Charlotte Melina Viall Wiser

Honored by:Edna Wiser
Brick location:D:4  map

1892 - 1981

Charlotte Melina Viall was born in Chicago, IL, in 1892. She graduated from the University of Chicago. She went to India as a Presbyterian missionary in 1916. There, she married William H. Wiser. They began their long careers of serving others.

Charlotte received her MS degree in nutrition from Cornell University in 1933. Dr. and Mrs. Wiser lived for extended periods in North India villages. They conducted intensive studies of the social, economic and religious life of Hindu peasants. Out of this experience and their research have come three books that are a standard source on Hindu village life. These books are used in colleges and universities throughout the United States, including Iowa State. The books are: Behind Mud Walls 1930-1960 1970-1980; The Hindu Jajmani S stem (William Wiser 1936); The Foods of a Hindu Village of North India (Charlotte Wiser 1936). Other books are: For AU of Life a Presbyterian Mission Study book 1943; Four Families of Karimpur (Charlotte Wiser 1978).

Charlotte worked among Indian village women and children, helping to raise the standard of health. She was recognized by the Indian government and received the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal, which is the highest award given to a non-citizen. On December 17, 1966, Charlotte received a plaque from Jack Vaughn, who was then the director of the Peace Corps. The citation read: "On behalf of President Johnson, the Peace Corps and the American people, I wish to offer our congratulations and good wishes on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of your service to the people of India. It seemed appropriate to the President and to me that our recognition of and gratitude for your years of selfless work in the Sub-Continent should come to you through the Peace Corps. In so many ways you and your late husband were our predecessors, working with people on their own terms in programs designed to allow them to help themselves. As you know, Behind Mud Walls is read and discussed by all Peace Corps volunteers going to India; we find it of inestimable value in getting our training programs off on the right track. For supplying us with this needed and insightful work, for your personal outstanding contribution to our recent training programs in India and for all that you have done to show us the way and represent our best to the Indian people, we are grateful and appreciative. I know that you will continue to give of yourself in ways beneficial to the Indian people in the coming years and we in the Peace Corps shall continue to rely upon your insights and judgment in guiding our future efforts."

Charlotte's son Edward Wiser graduated from Iowa State and her son Alfred Wiser did post-master's degree studies at Iowa State. Charlotte had other ties with Iowa State through her grandsons Don Wiser, Tim Wiser and his wife, Kim Wiser; her granddaughter Pam Wiser Millen and husband Ted Millen, who are all ISU graduates. We are pleased to be able to place a brick in her honor in the Plaza of Heroines.