Helen Julia Cowgill was born 1 December 1881 in Springfield, Illinois. Cowgill came to Oregon in 1890 and graduated in 1913 from Oregon Agricultural College with a BS degree in Domestic Science and Art. After teaching Domestic Science and Art at Harney County (Oregon) High School at Burns for one year, she began her career at OAC in 1914 as Assistant State 4-H Club Leader with the Extension Service. In 1916, she earned a second BS degree in Home Economics from OAC. In charge of the girls' 4-H work, Cowgill wrote many of the 4-H Circulars used by girls in their 4-H Projects. She became known as the "Mother of Oregon 4-H." Cowgill took a year's leave of absence to complete her Masters Degree, which she received from the University of Washington in 1931. She was a member of Phi Kappa Chi and the Epsilon Sigma Phi, serving as treasurer of the latter organization in 1943. Cowgill retired from Oregon State College in 1947 and was awarded emeritus status. In 1954 Cowgill was selected as a "Woman of Achievement" by Theta Sigma Phi, and the 1957 4-H Summer School publication 4-H Absolutely was dedicated to her. Cowgill died in Corvallis on 15 May 1959. In 1965 a tree and bench on the university campus were dedicated to her memory.
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