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Lou Henry was born in Waterloo, Iowa, on March 29, 1874, to parents Charles and Florence Weed Henry.1 Lou and her family moved around before eventually settling in Monterey, California.2 As a young girl, Lou spent a lot of time in the wilderness with her father and developed a love for the outdoors. After high school she attended the Los Angeles Normal School, followed by the San Jose Normal School. After attending a lecture from a Stanford University professor in 1894, Lou decided to enroll at the university and study geology.3 Not only was she the only woman in her class, but she was also the first woman in Stanford’s history to graduate with a geology degree.4 Lou met her future husband Herbert Hoover in a Stanford geology lab.5

Shortly after Lou graduated, Herbert got a job as a mining engineer in China and asked Lou to join him. They married on February 10, 1899, in Lou’s family home, and left for China the next morning.6 Herbert Hoover’s mining career took the couple all over the world. While living in London, the couple had two children, Herbert Jr., born in 1903, and Allan, born in 1907.7 In 1917, Herbert became the head of the U.S. Food Administration and his family moved to Washington, D.C. During that time, Lou was active in many social causes and organizations, including as President of the Girl Scouts.

When President Hoover was elected in 1928 and Lou became the first lady, she continued her outspoken advocacy for causes such as accessible education and hunger relief.8 Lou was the first first lady to give a radio address.9 Lou also valued history and tradition and undertook the project of cataloguing and preserving White House furnishings.10 Away from the White House, Lou established Camp Rapidan in Shenandoah National Park as a retreat for the first family.11 Lou’s tenure as first lady came to an end when Herbert Hoover lost the 1932 presidential election to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After their time in the White House, the Hoovers lived in New York City and Palo Alto, California. Lou continued to work with Girl Scouts and was instrumental in restoring and preserving her husband’s birthplace cottage, which eventually became the site of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.12 Lou died on January 7, 1944. She was buried in Palo Alto, then reinterred next to her husband at his burial site at the library in West Branch, Iowa.13

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Anne Beiser Allen, An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2000): 5.
  2. Allen, An Independent Woman, 8-9.
  3. Allen, An Independent Woman, 15.
  4. “First Lady Lou Henry Hoover,” Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, accessed July 10, 2023,; Allen, An Independent Woman, 19.
  5. Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: Years of Adventure, 1874-1920, vol. 1, (New York, N.Y: The MacMillan Company, 1951): 23.
  6. Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: Years of Adventure, 23; “Stanford Graduates Wed,” The Peninsula Times Tribune, February 14, 1899,,
  7. “First Lady Lou Henry Hoover”.
  8. Nancy Beck Young, Lou Henry Hoover: Activist First Lady, Modern First Ladies (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004): 86, 98.
  9. Allen, An Independent Woman, 133.
  10. Allen, An Independent Woman, 124; Young, Activist First Lady, 57.
  11. Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Cabinet and the Presidency, 1920-1933, vol. 2, (New York, N.Y: The MacMillan Company, 1952): 322; “Rapidan Camp,” National Park Service, accessed June 2, 2023,
  12. “Birthplace Cottage,” Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, National Park Service, updated February 4, 2021,; Annette B. Dunlap, A Woman of Adventure: The Life and Times of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2022): 238-39.
  13. Allen, An Independent Woman, 174.