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Harlan, Mabel L. (Mabel Louise), 1877-1950



  • Existence: December 26, 1877 - March 5, 1950

Biographical Information

Mabel Louise Whitehead was born in 1877 near Rome, Indiana, to Israel and Louise Whitehead. Mabel grew up on the family farm which inspired her love of nature. She began teaching at rural schools in her county at the early age of 16. She enrolled in the Central Normal College in Danville, Indiana, where she met Dr. Wilbur Harlan, who she married in 1900. Mabel was widowed in 1905 after Wilbur contracted tuberculosis.

After Wilbur's death, Mabel taught in Danville public schools from 1905 until 1911. She was invited to join staff of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Purdue in 1911, and served as a stenographer and clerk until her promotion to Assistant in Agricultural Extension in 1917. Harlan remained in that position until her retirement in 1947.

Harlan merged her love of nature and writing in her role with extension and contributed to many extension bulletins and circulars. In 1915 she authored a bulletin titled Naming the Farm, which was released in several editions and was quite popular. Harlan also contributed to several farm magazines and newspapers, as well as the Indianapolis Star.

While affiliated with Purdue Extension, Harlan was able to earn her B.S. degree (1929) and receive additional training in journalism from the University of Wisconsin. James Stuart noted that Mabel had, " a real talent in sensing human interest stories."

Harlan was a member of many professional organizations, including: the Penwoman's Club, the Indianapolis Press Club for Women, American Association of University Women, Kappa Delta Pi, Theta Chi Gamma, Epsilon Sigma Pi. She was also a contributing member of many social and service organizations: Lafayette Art Association, Tippecanoe County Historical Association, Phi Mu, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

From September until the end of December, 1948, Harlan served as acting curator of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association and was assistant curator during the year 1949. She died shortly after on March 5, 1950.


McCullough, Alameda. 1954. "The Old Junction House, Pearl River and Other Papers About Lafayette's Yesteryears." Lafayette: Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Mabel L. Harlan papers

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 24, Placement: 01
Identifier: MSF 163
Scope and Contents One folder containing publications by Mabel Harlan.
Dates: 1915 - 1954