Ada Hayden


Curator, Iowa State Herbarium, 1934-1950Photograph of Ada Hayden

Ada Hayden was the first woman to receive a doctorate at Iowa State College (now called Iowa State University). She was born on August 14, 1884, in rural Ames, the only child of David and Christina Hayden. Dr. Louis Pammel, a professor at Iowa State College, encouraged her to study botany at the college. After receiving her bachelor's degree in 1908, she first became a graduate assistant at the Shaw School of Botany in Missouri, and then, in 1910, obtained a master's degree in botany from Washington University in St. Louis. She returned to Iowa State as both a botany instructor and a graduate student in 1911. Her doctorate was earned in 1918, making her the fourth student, male or female, to obtain a Ph.D. at Iowa State College.

In 1920 she was appointed Assistant Professor of Botany at Iowa State. Teaching probably occupied a great deal of her time until 1934, when her appointment was changed to a research position in the Agriculture Experiment Station. R. I. Cratty retired as curator of the herbarium at Iowa State in 1934. Ada Hayden took over, although it is possible that Dr. George Goodman, a taxonomist on the faculty, had the formal title of Curator. During the first part of Dr. Hayden's career, she assisted Dr. Pammel in his research. She contributed a great deal to all of his major works, assisting him with writing, photography, and illustration. After his death, she devoted herself to prairie preservation and research. She wrote 29 papers, most dealing with Iowa flora. According to Dr. Duane Isely, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Iowa State, she published the best native flora survey of any part of Iowa. She campaigned for a system of prairie preserves, two of which were later named the Hayden and the Kalsow prairies. A series of lantern slides, depicting the beauty of virgin prairie, was created by her to advance the cause of preservation. Unfortunately, the slides have been lost.

Full professor status was denied her, and she received little public recognition for her accomplishments. She continued to work for what she believed in until her death in 1950. During her time at Iowa State, she collected over 30,000 plant specimens for the herbarium and also sent many duplicates to other institutions.