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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Mrs. Nora Babbitt Harsh

Mrs. Nora Babbitt Harsh was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., the daughter of Judge J. Willard Babbitt, who has in his line of ancestry two presidents of Harvard College.  Her mother, Florence S. Babbitt, has a national reputation as a collector of antiques.  The legislature of Michigan recently made an appropriation for glass cases to contain her collection of twenty-five hundred pieces of antique china at Lansing.  She has collection in Kent Museum, Grand Rapids, at Detroit and in the State Normal College at Ypsilanti.  Dr. Gunsaulus purchased in 1914, her collection of thirty cover lids, probably the largest single collection in the United States, for the Chicago Art Museum.  Mrs. Harsh received her musical education at the Michigan State Normal Conservatory and in the Ann Arbor University School of Music.  She later took lessons in voice with teachers in New York and Boston.  She has taught voice in a number of cities and came to Iowa in 1899, and opened a conservatory in Creston, which was very successful.  She was married Sept. 2, 1903, to F. D. Harsh.  They have one daughter, Nancy Babbitt Harsh, born in Des Moines, July 2, 1904.  Mrs. Harsh is interested in all the musical organizations of Des Moines, which city is her home.  She has for a number of years been chairman of the musical department of the Woman's Club, president of the Woman's Club Chorus, which is limited to forty voices and includes the principal soloists and semi professional singers of the city.  She inaugurated in 1913 a series of Sunday afternoon concerts.  The principal singers of the city appeared on the program, which were of the highest merit.  It attracted very wide attention and letters were received from musical people all over the United States regarding the management of such a course.  To make it a success The Des Moines Musical Association was organized with Mrs. Harsh as president.  Every interest is represented in the association;  on its board is the Governor of the State, the Mayor of the city, prominent business men, ministers, and musicians.  The concerts have been a wonderful agent to educate the general public musically.  She is very anxious that Des Moines shall have a permanent orchestra and has bent every effort to bring it about.  Mrs. Harsh has written for many periodicals;  she is the Des Moines critic for the Chicago Musical Leader, and is Iowa Editor of The Clef.  She is a member of the Newspaper Women's Club.  Her daughter Nancy is named for her great-grand mother, Nancy Harsh, who was born in 1810, and who lived to be 103 years old.  She was resident of Creston and a wonderful woman.  She was a handsome old lady, charming in her manner, with every faculty keen to the time of her death which was occasioned by a fall.  In 1910 when she was one hundred years old, a reception was given in her honor at the home of her son, Hon. J. B. Harsh, to which all the residents of Union county were invited.  Hundreds of people called that day to pay her honor.  When she was a little girl she was one of twelve to strew flowers in the way of Genl. Lafayette on his visit to this country.  Her picture hangs in the Iowa Historical Building.



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