H alums among its members.
Not only in the Legislature but in important roles across the state.
For me, 4-H has been very important in my life and personal development. I enjoyed
the benefits of learning from my associates in Extension, such as the value of
taking interest in other people. That’s the kind of thing that’s pushed my development.