Southeastern Section–56th Annual Meeting (29–30 March 2007)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:20 PM


LAPORTE, Léo F., Earth & Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 94061,

At Lou Henry Hoover's birth in 1874, her father, Charles Henry, named her “Lou” for the boy he initially wanted. An avid outdoorsman, he overcame his disappointment in her gender, and regularly took her fishing, hiking and camping, horseback riding, and more generally fostering a love of the outdoors. These experiences resonated with her when she heard a public lecture on geology by Stanford professor J.C. Branner. Shortly after, she entered Stanford and in 1898 became Stanford's first woman undergraduate geology major and one of the first within the U. S. It was in a geology lab where she met “Bert” Hoover who was Professor Branner's “handy boy.” She also took course work in Latin, which some years later would inspire her to translate, with her husband, Georgius Agricola's 16th century treatise on mining, De Re Metallica. Already active in public community service, Lou Hoover began to involve herself with the Girl Scouts when her husband came to Washington, D. C., to serve as Food Administrator during World War I. In 1917, she accepted an invitation to address the Girl Scouts on the importance of food conservation during the war and soon after, at the request of Juliette Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, she became leader of Troop VIII in Washington. For the next 27 years, until her death in 1944, she was highly visible in the Girl Scout movement, whether as troop leader and ongoing member of the Girl Scout Council in Washington or serving multiple terms as national vice-president and president. Her visibility as First Lady, consequently, brought increased national attention and interest in scouting as a healthy and wholesome activity for young girls. Undoubtedly, her enthusiasm and commitment grew out of her own youthful experiences of the outdoors. Years later she recalled, “I always feel I was a Girl Scout when I was young.”