March 27, 2024

Women’s History Month: Gertrude Fellows

Gertrude Fellows, born August 22, 1893, in Gardner, Illinois (69 miles southwest of Chicago by way of Interstate 55) to England-born James, a farmer, and Rebecca, Fellows is one of the three elementary schools named after a former female leader in the Ames Community School District. 


A 1913 graduate of Canby (Minnesota) High School, Gertrude Fellows got her start teaching near the Lac qui Parle River at county schools in Burr, Minnesota; Gary, South Dakota (District No. 61); Porter, Minnesota (District No. 83); and Canby.

Fellows earned herself a bachelor of science degree from ​​Iowa State Teachers College, now known as the University of Northern Iowa, in 1925 and made her start as an elementary school teacher in Ames that fall.

An August 15, 1929, copy of the Ames Tribune reported that Fellows was the sixth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, and Abbie Sawyer was the principal at the time. Fellows remained a sixth-grade teacher at Roosevelt until her retirement in 1958.

Twenty-eight of her students joined 256 of their Ames school system peers in February 1931 as local chapters of the Good Writers club, sponsored by American Penman magazine. 

Students had writing samples accepted by judges from the abovementioned publication, which focused on the Palmer Method of handwriting developed by A. N. Palmer, the magazine publisher. Palmer taught “muscular writing” (whole-arm movements) at the Cedar Rapids Business College Company and sister colleges in Creston and St. Joseph, Missouri. The Palmer method of writing is notable for having an uppercase Q look like the number 2.

According to a fiscal year 1932 document posted in an August 1932 issue of the Tribune, following her seventh year of teaching, Fellows’ salary was $1,354.97, which in 2024 money is $30,917.83.

The Good Writers club continued, and in January 1933, Fellows’ student Dorothy Quaife (Ames High class of 1939) had her handwriting featured in the magazine.

Fellows was a lifetime member of the Iowa State Education Association, the Iowa Congress of Parents and Teachers, and the Retired Teachers Association at the Ames and National levels.

In 1958, she retired after 33 years in the Ames school system, and at a March 1966 board meeting, an elementary school building was named in her honor. Officially, on April 30, 1967, Gertrude Fellows Elementary School was dedicated and opened to the public.

Following a brief illness, Fellows passed away in Ames on May 20, 1973. She can be visited in Canby, Minnesota.