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Gertrude Dieken

Gertrude Dieken: Class of 1932

104 women have been inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame since it was first established in 1975.  Three of those women are Coe graduates: Mabel Lee (inducted in 1979), Janette Stevenson Murray (1996), and Gertrude Dieken (1995). 

Born and raised on a farm near Grundy Center, Iowa.  After graduating from high school in 27, she attended Grundy Junior College for one year; Attended Coe in '29-'30 and in '31-'32.

Graduated with majors in journalism and English from Coe.  Magna cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi.  Major honors student working with Ethel Outland.  "The History of the Closing Days of the New York World" (a file of which had been maintained by Outland).  Sister also graduated from Coe: Irene Dieken Perry

Note from Dieken to Alumni Office in 1992: "Since I spent only one year officially in the Class of '32, many of you may not even remember me!  Those were Depression times and I was trying to finish college in three years (two of them at Coe, none consecutively–my family had three in college at the time).  This is why I am grateful for the scholarship help arranged via a kindly Mr. Perkins of the Coe staff, who came to call at our farm home.  At the time of graduation, a liberal arts degree was not conducive to obtaining employment.  But, although I had 'protected' myself with courses to permit teaching, I remained faithful to my major interest–journalism–and took a newspaper job for $15 a week.  Over the years I have come to appreciate profoundly the liberal arts education and the encouragement and teaching skills of my major professor, Ethel R. Outland, and my two high school teachers, Sue Dodd and Carol Houghton, also Coe graduates.  All have greatly enriched my life and broadened my horizons.  Even at retirement, there isn’t enough time to explore the doors that continue to open!"

First job: news editor for a chain of Iowa weekly newspapers in Grundy Center.

Beginning in 1936 and for six years, she was a  home economics editor for the Agricultural Extension Service of Iowa State University.  She was the first person to hold this position.  She was in charge of the extension service’s press and radio communications.  She wrote home economics material for newspapers, magazines, and radio.  Served as women's editor for two Iowa State periodical publications: the Iowa Farm Economist and the Farm Science Reporter.  Did some free lancing with articles in Successful Farming, Farm Journal, Country Gentleman, and the Saturday Evening Post (this information from a Courier article published in Oct '41).  Also pursued graduate work in consumer economics and technical journalism; finished her course work but never did her thesis.

1942:  home economics consultant for the Public Relations Department of E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co.  Left DuPont because she saw no future for a woman within the company.

1945: became Women's Editor of the Farm Journal, usually identified as "the most influential farm magazine" of its time, with a circulation reaching 3,600,000. In 1950 she also became the home editor of the Town Journal for a combined circulation of over 5,500,000.

1969: became "editorial director" of The Farmer's Wife

1971: became a Vice President of Farm Journal and Creative Director of the Countryside Services.  Dieken’s responsibilities to develop books and other related products.  Book series included such titles as Western Horsemanship, The Psalms Around Us, Homemade Candy, Wyeth People, and Christmas Book.  Dieken in the late 1950s initiated the Farm Journal Country Cook books, a series that cold several million copies.  She and her staff also created the Farm Journal Christmas Books that also sold over a million copies.

Farm Journal: originally owned by a foundation but six officers of the company, one of which was Dieken, purchased the magazine in the 1960s and was a part owner for several years.

Dieken served as editor, then editorial director of "The Farmer's Wife" section of Farm Journal.   

Dieken eventually administered a staff of 24 women (associate editors, editorial and administrative assistants, and secretaries) who comprised the staff of "The Farmer's Wife" section.   Built a reputation as a strong advocate for professional standards and professional recognition–including equal pay with the men who worked for the Farm Journal.  Dieken viewed farm wives as "Vice Presidents in the Apron" who played a pivotal role in American agriculture.  She advocated farm wives taking an active role in business decisions and assuming responsibilities for the farm’s records.  They should be involved in the buying and selling of goods and serve as a "back-stop for this husbands as business men."  She believed there was no comparable group of business women in America and the "The Farmer's Wife" section needed to play a major role in educating the women so they could fulfill their responsibilities.  She also recognized that many farm women were working in businesses or professions off the farm, and that the Farm Journal should be a vigorous advocate for advancing the status of all employed women whether working on or off the farm.  In the 1950s she was certainly "the number one women editor in the farm field of journalism."

Awards include being the first women to receive the Reuben Brigham Award, given by the American Association of Agricultural College Editors for outstanding service to agricultural and rural living. 

1949: named "Woman of the Year" by Theta Sigma Phi, national professional women's journalism society.

1955: received the Epsilon Sigma Phi's outstanding service award for contribution to rural living.

1957: Coe's Alumni Award of Merit.

Dieken created some controversy in 1946 when she wrote in the Farm Journal that a city wife is worth "much less" to her husband the $69,000 which a farmer's wife is allegedly worth to her spouse.  "A city wife is worth a lot less.  I wouldn’t dare say how much less, but no one could deny that farm wives are more valuable."  Several articles in the Gazette on this remark confirming that not everyone would agree.  One respondent was Louise Knapp, Gertrude Dieken's long-time friend and fellow Coe graduate.  Mrs. Knapp's letter to Gertrude, quotes in a 17 Nov issue of the Gazette, responds "with some spirit": "As for me, I always thought a wife was a wife wherever she lived.  If she was good, she was worth a lot, and if she wasn’t she wouldn’t be worth a nickel–even to a farmer."


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