Posted on August 26, 2016 at 9:08 AM by Emily Saveraid
Since this year Palo Alto County is celebrating 100 years of Extension, we chose this special lady because of the big part she played in our Extension’s history. Margaret Pratt began working in Palo Alto County as a home demonstration agent in February 1936. Four 4-H clubs existed at the time and she thought there should be more clubs in other areas. A short time later, there were girls clubs in each of the sixteen townships in the county. Along with the formation of the clubs, Margaret recruited and trained adult leaders who in turn worked directly with the members. Nearly 400 girls participated in a very successful youth program. In the early 1960’s two girls from Palo Alto became state 4-H officers and it wasn’t a coincidence that girls began receiving state and national honors.
Margaret was always attentive to insure the needs of women and young people were properly recognized for their service. Way ahead of her time, in so many ways, she used all the mass media that was available, including radio, newspapers, and special mailings.
She placed a strong emphasis on education and training, always thinking everyone deserved an opportunity to learn. As an innovative leader, she believed educational opportunities should be offered to everyone, including those who were challenged. This was a new and unique concept at the time, but she stood firm in her belief and encouraged families and friends to stand firm as well. Her reasoning was simple – it was the right thing to do.
Margaret’s two daughters, Mary Jane McWilliams and Ruth Neppl, have lots of memories of their mother and 4-H, and all those memories continue to influence them in their adulthood. Their mother encouraged them to always try to do their best, even if it involved putting in a zipper 13 times before it was done correctly! They attended many achievement shows with her and know she endured lots of red jello, bologna sandwiches, and red Kool-Aid along the way. Margaret’s work with 4-Hers was her most rewarding work. She derived so much pleasure from seeing girls grow and develop through their 4-H activities.
Margaret made a huge difference in so many lives and her influence continues to help “make the best better” in the lives of not just young women but all 4-Hers. In 2003, Margaret’s four children set up a scholarship to help Palo Alto 4-Hers attend the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference in Ames. Since then 78 4-Hers have had the opportunity to attend the conference at a reduced fee, keeping Palo Alto well-represented at this state event.
Palo Alto County is now proud and honored to have Margaret Pratt as their 2016 inductee to the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame.
Categories: Palo Alto