(October 12, 1906 – July 28, 1990)
Louise Rosenfeld’s work in Home Economics Extension extended the program to every county in the state.
Born in Kelley, Story County, Iowa, on October 12, 1906, Louise Marie Rosenfeld was the only daughter of Carl A. and Anna Johnson Rosenfeld. Named for her paternal grandmother, Rosenfeld grew up on a farm, the middle child. Brother George was 3 years her elder; brother Clyde was 4 years her younger. Although initially a small mortgaged property, the family farm grew in the era of the functional agricultural ladder to support not only the Rosenfelds but also field laborers and additionally a woman to help with housework.
Born of native Iowa stock, Rosenfeld could trace her roots to Germany via her paternal line and Denmark via her maternal line. Growing up in Story County, Rosenfeld could find numerous cousins on her father’s side in near proximity, farmers all. Despite the family’s reliance upon agriculture as a means of living, the Rosenfelds apparently believed education to be of considerable importance. Both parents had attended a year or two of high school and ensured that their children also had the opportunity. Ultimately, George completed his studies at Iowa State College (now University) and became a county agent associated with the Farm Bureau. Clyde completed two years at Iowa State, becoming a field agent for the Iowa Extension Service.
As for Louise, teaching seemed her primary goal from childhood. She too attended Iowa State, earning her bachelor’s degree in Home Economics in 1928. Before graduation she managed to scandalize her physical education instructor with the declaration that she would coach girls’ basketball regardless of the debate then raging through the state as to the appropriateness of the exertions—moral and physical—placed upon young women. Rosenfeld did, briefly, coach basketball in her short teaching career. Following her graduation, Rosenfeld accepted a teaching position in the field of Home Economics in Randall, Iowa, and just a year later joined the staff of the DeSoto Consolidated School.
Whether teaching at the secondary level was not her particular forte, or whether she desired to live closer to her family or whether the opportunity was simply too good to pass up, Rosenfeld turned to the Iowa State Extension Service as a home demonstration agent in 1932. Until her retirement in 1972, she would continuously be associated with Home Economics at ISU. When Rosenfeld first began her labors, all of the state’s 99 counties had at least a single farm extension agent, the same could not be said of home demonstration agents. Laboring with her colleagues, Rosenfeld worked to extend the program to every county in the state. Moreover, when she became the State Leader for Home Economics Extension in 1942, she sought to broaden the program. While improved canning, poultry, childcare, cookery and the like were still important to the Iowa women she served, Rosenfeld urged education on subjects beyond the nursery and kitchen. For example, as World War II raged, she encouraged home demonstration agents to present materials related to global awareness, education, and the arts, as well as to provide more technical training in nutrition, home management and child care.
In the 1950s, Rosenfeld expanded her reach beyond home extension to become a member of the cabinet of the Division of Home Economics at ISU, working to integrate teaching, demonstration and research. In recognition of her work, Rosenfeld received the United States Department of Agriculture’s Superior Service Award in 1959. If not busy enough, Rosenfeld augmented her work at ISU with consultation and lecturing in Norway’s Ministry of Agriculture, receiving the St. Olav’s medal in 1965.
Other awards for Rosenfeld included the Alumni Recognition Medal (1969) and the ISU Faculty Citation (1972). That year, 1972, also marked her official retirement from Iowa State University. Never one to take a seat and simply relax, in her retirement, Rosenfeld became a professional volunteer with ISU’s International Resource Center, serving as well on the Iowa Commission for the Aging.
In 1979, Louise Rosenfeld was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Upon her induction, it was noted: “Certainly, few women have had the influence on the state that Louise Rosenfeld has had. As State Leader of Home Economics Extension, she led an education program that went to every county of the state and was available to every family."
Louise Rosenfeld passed away on July 28, 1990, and rests in the Ames [Iowa] Municipal Cemetery, surrounded by her parents, paternal grandparents and brothers.
In the College of Human Science, the Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship is designed to provide high-quality research experience to undergraduate students in Human Sciences while they contemplate the possibility of study towards an advanced degree.
Iowa Department of Human Rights, https://humanrights.iowa.gov/louise-rosenfeld
Janice A. Beran, From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press: A Century of Iowa Girls’ Basketball (2008)
United States Censuses, 1880-1940.
Plaza of Heroines, Iowa State University: https://plaza.las.iastate.edu/directory/louise-rosenfeld/