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Anna Lawther
LAWTHER, Anna. (Dubuque, IA, Sept. 8, 1872--Dubuque, IA, Oct. 21, 1957). Feminist, first woman to serve on the Iowa State Board of Education. Lawther was the second of six children of William LAWTHER, Sr. and Annie Elizabeth Bell, the daughter of John BELL. She graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1897 and then worked as the secretary the college for fifteen years. (1) This experience convinced her to encourage women's suffrage. She became involved in the Bryn Mawr College Equal Suffgage League and organized activities featuring leading suffragists.

Returning to Iowa in 1912, Lawther, who in her later years referred to herself as "The Old Lady of Dubuque," was a pioneer in the women's suffrage movement in this state. Appointed the first chairperson of the Dubuque County Chapter of the Equal Suffrage League in 1916, she organized the effort to win the referendum. The same year, as a delegate to the American Women's Suffrage Convention she was asked to lead the Iowa organization.

In 1917 Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the Nation American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) encouraged Lawther to promote the passage of a federal constitutional amendment while resubmitting an amendment to the Iowa constitution. On April 10, 1917, Lawther announced a campaign to register Iowa women for war service. Her appointment in June 1917 to the Iowa Division of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense allowed her to coordinate the war work of women's organizations, organize Liberty Loan rallies, advertise the war savings stamp campaigns, and promote the activities of the Red Cross. She also served on the State Council of Defense during WORLD WAR I. (2) Lawther served as chair of the Women's Committee of the Iowa Food Administration and the Third Congressional District Committee of the Red Cross.

In March 1919 Lawther led a panel discussion of the federal amendment at the NAWSA Jubilee Convention. She supported the formation of the League of Women Voters and lobbied effectively for ratification of the woman suffrage amendment. On July 1, 1919, Iowa became the tenth state ratifying the 19th Amendment.

Lawther served three terms as president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association and was later Iowa's first woman delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1920 and 1924. (3) In the late 1920s, she held the presidency of the Association of Governing Boards of State Universities and Allied Institutions in the late 1920s. In 1921 she became the first woman appointed a member of the State Board of Education and held the position until 1941. In 1940 Lawther chaired the subcommittee of the State Board of Education charged with making final recommendations for a new president for the University of Iowa. (4)

Lawther was the Democratic nominee for State Auditor in 1928. Although she lost the election, Lawther drew more votes than many of the men who ran on the Democratic tickets in 1926 or 1928. This indicated the growing strength of women in Iowa politics.

Throughout her active life, Lawther remained an active member of the Dubuque community. She was a charter member of the HILLCREST BABY FOLD in 1914 and remained a trustee until 1954. (5)

Morningside College awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1927 and in 1936 she was honored with a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Dubuque. In 1940 Miss Lawther was the first woman to deliver a convocation address at the University of Iowa. The same year Lawther Hall, a women's residence hall on the UNI campus, was named in her honor. (6)



1. "Anna B. Lawther," Iowa Women's Hall of Fame," Online: http://publications.iowa.gov/3881/1/07_HOF_Book.pdf

2. "Anna B. Lawther," Rod Library--University of Northern Iowa, Online: https://www.library.uni.edu/collections/special-collections/biographical-sketches/anna-b-lawther

3. Ibid.

4. Nye, Frank Jr. "Seek Successor to E. A. Gilmore," Telegraph Herald, January 7, 1940, p. 1 Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19400107&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Anna B. Lawther," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/the-lawther-family.html

6. "Anna B. Lawther,"