Gertrude L. Warren, 95, national leader of the Department of Agriculture's Extension Service 4-H program for 35 years and a pioneer in the 4-H movement both in this country and abroad, died Thursday of cardiac arrest at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Known as the "Mother of 4-H," Miss Warren had devoted her life to the youth-serving organization since 1917, when she moved to Washington and joined Agriculture as a senior scientist. She was teaching home economics at her alma mater, Columbia University in New York City, when officials from the Agriculture Department asked her to assume the leadership of the then uncharged home-making phase of 4-H Club work.
The 4-H Clubs, named for the organization's fourfold purpose of improving head, heart, hands and health, were originally formed as rural youth organizations sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and land-grant colleges and universities. Today it is the largest such organization in the country with more than 6 million members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam and has 582,000 voluntary leaders. It also has expanded to include programs for urban youth.
When Miss Warren, who was born and reared on a farm near Lockport, N.Y., took charge of the 4-H organization work, membership of its clubs totaled 330,000. When she retired in 1952, there were more than 2 million members enlisted in 85,000 clubs.
She was instrumental in establishing the National 4-H Foundation (now the National 4-H Council) and the National 4-H Center in Washington, which serves as a training site for 35,000 youngsters and adults annually. In 1951, when the 12 acre campus of the Chevy Chase Junior College was dedicated as the Club Center, its headquarters building was named Warren Hall in honor of Miss Warren's contributions.
Miss Warren also initiated the International Four-H Youth Exchange Program, which has involved youth and adults from around the world in 4-H type programs for more than 30 years.
She earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in home economics from Columbia University.
She received numerous government citations both here and abroad for her 4-H achievements. She was a member of President Hoover's Commission on Child Welfare and of the Eighth Scientific Conference of the Americas and of the Rural Education Conference called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
During President Truman's administration, she served on both the National Youth Emergency Conference and the Conference on Family Life, as well as two juvenile delinquency conferences called by the attorney general.
Survivors include a sister, Mary Margaret Warren, of Washington.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the National 4-H Council in Washington or to St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, in Washington.