A Hero of Mine

Outside of the prairie enthusiast world, the name Ada Hayden probably doesn’t register. Ms. Hayden, a native Iowan born in 1884, connected with the prairie on her parents farm near Ames, Iowa. Following her love of botany and prairies she excelled in botany at Iowa State University in the early part of the 1900’s.

You can read more here: Ada Hayden

Prior to her death in 1950, Dr. Hayden championed preservation of the tallgrass prairie, identifying remaining prairie sites in Iowa and recommending their protection. The Hayden Prairie in Iowa, named after Ada, is one of the sites she identified and recommended to be preserved. Many more of these sites, now preserved, owe their very existence to her as well.

It’s hard to imagine what the mindset of the general public and legislators was in Iowa in the waning years of World War II, when a female botanist from Iowa State University pressed for preserving prairie. Were her recommendations taken seriously? What was the public attitude towards preserving prairie? In the present, some 70 years after Ada Hayden’s recommendations, has the public’s attitude towards saving prairie changed? Is there any urgency or desire to, as Ada Hayden did, to scout out and try to save any remaining prairie?

I’ve been to the Hayden Prairie Preserve in Howard County, Iowa several times. It’s a lonely survivor, surrounded by a sea of tamed agricultural land. I’ve stood on this prairie and imagined what this area looked like before this prairie became an isolated island. I imagine too what I would discuss with Ms. Hayden if I could bridge time and happened to meet her as I wandered HER prairie. Would she be pleased with the prairie lands now preserved because of her efforts? She should be.

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