Generations of Iowa women fought hard for equality.
Here are their stories.


Arabella Mansfield (1846-1911)
Arabella Mansfield was the first woman lawyer in the United States. She passed the bar in Henry County in 1869. She was also an early leader of woman’s rights in Iowa, advocating not only for voting rights but also equal educational opportunities for Iowa women.


Ola Babcock Miller (1872-1937)
Elected in 1932, Ola Babcock Miller was Iowa’s first female Secretary of State. While Secretary of State, Ola advocated to the Legislature for a statewide agency to enforce highway laws. As a result, the Iowa State Patrol was created and placed under her direction.


Carolyn Pendray (1881-1958)
In 1928, Carolyn Pendray became the first woman elected to the Iowa Legislature. She was re-elected to the Iowa House in 1930 and, in 1932, she won a seat in the Iowa Senate. Pendray worked to pass legislation giving women new property rights.


Edna M. Griffin (1909-2000)
Edna Griffin was a pioneer in Iowa’s civil rights movement. In 1948, seven years before Rosa Parks’ now-famous refusal to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Edna Griffin requested service at a segregated Des Moines cafeteria. Griffin’s legal battles led to the requirement of Iowa businesses to comply with the state’s public accommodations law.


Jessie M. Parker (1879-1959)
Jessie M. Parker was a teacher in Lake Mills, Iowa, and later became the first female principal of Lake Mills High School. In 1938, Parker became the State Superintendent of Public Instruction where, among many other things, she established professional teacher certification guidelines.


Minnette Doderer (1923-2005)
Although not the first woman elected to the Iowa Legislature, Minnette Doderer’s leadership on legislation to improve the legal status of Iowa women was second to none. Her efforts included important advancements in rape law reform, the federal and state Equal Rights Amendments, juvenile justice, child care, and inheritance tax revision.


Willie S. Glanton (1922-2017)
Admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1953, Willie S. Glanton was a pioneer in the field of law and civil rights in Iowa. She was the first woman to be an Assistant County Attorney in Polk County. She was also the first woman and first African American to be elected president of the Iowa Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

Information about these amazing Iowa women is courtesy of the Iowa Department of Human Rights. Learn more about these trailblazing women and dozens of other incredible leaders by visiting