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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

ADAMS, Elsie Payne

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Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

ADAMS, Elsie Payne. (Apr. 27, 1864—Dubuque, IA, Nov. 18, 1941). A graduate of the Cook County (Illinois) Normal School in 1888, Elsie attended the Froebel Training School for Kindergarten Teachers and became its assistant principal. After serving as the kindergarten teacher in the first public kindergarten in Chicago, she came to Dubuque with her husband, Herbert ADAMS in 1894. Remaining active in public education, she encouraged the opening of kindergartens in Dubuque and was the teacher of music in the schools. (1)

Austin ADAMS was a member of a small group of men in Dubuque who formed the YOUNG MEN'S LITERARY ASSOCIATION in 1857, to further culture and education. Their collection of 150 books eventually led to starting the Dubuque city library. Elsie, Austin Adams' daughter-in-law, became aware that citizens in rural areas, especially children, did not have access to library materials from the city library. Together with the Education Department of the Dubuque Women's Club, she formed a library association in 1929 whose purpose was to serve people in the rural areas of the county.

Beginning with 200 volumes from Mrs. Adams' own library, the library association's collection in the early years consisted mostly of gifts of books and money from friends or interested civic groups. Mrs. Adams herself took boxes of books to rural schools. Most rural schools welcomed the books and the demand quickly exceeded the supply. The American Legion Auxiliary and the DUBUQUE WOMEN'S CLUB helped buy books by holding fund-raisers and benefits. One benefit sponsored by the Club was a successful card party for the general public which was held at the Hotel Julien on a Saturday afternoon and evening. Additionally, Julia Robbins of the State Library Commission was instrumental in the Free Traveling Library of Iowa contributing more than a thousand books put on permanent loan. CARNEGIE-STOUT PUBLIC LIBRARY contributed worn but usable books discontinued from its own collection. Children's books were the most numerous, but some adult books were included. By 1933, the collection totaled 2,900 books which were used by 45 rural teachers. (2)

Elsie served as secretary of the Board of Trustees of FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE). Well-known in Dubuque County for her work in development the Parent Teachers’ Association and church work of ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Adams was also a founder of the DUBUQUE VISITING NURSE ASSOCIATION. (3)



1. "Death Comes to Mrs. Adams," Telegraph-Herald, November 11, 1941, p. 23

2. History of the Dubuque County Library. Online: http://www.dubcolib.lib.ia.us/aboutus/history2

3. "Death Comes..."