Helen Field Fisher
1876 – 1953
Just as Dr. Arlow Stout has been called "the father of the American daylily", Helen Field Fischer is unquestionably the "mother of the American Hemerocallis Society". Born March 13, 1876, Helen E. Field grew up in a family of five sisters and one brother in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Her brother Henry started a garden seed business and Helen took summer courses at Cornell University, studying landscaping and horticulture. In 1905, she married Frederick Fischer.
Back in Shenandoah, her brother Henry, interested in promoting his seed business, started a radio station on the third floor of his seed house. Helen, already an author of many magazine articles about gardening, was asked to host a daily half-hour "Garden Club of the Air". She became known as "the Flower Lady". Her show became so popular that she couldn’t personally answer the hundreds of letters pouring in. Organizing "round robins" for people interested in the same gardening questions provided a solution.
In the early 1940’s Helen began talking more about hybrid daylilies, and a robin for that interest was begun. After WWII ended, and Victory Gardens were no longer the rule, and people again had fuel to travel, the robin members wanted Henry Field to reinstitute the previously popular "Midwest Flower Show". Helen agreed to host the show and with the help of her sisters and robin members, the show was organized and staffed.
On Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, 1946, five thousand visiting flower lovers converged on the Henry Field Seed Company from Colorado, Montana, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, as well as from the nearby states. Hotels and private homes were filled, so a dormitory was improvised in the basement of the Congregational Church, and dubbed "The Robin's Nest." The Seed House became a Fairyland of Flowers, although this first show was not confined to daylilies.
According to Viola Fox (who would become the initial secretary), on Sunday afternoon a meeting was held in the auditorium of the seed house. While the moving spirit was that of Mrs. Fischer, her sister Jesse Shambaugh, chairman of the show, was the one who actually wrote out the motion that would organize the "Midwest Hemerocallis Society."
"In 1948, the Society really became National, so the name ‘Midwest’ was dropped and it was known as 'The Hemerocallis Society,'" wrote Lula Mae Purnell.
It was not until a meeting in Baton Rouge in 1955 that it became "The American Hemerocallis Society."
So it was that the Helen Field Fischer Gold Medal was created in her honor "for distinguished and meritorious service on the national level". She was the first recipient in 1950.
Helen Field Fischer died April 24, 1953.
- Courtesy of the AHS Archives and Betsey Clark