The Fleming Sisters
Laura and Ida Fleming
Laura and Ida Fleming were lifelong educators—dedicating their lives to teaching. The sisters taught thousands of students in Waterloo and surrounding areas of Tama and Benton counties.
Earning a degree during the hardships of the economic depression was difficult. Ida desired to be a nurse. Due to her small stature, her parents thought it would not be a feasible career. They guided her to a teaching profession.
As young women, the sisters struggled to earn their teaching degrees in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Laura and Ida attended UNI (formerly Iowa State Teachers’ College), each graduating with a B.A. in elementary education. A love for travel and a belief in lifelong learning set the stage for their graduate studies at the University of Alaska, University of Hawaii, Central Missouri State College (now University) and UNI. Extensive travel experiences were enjoyed by the sisters and were reflected in the social studies classes the sisters taught for many years.
Laura’s teaching career of 40 years began in 1935 in rural schools in Benton County, in La Porte City schools, and then in Waterloo for 32 years. Ida began teaching country school for $50 per month. She carried the children’s water supply to work with her every day. Ida retired in 1978, wishing to be available and helpful to her sister. Laura and Ida taught an astounding total of 78 years, touching the lives of thousands of students.
The sisters lived together since 1948. They never married. In the early days of teaching the contracts were ‘void for wages if married.’ “We valued our independence,” according to Laura. “We were married to our jobs.”
In 1995, the Ida E. Fleming Scholarship was established at Hawkeye Community College. Although a nursing profession was not feasible for Ida, she wanted to make a difference in the future for nursing students. Two years later, Laura joined Ida’s effort to assist Hawkeye students. She established a scholarship for students committed to achieving their first two years toward their bachelor’s degree. Ida and Laura established scholarships to give back to the community for the opportunity to teach in the Waterloo area. Many Hawkeye students will continue to benefit from the Fleming sisters’ love and belief of education.
Laura was 90 when she passed away in 2005; Ida passed away in 2007 at age 91.
Story adapted from Community Foundation of NE Iowa.
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