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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

SCHARNAU, Ruth Ellen Cotter

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SCHARNAU, Ruth Ellen Cotter. (Waukesha, WI, 1933-- ). The Scharnau family moved to Dubuque when Ralph SCHARNAU took a position in the history department at the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE. For many years, Ruth worked as a speech therapist in the Galena, Illinois, schools and later worked with children who had behavioral disorders.

Ruth was very active in her community. From 1972 to 1973, she served on the Dubuque Human Rights Commission, but resigned in protest about lack of resources committed to the Commission. In the early 1970s, she became involved in the women’s movement and was a charter member of the Dubuque chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She served as president of Dubuque NOW in 1978. In the 1970s and early 1980s passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was one of her principal political activities. She also supported gay and lesbian rights, civil rights, and nuclear disarmament. Ruth participated in the first gay rights rally in Dubuque in the fall of 1988 and attended a protest at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 2001.

In 2002, the Dubuque branch of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.), of which Ruth served several years as secretary, honored her with the Ruby Sutton award. In 2008 she was appointed to the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa.



Information provided by Ruth Scharnau