Lou Henry’s father couldn’t wait to sire a son he could take out hunting and fishing and camping all over Iowa …
As it turned out the baby was a girl – a girl name Lou – but she was a girl that loved to hunt and fish and camping. In the winter she would sled and skate on the Cedar River – her father taught her how to identify rocks and plants, and how to trap rabbits in the woods.
In the summer she organized baseball games in the street, climbed trees in her yard, and raced around with blonde pigtails flying. She learned to ride bareback on a big old plow horse at her uncle’s farm and developed a curiosity about all the wonders of the earth and nature.
About the time that Lou turned 11, the family moved to California where Mr. Henry was going to help open a bank. The sunshine of California would do wonders for Lou’s mother’s health. The family packed up and headed west.
Lou enrolled at the Los Angeles Normal School. She joined the Agassiz Club which collected items for the museum at the school, including live animals – Lou kept a horned toad for her pet. She transferred to San Jose Normal School, and received her teaching degree.
One afternoon, Lou attended a geology lecture by Professor J. C. Branner at the new Stanford University in Palo Alto. After the speech, Lou approached Dr. Branner, and told him of her love of the outdoors and she inquired about the study of geology for a woman. With Dr. Branner’s encouragement, and that of her parents, Lou enrolled as the first woman geology major at Stanford.
Dr. Branner had an assistant named Herbert Hoover. At a dinner at the Branners, Lou and “Bert” discovered that they had both been born in eastern Iowa, she in Waterloo and he just east of Iowa City. They also both loved to fish. Their friendship blossomed.
Bert graduated and took a job with a mining company in the middle of Australia but he never forgot Lou.
After graduating from Stanford, Lou returned to her family home in Monterey. One day she received a telegram – a cabled proposal of marriage.
“Bert” Hoover was to come to California from Australia via London to marry Lou, and right after the wedding they were to board a ship that was sailing to China!
The whirlwind wedding was planned around the sailing of the ship on February 11, 1899, so Lou and Bert were married on February 10th. They wore identical brown traveling suits which neither knew that the other had purchased.
With neither a Quaker nor Episcopalian minister available, the Hoovers were married in a civil ceremony by a Roman Catholic priest from the Monterey Mission whom Lou knew from her substitute teaching job in a schoolhouse next to the Mission.
After a wedding luncheon of broth, a meat course with plenty of vegetables, and a chicken salad, Lou and Bert caught the 2:00 train to San Francisco.
The next morning, they set sail for on a honeymoon cruise to China, where Hoover had accepted a position as mining consultant to the Chinese emperor.