|Kate Carter Frederick
As the great-granddaughter of one of Story County Iowa’s pioneering farm families, Mildred Dodds Taylor (1897-1990) became a pioneer in her own time. During an era when most people's education stopped at the eighth grade-if not sooner-she completed eight grades of country school, continued on to graduate from Ames High School in 1915, and then to graduate from Iowa State College in 1919 with a B. S. degree in home economics.
In the fall of her senior year at Iowa State, Mildred was invited to join Mortar Board-the highest scholastic honor for female students at that time. Membership in Mortar Board was a great source of pride for Mildred and she continued as an active member throughout her life. When Mildred entered Iowa State in the autumn of 1915, she lived on her parents' farm 1 1/2 miles north of the campus and walked over a field, through the timber, and across an old footbridge over Squaw Creek to reach her classes each day. Stange Road was built that same year by inmates from the Anamosa prison, and linked the campus area with the countryside (and the farm of William and Hattie Dodds).
Following graduation, Mildred began a career of teaching home economics that led her away from central Iowa for the first and only times of her life. While teaching foods and clothing for two years in Mapleton, Iowa, she instituted new ideas that met with acclaim: a morning snack for elementary school students and a hot lunch program for the school. She went on to teach home economics in Albia, Iowa and Seattle, Washington.
In January 1925 Mildred returned to Iowa State and began work on a masters degree in textiles and clothing. After completing research and writing her thesis, "The Wearing and Fading Qualities of Curtain Materials as Determined by Chemical & Physical Tests," she received her M.S. in December 1925. Awarded one of the first advanced degrees in the program, Mildred's thesis shows in her words, "my hard work on an original problem."
For the next 2 1/2 years she, "thoroughly enjoyed an excellent job" teaching home ec (foods textiles and clothing) at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Mildred returned to Ames in 1929, married Reuben L. ("Joe") Taylor there and "became a farm wife."
They moved to her parents' farm to continue her family's tradition, raising crops and livestock, working hard to maintain and improve the land on which she grew up. The family (Allen-Dodds-Taylor) farm flourished under their care. The Taylor's son, Robert W. (Bob), took over the farm operations in 1955. Honored as a "Century Farm" in 1976 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, the farm thrived under Mildred's maternally watchful eye and Bob's steadfast hands.
Through the years of her adult life as Mildred saw the city of Ames encroach upon her family's farm and eventually surround it, she rued the day when "children would wonder what an Iowa farm was like and why no food came from the good black ground that had been covered with cement." Her heirs sold the farm to developers in 1995. Although she gave up her teaching career for marriage, family, and farm life, Mildred remained a dedicated advocate of education and Iowa State.
As a highly-intelligent woman who loved books and learning, Mildred became a teacher to her own children and her grandchildren. Her schooling at Iowa State enabled her to participate in the world in a way that otherwise would not have been possible, and she cherished those experiences throughout the remainder of her life.
Her lifelong love of learning lives on in each of her six grandchildren, Steven Taylor Carter, Loralee Ann Carter, Kathryn Carter, Frederick Todd William Carter, John Robert Taylor, and Jeffrey William Taylor for whom she paved the financial way to college and served as a stalwart booster. Upon each of them she impressed the value of a higher education. All of them attained degrees-with thanks to their "Gram” - three completed programs at Iowa State.
Mildred's children are also ISU alumni: Bob (B.S. '54) and Mary E. Taylor Carter (B.S. '68; M.S. Drake '82).
They are pleased to honor their mother for her independent spirit (bolstered by her years at Iowa State), her advocacy of education (reinforced by her studies at Iowa State), and her loyalty to the school. Mildred's family savors memories of her kind and generous ways, her endlessly loving nature, and her delicious rolls and cookies. She told intriguing stories of "long ago" when the land surrounding Ames supported a thriving community of farms where gypsies, hobos, Indians, and country peddlers often visited. She graced family gatherings on holidays with delightful feasts from her farm kitchen. The comforters sewn by her talented hands and tied with her heartstrings continue to keep her loved ones warm.
-Kate Carter Frederick 7/1/96