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The 2013 Iowa Women of Achievement Announced

Names to be permanently displayed on the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge

October 8, 2013 (Des Moines, Iowa) — The selection committee for the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge announces the first four honorees:

  • Carrie Chapman Catt
  • Louise Rosenfield Noun
  • Sr. Bernadine Pieper, CHM
  • Gertrude Elzora Durden Rush

The Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge, located on Des Moines' Principal Riverwalk, recognizes Iowa women from history who have made outstanding contributions, achieved prominence or advanced the well-being of fellow citizens in Iowa and/or the world.

"The selection committee had a very difficult task limiting the number of honorees to four. Iowa has certainly produced a significant group of women who have left an indelible mark because of their enormous contributions," said Mary O'Keefe, Chair, Riverfront Development Authority. "This year's honorees defied the odds and advanced important causes for women and men of all races, creeds and economic levels. Their work established lasting institutions, laws and programs that today continue to serve Iowans and citizens of the world."

The selection committee — Joy Corning, former lieutenant governor; Michael Gartner, president of the Iowa Board of Regents; Mary O'Keefe, chair, Riverfront Development Authority; Sally Pederson, former lieutenant governor; and San Wong, director, Iowa Department of Human Rights — noted the outstanding quantity and quality of the nominees for the first year of the program. In its first recognition year, the committee chose four honorees. In subsequent years, the committee will determine the number of women to be selected.

The names of the four Iowa Women of Achievement honorees will be showcased on commemorative plaques and displayed permanently on the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. The dedication of the bridge was held on Monday, October 7, 2013, 6:30 p.m. CT, at the HubSpot, Des Moines, Iowa.

2013 honorees:

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 — 1947), an Iowa State University alumna, earned her degree in three years as the only woman in her graduating class of 1880. Catt is recognized as one of the major leaders of the American women's suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony handpicked Catt as her successor to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Catt had a lasting impact in leading the successful campaign for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote in 1920. She founded the non-partisan League of Women Voters in February 1920, established and served as president of the Women's Peace Party with Jane Addams and was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1926. Inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1982, Catt's legacy lives on in The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University.

Louise Rosenfield Noun (1908 — 2002) was a philanthropist, civil rights activist and patron of the arts whose dedication to the underprivileged, especially children, resulted in founding the Des Moines Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Young Women's Resource Center, the Chrysalis Foundation and the Iowa Women's Political Caucus. Noun also raised funds to establish the Bernie Lorenz Recovery House for Women.

Noun's passion for the arts included serving 19 years as a board member of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts and the Des Moines Art Center Association. She worked in various capacities at the Des Moines Art Center, and her substantial giving to museums and colleges from her collection of female-created art evidenced her lifelong investment in the arts.

Sr. Bernadine Pieper, CHM, (1918 — 2000) was a quintessential Iowa woman, nationally renowned scientist and educator. She devoted her life to disenfranchised, low income and often marginalized people. She fought to improve standards of education, particularly in Iowa rural areas. Pieper entered the Convent of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1938. She served in numerous educational roles, including her 25-year career as a teacher of biology and math, chair of the science department and assistant dean at Marycrest College. She was a recognized leader in the fields of zoology and botany and was one of the first women listed in the American Men of Science directory of leading scientists in the U.S. and Canada. She also served as President of Ottumwa Heights College prior to the institution's merger with Indian Hills Community College in 1979.

Her legacy as Executive Secretary of the North Central American Friends Service Committee lives on in her work with the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, shutting down the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Denver, CO, and influencing President Reagan to negotiate an arms control agreement with the Russians in 1984.

Gertrude Elzora Durden Rush (1880 — 1962), an Iowa woman pioneer, became the first African American woman to practice law in the State of Iowa after passing the state bar in 1918. After being denied membership in the American Bar Association because of her race, she and four others founded the Negro Bar Association in 1925. It later became known as the National Bar Association and currently has over 35,000 members. Durden Rush served in numerous leadership roles in the Des Moines area, was a founding member of the Iowa NAACP and founded the Charity League and Protection Home. The League established a home where working women could lease inexpensive rooms. She also secured the appointment of a black probation officer to the juvenile court and a black caseworker to Associated Charities in Des Moines.

She was a member of the Eastern Star, an author and playwright and writer of several nationally renowned hymns and religious plays, publishing two songs, "If You but Knew" in 1905 and the popular "Jesus Loves the Little Children" in 1907. The Iowa National Bar Association is erecting a public art project, A Monumental Journey, in honor of Durden Rush and the other four founders of the National Bar Association, who opened the profession of law to African Americans.

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As of June 30, 2013.

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