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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Ada E. North

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MRS. ADA NORTH


ADA E. NORTH was the daughter of Rev. Milo N. Miles, a Congregational minister, long and favorably known at Iowa City and Des Moines. In the fall of 1865 she was married to Major George J. North, Governor Stone's military secretary, during the latter part of the Civil War. In 1870 Major North died and his widow was left with two children to support. She procured temporary clerical work towards the close of the session of the Legislature and was one of the first women employed as a clerk in the State House. After serving a year as a clerk in various offices at the Capitol, a vacancy occurred in the office of State Librarian, by the death of John C. Merrill and Governor Merrill appointed Mrs. North to that position. She was one of the first women to hold a State office in the United States and many eyes anxiously watched her administration, to see whether a woman would prove competent for the position. Up to that time but little attention had been given to building up a creditable State Library. The appropriations had been small and the library was in its infancy. Mrs. North prosecuted the work of her new position with zeal and enthusiasm, realizing that a woman was on trial for competency in the administration of the duties of a State office. She soon secured the attention and earnest cooperation of the Governor, Judge Cole and General Ed. Wright who was then Secretary of State. A bill was carefully prepared, at her suggestion, revising the laws relating to the State Library, which was passed by the Fourteenth General Assembly. This act provided for a board of trustees, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Judges of the Supreme Court. Librarian was made a State officer, with a salary of $1,200 a year. Mrs. North planned the upbuilding of a library worthy of the State. She was retained in office by reappointments for nearly eight years, systematizing, enlarging and laying the foundation for a great library. In all of her valuable work she had the earnest coöperation of the trustees and with their help did a work that will live as a substantial monument to the ability and efficiency of the first woman who held a State office in Iowa, if not in the United States. After retiring from her position, in 1879, she was appointed librarian of the State University at Iowa City where she served with marked ability for thirteen years. She died at her home in Des Moines, on the 9th of January, 1899.