(March 18, 1879 – December, 1965)
Joanna Hansen served as the chair of the Applied Arts Program from 1920-1941. Hansen became one of the first American educators to offer instruction by radio through a program called “The Homemaker’s Half Hour.”
Born March 18, 1879 in Agtrup, Denmark, Joanna Hansen came to the United States while an infant, following the death of her father. Hansen’s long career in art education began with classes at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts and the Art Students’ League of New York. She received a diploma in applied art from Pratt Institute (1905) and a certificate in art drawing (1906) from Iowa State Teacher’s College where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in education (1917). Hansen began her career in education as an elementary teacher in Estherville, Iowa, next serving as a principal in Ottumwa, Iowa, and finally supervising the art instruction program for the Sioux City, Iowa public school system. While completing her undergraduate studies, Hansen came to Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) after receiving an invitation from Dean Catherine McKay to work as a summer term instructor. By 1918, Hansen joined the department as a full-time instructor, and in 1920, became the chair of the Applied Arts Program, a division of home economics. She would serve as director of the program for the next twenty years (1920-1941).
While teaching at Iowa State, Hansen completed her Masters in Fine Arts from Columbia University (1924) with a Supervisor of Art certificate from the Teacher’s College (1924). As a faculty member, Hansen mentored undergraduate and graduate students, teaching primarily elementary, advanced, and textile design courses. During 1927-1928, Hansen became one of the first American educators to offer instruction by radio through a program called “The Homemaker’s Half Hour.” The course, sponsored and broadcast by WOI-Radio, Ames was dedicated to art appreciation and featured analysis of classic paintings, as well as introducing her audience to topics like “Floors, Walls, and Woodwork.”
In 1926, Hansen was picked to design a 1926 addition to McKay Hall. Her design incorporated expansive hallways, suitable classroom and laboratory spaces, an open patio housing a working studio, and tiled fountains framing the rotunda. Her advocacy for the local community spurred two committee appointments during Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Hansen served on the President’s Conference for Home Building and Home Ownership and as state chairman for Iowa’s delegation to the Better Homes of America program. For the latter appointment, Hansen in 1929 organized a team of architects, college students, and university faculty to design and furnish a model home suitable for a middle-class family. Out of some six thousand American communities that competed, the Ames home received the prize for best model presented by a home economics program in a college or public school. Her long-term involvement with Better Homes of America resulted in a fountain commission for the city of Ames. During the 1930s, Hansen served on the President’s Council on Housing, joining other advocates for a common goal – to bring art and quality furnishings into the homes of the American public.
In the midst of her administrative duties, Hansen continued working as a professional artist, exhibiting in Boston, New York City, Boulder (CO), and London. In the Midwest, Hansen’s work was seen in shows sponsored by the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs (1931) and the Iowa State Fair’s Art Salon (1935-1936). Additional showings occurred at the Iowa Artists Exhibit, Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa (1938) and the Five States Exhibit at the Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha (1937). She attended Grant Wood’s Stone City Art Colony (1932-1933) and lived in one of the legendary ice wagons.
Hansen edited and authored articles on home design and rural life, including the art section in The Book of Rural Life; Knowledge and Inspiration, a Guide to the Best in Modern Living, edited by Edward Mowbray Tuttle (1925). She served as chairman of the art section of the Iowa State Teacher’s Association. At Iowa State University, Hansen organized the Allied Art Guild for students and staff. She also petitioned and successfully launched a chapter of the Delta Phi Delta honorary art society for the home economics and applied art departments, marking the first time in history the fraternity accepted non-fine arts programs.
Hansen retired as a full professor and chair in 1941 but remained with the Applied Arts department as a Professor of Art Appreciation until 1950. In 1949, Iowa State University named Hansen its first artist-in-residence. An avid world traveler, well-known for a series of articles in The Iowa Homemaker, Hansen resided in Ames, Iowa for most of her life and died in December 1965.
Hansen, Joanna M. 1926. “And Now Comes the Fullfillment.” The Iowa Homemaker 6(2): 6, 10.
Joanna M. Hansen Papers, RS 26/2/11, University Archives, Iowa State University. Ames, Iowa.
“Miss Hansen to Broadcast Talk.” 1928. Iowa State Student (Ames, IA), November 28.
Ness, Zenobia B., and Louise Orwig. 1939. “Joanne Margarethe Hansen.” In Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years. Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Company, 94-95.
Parkhurst, Dororthy. 1929. “Ames Wins Special Prize.” The Iowa Homemaker 9(4): 1, 16.
Raine, Kristy, Scarth, Linda, and Marilyn Murphy. c2003-2014. “When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School.” Mount Mercy University.
University Museums’ Blog “The Practice and Patience of Joanna Hansen’s Watercolors”, 2020