Lou Hoover was a horse-riding, roller-skating, architecture and nature buff fluent in five languages. She married her geology classmate and future president Herbert Hoover in 1899 and the newlyweds took off for China. Mrs. Hoover quickly learned Chinese, a language the couple would use when they wanted to communicate privately in front of guests at the White House. Then in 1900, the Boxer Rebellion began, a conflict in which many Chinese violently attacked foreigners because of tensions over increasing Western influence on the country.
Mrs. Hoover treated gunshot wounds, built barricades, and rode through the area on her bicycle with a pistol patrolling with Western troops. She would have to help out once again when her family was in London during the start of World War I, and she was asked by the U.S. Ambassador to organize aid for the displaced. She became a champion for Belgium while they were occupied. In the U.S., she helped organize the American Red Cross’ Canteen Escort Service to bring home wounded American soldiers. Later in her life, she helped with the founding of the Girl Scouts. During the Great Depression, which her husband struggled to control, she made regular radio broadcasts to the American people. It was a life full of outdoorsmanship and humanitarianism for the wife of one America’s least effective presidents.