Every March we celebrate National Women’s History Month by recognizing and honoring the legacy of the important role that countless women have played in American history.
Beginning as a week-long celebration in California, President Carter first declared the week of March 8 as Women’s History Week back in 1980. After Congress passed a resolution in 1987, Women’s History Month was born.
We all know the stories of pioneering and brave women like Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Annie Oakley, Amelia Earhart, and Rosa Parks.
For decades, Iowa women have also led the way as innovators, activists, and change-makers.
Born on her family farm in Denison, Donna Reed grew up to become a world-renowned actress. Her most famous roles include an Oscar-winning performance as Mary Hatch in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring alongside Frank Sinatra as Alma in “From Here to Eternity”, and starring in the “Donna Reed Show”.
Iowa State graduate Carrie Chapman Catt was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement and the fight for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. She twice served as President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and founded the International Alliance of Women. To this day her name is synonymous with the Equal Rights Movement.
Mildred Day was born in 1903 in Knoxville, Iowa. After moving to Michigan to take a job at Kellogg’s cereal company, Mildred and her co-worker Malitta Jensen developed the recipe for the world-famous Rice Krispies Treats.
Since 1984, University of Northern Iowa alum Lisa Bluder has coached the women’s basketball teams at St. Ambrose, Drake, and the University of Iowa. Since coming to Iowa City in 2000, Coach Bluder has led the Lady Hawkeyes to two Big Ten championships, multiple NCAA Tournament appearances, and too many wins to count.
Peggy Whitson was born in Beaconsfield and received her Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan. After earning her doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University, she went on to become an astronaut, traveling to the International Space Station twice, broke the record for the longest single space flight by a woman, and serving as NASA Chief Astronaut.
After graduating from the University of Iowa in the 1920s, Mildred Benson wrote the first teen detective book, “The Secret of the Old Clock”. She was also one of the many authors who took on the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene to write twenty-two of the first twenty-five Nancy Drew novels.
These are just a few of the Iowa women who were trailblazers and true leaders in countless fields. They have changed the world for the better and I am incredibly thankful for their dedication and sacrifices.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a resident of Ottumwa who currently represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.