CLARINDA, Iowa — Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) introduced legislation to rename the U.S. Post Office in Clarinda in honor of Jessie Field Shambaugh, the former school superintendent from Page County and longtime Iowa educator known to many as the "Mother of 4-H."
“The values of leadership, engagement and community that I carry with me today I owe to my time as a 4-H kid growing up in Iowa, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to honor one of Iowa’s most valuable daughters for her contributions to our state and for bringing these ideals to millions of 4-H’ers since,” said Rep. Axne. “‘Miss Jessie’ – as she was affectionately called by her students – was a trailblazer, educator, mother, author and radio contributor – and I look forward to honoring her legacy in Page County by cementing her place in the heart of its community.”
Shambaugh began teaching in Page County in 1901, and formed the Boys Corn Club and the Girls Home Club to teach students essential skills for the farm and home through extracurricular programs. To boost participation for the clubs, she created a clover pin – with each leaf labeled with an H. Her design became the symbol of 4-H in 1914 when the Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension program through the USDA, formalizing 4-H clubs across the country.
Today, over 6 million U.S. schoolchildren participate in 4-H activities – learning life skills, leadership and cooperation through the same values of Head, Hands, Heart and Health that Shambaugh helped pioneer over a century ago. In Iowa, nearly 100,000 youth participate in 4-H.
“It is a testament to Shambaugh and the longevity of Iowa 4-H to see the Mother of 4-H recognized in this manner,” said Iowa 4-H Program Leader Debbie Nistler. “I was so inspired by what her grandson, Seth Watkins said, ‘We only do better when we all do better,’ and isn’t that true today? Iowa 4-H wants to serve all Iowa youth.”
Shambaugh was also an author, radio contributor on KFNF in Shenandoah and the mother of two children. She was born in 1881 near Shenandoah, studied at Shenandoah’s Western Normal College, graduated Tabor College in Fremont County and was elected superintendent of schools in Page County in 1906. She died in 1971 in Clarinda. In 1977, Shambaugh was named to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.
The bill introduced by Rep. Axne to rename the post office at 101 S. 16th Street is cosponsored by the other three members of the Iowa House delegation: Reps. Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Steve King (IA-04).
4-H is the youth development program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Photo caption: Rep. Axne announced her bill to rename the Clarinda Post Office with Jessie Field Shambaugh’s grandson, Seth Watkins, at American Legion Post 98 in Clarinda.