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Gaddis, Lella



  • Existence: May 29, 1877 - January 16, 1968

Biographical Information

Lella Gaddis served as Indiana’s first state leader of home demonstration from 1917-1947, working first in Purdue University’s Department of Household Economics and subsequently under the Department of Agricultural Extension.

Lella Gaddis was born May 29, 1877, in Rossville, Indiana, to William and Margaret (Reed) Gaddis. She had three siblings, Mamie, Bertha Kate, and John Clyde. Their family moved to the Lafayette area after Lella’s birth. She graduated from the old Lafayette High School in 1896 and attended classes in home economics at Purdue University from 1912-1914.

Lella and her older sister, Bertha Kate Gaddis, both remained unmarried and lived together during their adulthood in West Lafayette, Indiana, where they frequently hosted boarders, including many Purdue students, and important persons through Lella’s connections with Purdue University.

In 1914, Lella Gaddis was hired by Mary Matthews to teach in Purdue’s Home Economics Extension Service, training the first home economics demonstration agents in the state. In 1917, she was appointed as the first state leader of the home demonstration agents, where she supervised home demonstration agents and helped establish home economics and demonstration clubs in counties across Indiana to educate women in the domestic sciences. While at Purdue, Gaddis travelled nationally and internationally to attend meetings, present her work, and further study the field of home economics.

During her life, Lella Gaddis a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, American Association of University Women, Epsilon Sigma Phi, National Home Economics Association, Indiana Home Economics Association (IHEA) of which she was honorary president, Indiana Federation of Clubs, Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Altrusa Club (later Altrusa International), Purdue Women's Club of which she served as vice president, and the Tippecanoe County Historical Association and Lafayette Art Association. Upon her retirement, through her connections with the IHEA, she spearheaded the establishment of the Twin Pines Cooperative House on Purdue’s campus for women students enrolled in home economics. In addition, the IHEA established the Lella R. Gaddis Scholarship to promote the study of home economics.

Lella Reed Gaddis died on January 16, 1968.


Bertha Kate Gaddis diaries collection file. Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries. West Lafayette, IN.


Klink, A. (2011). Divided Paths, Common Ground. Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, IN.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Bertha Kate Gaddis diaries

 Unprocessed — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2022-047
Dates: 1906-1937, 1945-1946

Lella R. Gaddis papers

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 22, Placement: 07
Identifier: MSF 138
Scope and Contents This collection includes an article written by Lella Gaddis in 1917 as well as clippings and photographs pertaining to her life, activities, and work.
Dates: 1917 - 2009

Tippecanoe County Extension Homemakers records

 Unprocessed — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 20190808.1