Nurturing A Love of Learning
Born in 1832, Mary Louisa Putnam moved to Davenport with her family in 1855. In 1863 they built their home in west Davenport and named it Woodlawn. Mary was a devoted mother who encouraged her children to get an education. Her son Duncan spent most of his time at home due to his poor health and developed an interest in entomology. He encouraged his family to join the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences.
In 1868, Mary Louisa became the first female member of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences and secured most of the donations for the academy’s building and worldwide publications. She became the first female president of the academy in 1879. After Duncan’s death in 1881, she dedicated the rest of her life to the academy in his memory.
In 1902, Mary Louisa Putnam was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. After her death, she left money in trust to the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, which in 1938 became the Davenport Public Museum.
Today, in honor of Mary and Duncan, this museum is now called the Putnam Museum and Science Center!
Learn more about Mary Louisa Putnam and other Quad City historical figures in our Common Ground Exhibit.