Time Machine

Time Machine: How nutritionist Kate Daum left her mark at the University of Iowa

Kate Daum working in the laboratory around 1940. University of Iowa Frederick W. Kent collection.
Kate Daum working in the laboratory around 1940. University of Iowa Frederick W. Kent collection.
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Kate Daum — who has a University of Iowa residence hall named in her honor — was 9 years old when her mother died of typhoid fever at the family home in Lawrence, Kan., in 1901.

The Daum family had moved to Lawrence four years before so that Kate’s father could attend the University of Kansas while also teaching in area schools.

Kate graduated from the Lakin, Kan., high school in 1908. She and her sister, Bess, returned to Lawrence to attend the university, both graduating in 1913. While Bess took a position as a Lawrence librarian, Kate Daum became a teacher in the home economics department at the university, taking a spot as a dietitian at the hospital a year before earning her master’s degree in 1916.

She was an assistant professor of home economics at the University of Montana from 1919 to 1921, was a researcher in the Bureau of Home Economics in Washington, D.C., until 1924, then headed the dietary department of New York’s Presbyterian Hospital for a year. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1926.

Moves To Iowa

Daum came to the University of Iowa in 1925 as a dietitian, five years after the nutrition department was started by Ruth Wheeler. The department was the first of its kind set up for graduate study and was the only course offering a master’s degree after a calendar year.

It also was the only course that had a research laboratory in a hospital.

Daum was appointed head of the nutrition department in the College of Medicine in September 1927, succeeding Florence Ross. She also was a professor in the college.

“The modern trend in hospital dietetic work is to endeavor to satisfy the patient’s especial desires as much as possible and still comply with the doctor’s requirements as to the patient’s needs,” Daum told the Daily Iowan in January 1932. “Each patient’s individual diet needs are studied. Women do not eat nor do they need as much food as men. Children do not eat as much as older persons, but they eat more frequently. Their diet needs must be carefully analyzed and graded.”

‘Notable Work’

Daum was president of the Iowa State Dietetic Association when she came to the Montrose Hotel in Cedar Rapids in December 1930 to speak to the American Association of University Women.

In 1934, she published important researchon the metabolism of iron in women.

In October 1936, she spoke about “Applying Nutrition Principles” to the Cedar Rapids Woman’s Club. She talked about the 400 gallons of milk used daily at the University Hospital that came from the university’s own dairies.

Daum was selected as one of Iowa’s 10 outstanding women by the national Business and Professional Women’s clubs.

“Dr. Daum has done notable work in dietetics in the hospital field and is the author of numerous articles in professional journals and popular periodicals such as Good Housekeeping magazine,” the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

In 1950, Daum spearheaded research into the effects of skipping breakfast. She reported that men had a more unfavorable reaction that women, but everyone showed signs of fatigue and slower reaction times than those who had had a healthy breakfast.

In 1954, she continued her breakfast nutrition study on 25 boys, ages 12 to 14. She and W.W. Tuttle, professor of physiology, reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that the boys “had a definitely better attitude and better scholastic record during the period when breakfast was included in the daily dietary regimen than when it was omitted.”

Death, A Dorm

Daum also was known for loving siamese cats. She also liked to take hunting and fishing trips, cook for her friends and raise roses.

She had been ill for several months before she died Dec. 31, 1955, at age 63.

After her death, UI President Virgil Hancher lauded her as “a distinguished woman, a distinguished scientist and a devoted member of the university staff for a quarter century and more.”

“Her scientific contributions can best be assessed by other scientists, but all of us in this university community know the greatness of her personality and the contributions which she has made to the health and well-being of thousands of Iowans who have been patients in the University hospitals,” he said.

“There is no measure for the loss we have suffered.”

She was buried in Lawrence, Kan.

Daum was honored in 1964 when an eight-story addition to the Burge Hall women’s dormitory on the UI campus was named for her. Today, a renovated Daum Hall houses honor students.

Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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