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Lou Henry was born in Waterloo, Iowa on March 29, 1874. Ten years later her parents, Charles and Florence Henry, moved their family to California. As a girl, Lou became a fine horsewoman and enjoyed hunting, camping, and rock collecting. While attending Stanford University as a geology and mining major, she met Herbert Hoover in a geology lab. They married in 1899 and immediately left for China where he worked as a mining engineer. Hoover's career made him a young millionaire and it moved his family around the world. Lou raised their two sons, Herbert and Allan, in Ceylon, Burma, Siberia, Australia, Egypt, Japan, and Europe. The outbreak of World War I took Hoover out of the private sector and placed him in political life.
During World War I, Hoover skillfully managed emergency relief programs and was then selected to head the Food Administration to encourage voluntary conservation of food and energy. Lou Hoover pitched in and distributed wheatless and meatless recipes for American housewives to try. The word "Hooverize" was used to describe cutting back on meat, wheat and sugar, and not wasting leftovers. When the war ended in 1919 they built a home in Palo Alto, California. In 1921, the Hoovers left their new home and moved to Washington, D.C. when he was appointed Secretary of Commerce. He served in this position under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Lou spent eight years performing the social duties required of a Cabinet wife, and actively participating in the Girl Scout program.
Following his election to the presidency, the Hoovers moved into the White House in 1929. Her energy and efficiency made her a dynamic hostess and many historians regard the Hoovers' parties as the best ever in the White House. Lou saw to it that guests had the best of everything. When the amount of their entertaining costs exceeded the amount authorized by Congress, Hoover cheerfully paid the difference out of his own pocket. During their first three years in the White House they dined alone only three times, and that was on their wedding anniversary. The Great Depression killed the Hoover presidency. Lou made an effort to wear cotton dresses in public and she encouraged women nationally to help those in need. When Franklin Roosevelt defeated Hoover, Lou was devastated.
They retired to their home in California where Lou enjoyed hikes and bike rides with her grandchildren, and continued to entertain lavishly. During World War II she assisted her husband with his efforts to help European refugees and did volunteer work for the Red Cross. On January 7, 1944, she attended a concert in New York City and returned to her hotel to prepare for dinner with her husband when she died suddenly of a heart attack. Upon her death their Palo Alto home was given to Stanford University, their common alma mater. President Hoover lived until 1964. They are buried at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site at his childhood home in West Branch, Iowa.