Mary Bertha Beers Van Alstine

Honored by:Lois V. Holler
Brick location:A:14  map

1874 - 1971

Born in Grundy County, Mary Bertha Beers, aged 7, arrived in Gilmore City on the first train to steam through the small northwest Iowa town that was to be her home for the next 90 years. She loved school and was greatly disappointed at age 12 when her father required her services in the post office. He was a farmer as well as the postmaster, both full-time jobs. The best part of her job, she said was that, after the mail was sorted for the day, she could read between customer's visits. A local teacher took an interest in this avid young reader and directed her choice of books so she could get the education she sorely missed. The habit of reading became a lifelong pursuit, enlarging her world and that of neighbors and family.

When she married and was raising her 5 children, she founded a study club in Gilmore City (still active today); worked for women's suffrage, later the League of Women Voters and she knew Carrie Chapman Catt. Since the post office had been next door to the local saloon and she remembered several unpleasant encounters with drunken patrons, it led her to work for and be an officer in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She was also state secretary of the American Federation of Women.

While mayor of Gilmore City, she resolved many disputes and got well acquainted with the needs of its citizens. This resulted in her appointment to the Humbolt County welfare board. She believed that the majority of care for townspeople should come from their own neighbors, and she practiced this all her life.

Mary Bertha's recreation time was devoted to oil painting. She was skilled enough to have her own shows, and her paintings survive with family and friends.

Submitted on 11/18/95