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Girlhood 1874-1893

Florence Weed HenryMarch of 1874 was a cold, blustery one in Waterloo, Iowa. While Mrs. Florence Weed Henry was awaiting the birth of her first child, Charles Henry was hoping over and over again that his child would be a boy. He couldn't wait to take his son out hunting, and fishing. Why, they could go camping up the Cedar...What fun they would have. As it turned out the baby was a girl. Lou Henry is what they decided to name her.

Fishing TripAs Lou grew up Mr. Henry took her on fishing and camping trips. He taught her all about the outdoors. Lou and her father spent time identifying rocks and plants. Mr. Henry instilled in Lou a love of the nature and wildlife around her.

Lou's Yellow and Blue Skating OutfitIn the wintertime, Lou loved sledding and skating on the same Cedar River that she fished in during the summer. She was often seen in her yellow and blue skating outfit that her mother had made, flying across the frozen river on her skates. She spent time walking the paths behind her home, where she would gather hazelnuts. Her father even taught her how to trap rabbits in the woods.

Lou liked to spend time outside. She organized baseball games in the street, climbed trees in her front yard, and loved to race around with her blonde pigtails flying behind her. She and her friends in the Waterloo neighborhood organized circuses in which each of the children would play various roles. They would invite everyone who wasn't acting in the circus to come and see it.

In the 1880's, girls were expected to be prim and proper. Girls who attempted Lou Henry's feats were usually labeled, "tomboys." Lou Henry, of course, once took a long rope, climbed up a tree during a school picnic, tied the rope to the tree, and thus provided a swing for the party. She didn't mind being called a tomboy.

Sketch of Horse by Lou, 1888Lou had a great love of horses. She learned to ride bareback on a big horse at her uncle's farm in Shell Rock, Iowa. Of course she also learned to ride side saddle as ladies had to do in the 1800's.

All of this outdoor adventure instilled in Lou a curiosity about all the wonders of the earth and nature.

Lou and Jean HenryWhen Lou was eight years old, her sister Jean was born. This completed the Henry family.

In 1885, about the time that Lou turned 11, the family decided to move to Whittier, California. This was a new town, founded by Quakers, in which Mr. Henry was going to help open a new bank. It would also be a good move for improving Mrs. Henry's health. The sunshine of California would do wonders for her.

Lou Henry Posing on a BurrowLou Henry thrived in California. Her skills in athletics and organization gained her many friends. One day Lou wanted to organize a baseball game, but there was an obstacle. The whole playground was a rank mustard patch. Lou devised a contest: the team that cleared their side on the grounds first was to be fed refreshments by the other side. Even though Lou's team won, she took everyone home with her for snacks.

In September of 1891, Lou enrolled at the Los Angeles Normal School. It was here that she joined the Agassiz Club. This club met after school once a week. The members collected items for the museum at the normal school. They collected unique live pets. This was not so unusual or unique for Lou since she had had a horned toad for a pet herself.

She Transferred to San Jose Normal School in 1892, and received her teaching degree. She had prepared to become a teacher just as her mother had been before she married Charles Henry. Even though Lou had prepared to teach, she sought her father's advice about what she ought to do with her life. It was at this time that an event took place that altered the course of Lou's life.

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Last updated: August 15, 2007