Evelyn Birkby honored on the floor of U.S. Senate

Kirt Manion
Evelyn Birkby, center, with her family.

An Iowa literary legend was honored on the floor of the United States Senate last week as Senator Chuck Grassley spoke about the impact made by the work of Southwest Iowa’s own Evelyn Birkby.

Senator Grassley rose and was recognized to deliver the following speech.

“I pay tribute to a remarkable Iowan. She is one of the longest serving newspaper columnists in America. She has an uncommon work ethic having never missed a deadline in 70 years.

Her weekly commentary in the Shenandoah Valley News has blanketed her close knit community in southwest Iowa for seven decades. Now, get this, at age 100 years young, Evelyn Birkby, mother, farmer’s wife, radio commentator, better yet, radio homemaker for KMA Radio, columnist and author, is now retiring. Her readers will miss her byline and storytelling. Her neighborly columns about ordinary life in rural America have brought extraordinary joy to generations of Iowans.”

In 1949, Birkby was encouraged by her husband Robert to begin writing a column she entitled “Up a Country Lane.”

Birkby, who moved to a farm at rural Farragut in 1948, detailed her adventures in life through home-spun stories which were always accompanied by a recipe.

She went on to start a career in radio with 40 years as a “radio homemaker” for KMA. She was a regular columnist for Kitchen Klatter magazine and was a regular on the Kitchen Klatter syndicated radio broadcast. Birkby would go on to author 10 books, including Neighboring on the Air (published by the University of Iowa Press), which describes the heyday of radio homemakers.