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Virginia Claypool Meredith (1848-1936)

Virginia C. Meredith

Often called the “Queen of American Agriculture,” Virginia Claypool Meredith was the first woman to appear on the lecture platform to discuss crop and livestock production.  Her public career began in 1882 upon the death of her husband, Henry Clay Meredith, the son of General Solomon Meredith.  She assumed the management of a large farm near Cambridge City, Indiana, which included  a famous herd of shorthorn cattle and flock of Shropshire sheep.  It was unheard of in those days for women to show livestock, but Mrs. Meredith did, winning many prizes.  Her farm knowledge and remarkable speaking ability made her one of the most popular farm institute speakers.

She was the Indiana representative on the national Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, which was responsible for all the interests of women in the fair.  She was later appointed chairman of the committee on awards, and as such had charge of the appointment of more than 100 judges from around the world. 

She had always hoped to establish at Purdue University a school in which girls could be taught domestic science in much the same way boys were taught agriculture.  Purdue declined to start such a school, but in 1896 she went to the University of Minnesota to organize its Department of Home Economics.  In 1905 Purdue began to offer home economics classes, but it was not until 1926 that it established the School of Home Economics, the founding dean of which was Mary Matthews, Virginia Meredith’s adopted daughter.  In 1921, Virginia Meredith was appointed the first female member of the Purdue University board of trustees.  A residence hall is named in her honor.

She was a founder and president of the Indiana Federation of Clubs.  In 1890 the State of Mississippi presented her with a medal proclaiming her the “Queen of American Agriculture,” and in 1930 she received an award for “eminent service” from the State of Wisconsin.  She died on 10 December 1936 at her home in Lafayette, Indiana.