Bess-Gene Holt

Honored by:Susan Sass, Eva L. Holt, & Juliet I. Holt
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Bess-Gene Holt was born November 13, 1930, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a fourth-generation Iowan. She died at age 61 on January 14, 1992. Over half of her life was spent in Ames, Iowa. It was in Ames that she raised her family and attained her professional standing in the field of child development. Her daughters, Susan, Eva and Juliet, have chosen to honor her and her contributions toward making the world a better place for young children and their educators.

Bess-Gene received her bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and her master's and doctorate from Purdue University. Her professional accomplishments include teaching child development and family life at Iowa State University as well as at other institutions. As a self-employed consultant from 1970 until her death, she was involved in many projects through the consulting, editing and authorship of various publications. The subjects of her writings concerning children include science, developmental appropriateness, safety and good practice and were mainly geared toward practitioners, parents, child care workers and others "working in the trenches."

The educators of young children that Bess-Gene helped include Head Start, NASA, ISU Extension and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. At NAEYC conferences both regional and national, Bess-Gene presented workshops to packed rooms eager to hear her knowledge and wisdom. Bess-Gene was also requested many times to deliver keynote addresses to important conferences.

She is best known in her field for her book Science with Young Children (NAEYC 1989), which at the time of her death was in its second edition. In this book, Bess-Gene communicates to anyone teaching young children that through the understanding and experience of science comes a way of life which fulfills the whole person as well as the whole earth; and that it is only through this way of life that all things can survive. This book is still a NAEYC bestseller. Throughout the latter half of Bess-Gene's life, she suffered with the pain and disability of severe rheumatoid arthritis. The ups and downs of this disease did not stop Bess-Gene from doing all her own typing, driving and carrying of suitcases full of presentation materials ("the dog and pony show" she called it). She lived with her disease with dignity and strength. It is this strength that so impressed those who knew her. But it is perhaps the way she influenced her daughters' lives that makes her a heroine.

In her life as a woman and a mother, Bess-Gene shared with her daughters the last treasure women have - the secrets of the matriarchy. She knew that there is strength in the knowledge women have but that it is scattered and that if we offer all women what we know the scattered pieces can come back together and start to re-form in a way that helps us all to survive. Those who need to find peace, courage, love and truth will learn these things are inside all of us and will therefore be supported by the truth of women. We miss you very much, Bess-Gene - mother, sister and friend.