2019 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: The Honorable Ruth B. Klotz
“In a time when men dominated the legal field, she became the first probate judge in the State of Iowa in 1978. To have such a role model and mentor opened many women to the possibility of law and the judiciary as an intended profession. However, it was more than just her unique status as a female judge which made her stand out among her peers. It was her dedication, her mental acuity, and warm disposition which was admired. Further, she actively mentored interns and law clerks to encourage the next generation of lawyers and judges.”
--Written by nominator Celene Gogerty
Born November 10, 1922, in Mason City, Iowa, Ruth Klotz grew up in her grandparent’s home while her mother and grandfather worked to support the family. At the age of 17, she graduated high school in her hometown of Iowa Falls and then worked her way through Ellsworth Junior College. In 1942, she moved to Des Moines and, as she later put it, “started working.” She worked several clerical jobs including serving as the secretary for American Institute of Business (AIB) President E.O. Fenton and for the state of Iowa. In 1952, she was admitted to Drake Law School while she continued to work part time. She graduated from Drake Law School in 1955 as the only female graduate that year. Just prior to graduation, she was suddenly widowed while eight months pregnant, but she still managed to graduate on time and at the top of her class. While in law school, she was elected to the Order of the Coif and was the Assistant Editor for the Drake Law Review.
Judge Klotz served as Special Counsel to the Iowa Department of Revenue, worked in private practice, and as a trust officer and assistant vice president to a large local bank. In 1978, she was appointed as probate referee for the Fifth Judicial District, and eventually became associate judge for probate. Throughout her 34 years on the bench, she sponsored judicial interns and was an instructor at Drake Law School.
An active participant since 1955 in the Des Moines chapter of Soroptimist International, a service club for women, she served as president of Soroptimist of the Americas from 1974 to 1976. As president during the International Women’s Year, she initiated the Women Helping Women program which has since grown to become the mission of the group as an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.
She was named Drake Law School’s Alumna of the year in 1999 and received a Recognition of Lifetime of Service award from the Polk County Bar Association that same year. She was given the Women of Distinction Award from Soroptimist International in 2000. In 2004, she was given a Commendation of Distinguished Service from the Iowa Supreme Court and the Arabella Mansfield Award from the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys. She was the recipient of the Willie Glanton Award from the Polk County Women Attorneys in 2013.
In 2013, she retired from the bench at the age of 90. She is active in her church, serving as the treasurer for the Plymouth Church Foundation for over 30 years. She continues to be an active member of Soroptimist International.