Eleanor Murray Shepherd

Honored by:Alison Lewis and W.G. Shepherd
Brick location:D:21  map

Eleanor Murray Shepherd was born June 17, 1906, and raised in Cedar Rapids to Dr. and Mrs. Frederick G. Murray. She spent 1918-1919 in Honolulu, where her father was stationed during World War I. Like other members of her family, she attended Coe College receiving her B.A. degree in 1927. She then became an editorial assistant with the publishing section Office of the Historical Adviser in the State Department, Washington, D.C. In 1931, she married Geoffrey S. Shepherd, who served on the faculty of the Department of Economics at Iowa State University in Ames. During 1941-1942, the family lived in Washington, D.C. where she worked while her husband was in the Department of Agriculture. From the 1940s to the 1970s she assisted her husband as editor and indexer in writing 14 textbooks in the field of agricultural economics.

After raising a family, she pursued her growing interest in the importance of women and families in different cultures, first obtaining a master's degree in sociology at ISU in 1956. In the 1960s and 1970s her husband became engaged in a series of overseas posts as an economic advisor, and she accompanied him and carried out studies of the effects of political changes on local families in economically depressed areas. During their posting in Vietnam in 1964-1965 she co-authored with Marilyn W. Hoskins an account entitled "Life in a Vietnamese Urban Quarter," published by Southern Illinois University in 1965. This gave a unique view of inner urban society in Saigon and the stresses on family life in the critical year when war was declared.

Other overseas posts included 3 ½ years in Lima, Peru, where she spent much time among the families in the barriadas; Asuncion, Paraguay; Merida, Venezuela and Jakarta, Indonesia. From these visits she acquired a remarkably varied collection of native textiles which she donated to ISU.

In order to stimulate other women to follow her mother's example and pursue second careers after child-rearing, her daughter Alison in 1974 instituted the Eleanor Murray Shepherd Award at Coe College.

She and her husband opened their home on Oakland Street to many students, guests and neighbors. In their later years, they divided their time between Ames, a log cabin at Shepherd's Hey near Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, and a winter home on the island of Bequia in the Caribbean. Their life in Ames and postings overseas gave them a wide community of friends, embracing Japan, Vietnam, Cyprus, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America. She exulted in her friends and family, cherishing each one, near and far. All remember her as a person of warmth, compassion, insatiable curiosity about how people live their lives, joyful sense of humor and source of wise counsel.

In 1981, she and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a large gathering in Ames. She began to write a memoir of her travels and studies, but suffered a stroke that left her almost completely unable to write or speak. Despite this catastrophe, she carried on courageously, buoyed by her husband until his death in 1984 and by the warmth and support of her extended family and many friends. To be with her family she moved to Amherst in 1988 and Hayward in 1991. Mrs. Shepherd died June 4, 1994 in Hayward Hills, California.

She was survived by three sons, Gordon, William, and Douglas; two daughters, Alison Lewis and Margaret Shepherd; 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Submitted on 3/95