In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month to serve as a time to remember great women in history who made a difference. In the History of Bossier Parish, we have had many extraordinary women that have made remarkable differences in and for the communities of Bossier Parish.
One such woman was Lettie Van Landingham (1893-1968), or Miss Van as she was known to friends and associates. Miss Van served as an educator of Home Economics in various high schools in the state from 1914 until 1929 when she accepted the position as the first Home Demonstrating Agent of Bossier Parish. Miss Van held this post until she retired on December 30, 1960. She was so loved and respected that she was given a surprise party on the day she retired which was broadcast during the Jean Harris Open House program on KWKH radio.
As Home Demonstrating Agent Miss Van conducted full-scale programs on every aspect of homemaking which includes food, clothing, family life, and home planning and management. Her work teaching food production, preservation, and conservation was especially important during the Depression, World War II, and after World War II to help bring famine relief to dozens of nations.
Some 23 canning centers were built and operated under Miss Van’s supervision. And, she served as secretary-treasurer for the Bossier Frozen Foods Committee, which would lead to the establishment of the Bossier Frozen Food Plant.
Miss Van also organized the Farm Bureau, several 4-H Clubs, numerous Home Demonstration Clubs, community recreation groups, and at least 28 home garden clubs. And, with the cooperation of approximately four hundred women in sixteen Home Demonstration Clubs, she paved the way for securing the Rural Electric Association (REA) in Bossier Parish to bring electricity to rural Bossier Parish.
During the depression, she was instrumental in building community houses for families on relief rolls to use for religious and educational purposes, as well as assisting in the Sunday School Program throughout the Depression. In cooperation with the Army Community Service, Miss Van supervised making 4500 mattresses and 2300 comforters for 3118 families. In 1936 Miss Van took an active lead in plans and preparations for Bossier Parish’s first Folk School. She conducted health clinics with the assistance of local doctors and the Webster Public Health Unit, thus paving the way for the establishment of a Bossier Parish Public Health Department in 1937.
During World War II, Miss Van was vigilant in teaching others how to produce and preserve food, as well as ways to conserve and make the best of rationing food. She also addressed the need to conserve clothing while taking the time to be concerned with the changing styles of women’s wear. She taught girls in 4-H how they could repair clothing and plan their family’s wardrobe while stressing the war-time need for clothing conservation.
Lettie Van Landingham was recognized for her service to the community in many ways. Just to name a few, she received a certificate for outstanding work from the National Home Demonstration Association, Beta Sigma Phi presented her with the “First Lady of the Year” award, and she was awarded the Outstanding Civic Leaders of America Award through the Quota Club. In tribute to Miss Van’s many years of service to the Bossier Parish Community, Mayor George L. Nattin made August 21, 1968, Lettie Van Landingham Day.
To learn more about Lettie Van Landingham and other great women of Bossier Parish visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center.
By: Amy Robertson