Maytag, Mrs. F. L.

A framed portrait of Mrs. F. L. Maytag wearing a blue dress and blue coat with a fur shawl. She has a thick black necklace with a silver pendant.
A portrait of Mrs. F. L. Maytag, a member of the Library Board. The card in the lower corner reads, “Dena Bergman Maytag (Mrs. F. L. Maytag). Donated by: Martha Ann (Muffy) Maytag Peterson, Great Granddaughter of F. L. and Dena Maytag.”Source: Jasper County Historical Society

Mrs. Dena Maytag

Mrs. F. L. Maytag was a member of the Newton Public Library board of trustees from 1904 to 1928.[1] She was born Conradena Wilhelmina Bergman on April 26, 1859 in Spirit Lake, Iowa.[2] She came to Newton with her parents when she was 3.[3] Dena Bergman, as she preferred to be known, spent her youth on the family farm[4], and was “making a home for a bachelor brother” on one of her father’s nearby farms[5] when a “neighboring farmer boy,” who was to become her husband, first noticed her.[6] She married Frederick Louis Maytag (1857-1937) on September 20, 1882 in Jasper County, Iowa.[7] “The marriage of Dena and Fred was a reminder that opposites do attract under the right circumstances,” Maytag’s most recent biographer observes. “She preferred to remain in the shadows while he enjoyed the limelight. Being a ‘stay-at-home’ was more to her liking while he needed to be on the go. Her religious fervor stood in contrast to his ambivalence towards regular church attendance. Money held little importance for her except ‘to help people and her church.’ He, on the other hand, used the accumulation of wealth as a driving force behind his success.”[8] The couple had four children: Elmer Henry “Rip” Maytag (1883-1940), Louise Amelia “Lulu” or “Polly” Smith (1885-1973), Lewis Bergman “Bud” Maytag (1888-1967), and Freda Lucille “Kit” Sparey (1891-1952).[9] The Maytag marriage failed after 43 years.[10] From home Mrs. Maytag “would enjoy a comfortable life ensconced in a daily routine of cooking, sewing, raising flowers, entertaining neighborhood girl friends, attending church functions, and attending to her philanthropic concerns.”[11] “Mrs. Maytag’s devotion to the city of Newton found expression in many benefactions,” the Des Moines Tribune noted. “In accordance with a rule adopted many years ago, her philanthropies followed the channel of strict privacy. She never failed to remember the sick and old with flowers and gifts.”[12] In addition to her many years of service on the library board, Mrs. Maytag was a member of Newton Woman’s Club, Chapter AO of P. E. O., the Raffia Club, and the First Presbyterian Church.[13] A talented seamstress, she enjoyed making clothes for family members. She also loved music, both instrumental and vocal.[14] Dena Maytag died January 18, 1934 at her home in Newton.[15] She is buried in Newton Union Cemetery.[16]

-Larry Ray Hurto

[1] 1896-1957 Library Trustees, Newton Public Library History.{d88251a6d044bb92acfc6562c844669d257905d2c83f008be98127c59e94a890}20trustees/field/subjec/mode/exact/conn/and/order/title/ad/asc.

[2] John Daehler, comp., The Maytags: A Collection of Family Historical Material, Booklet One (1982), p. 10.

[3] Des Moines Tribune, January 18, 1934. According to Phyllis Franzen, “The Bergman Homes,” in Jasper County Writers, Inc., Heritage Tour of Jasper County, Vol. I (Newton, IA: News Printing Company, Publishers, 1980), p. 136, the parents, William and Louisa (Phlamcamp) Bergman, both natives of Germany, came to Iowa and Jasper County in 1856. After two years here they removed to Spirit Lake. Following the death of a son and the Spirit Lake Massacre, they returned to Jasper County in 1862, settling in Malaka Township, “where their sons and daughters grew to maturity.”

[4] Dr. Tom Hoover, Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, Obscurity to Fame: A Biography of Frederick L. Maytag (Newton, IA: Newton Daily News, 2018), p. 80.

[5] Ibid., p. 77.

[6] A. B. Funk, Fred L. Maytag: A Biography (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, 1936), p. 40.

[7] The Maytags: A Collection of Family Historical Material, p. 10; and Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, p. 54. A wedding announcement in the collections of the Jasper County Historical Society, Newton, Iowa, gives the names of the betrothed as Dina Bergmann and Fritz Maytag, Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, p. 78. Dena’s “bachelor brother,” William C. “Will” Bergman, was Maytag’s business partner in the Newton agricultural implement firm of Maytag & Bergman (1881-1890). John C. Daehler, “The Daniel Fredric Wilhelm Ludwig Maitag Family Through the Years,” in Laurel, Iowa Centennial, 1881-1981 (Newton, IA: News Printing Company, 1981), p. 161. Maytag founded The Maytag Company in 1909. Fred L. Maytag: A Biography, p. 53; and Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, chap. V.

[8] Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, pp. 78-79.

[9] Janet Brown Lutes et al., Germany to America: Maitag to Maytag, 1850-2000 (Kearney, NE: Cookbooks by Morris Press, 2000), opposite p. 1. For more on the Maytag children, see Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, chaps. VI and VII.

[10] “The parting of Fred and Dena became official when F. L. gave her the deed to the completed Elm Park mansion [at 1106 S. 5th Ave. W.] in December 1927.” Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, p. 172. The Maytags never divorced, but the couple separated for the remainder of their lives. Ibid., p. 173. Dr. Hoover discusses speculation about whether “another woman” caused the rift on pp. 172-75 of his biography.

[11] Ibid., p. 172.

[12] Des Moines Tribune, January 18, 1934.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, p. 77.

[15] She became “seriously ill” January 16. Des Moines Tribune, January 18, 1934. Dr. Frank L. Smith certified the cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage. Funeral Register, Morgan Funeral Home, Newton, Iowa, Book 5, 1930-1936, p. 330. Jasper County Genealogical Society, Newton, Iowa.

[16] Jasper County Genealogical Society, comp., Jasper County, Iowa, Cemeteries: Newton Union Cemetery, Blocks 1, 2, and 3; Veterans Block 1 and 2 (Des Moines: Iowa Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 396. “She lies far from her husband at the south end of the cemetery next to her daughter Freda resting among a lovely grove of trees.” Farm Fields to Beverly Hills, p. 175.