An Avid Gardener

May Brodhead was born in New York in 1867 but, after orphaned at age four, came to Iowa to be raised by her extended family. She attended Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames, Iowa, where she met her future husband, Henry Cantwell Wallace.

May and Henry began their married life in 1887 on a farm near Orient, Iowa, where she gave birth to their first two of six children, the oldest being Henry Agard Wallace. May was an important influence on her son. An avid gardener, she taught him about hybridization through breeding pansies, strawberries, and chickens.

May was the emotional mainstay of her husband, a born mother and teacher, an efficient and frugal home manager, and an active church member. Her articles in “Hearts and Homes” were about homemaking, child rearing, life in Washington, DC as the Agricultural Secretary’s wife, and her travels in Europe. She moved from her humble farmhouse to the elegant Mayswood mansion in Des Moines where she hosted Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

May Wallace was president of the Daughters of Founders and Patriots in Des Moines in 1922, as well as a charter member of the Des Moines Founders Garden Club. She was also a life member of the Des Moines Women’s Club.

May died in 1948, during her son Henry A.’s presidential campaign.