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Iowa Women's Hall of Fame

Nominate someone for the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame or Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice today!

Please fill out the applicable nomination form with supporting materials and send them to by April 1 each year. If you have questions, please contact the Office on the Status of Women at or 515-281-4470.

Honoring women is part of writing our history

Not enough people are aware of the extent of women's contributions to society, whether past or present. To highlight women's heritage and recognize their contributions, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) established the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975. Each year the ICSW and the Governor welcome four women into the Hall of Fame, paying tribute to them and setting them forth as role models for others. As of 2021, 188 women will have been inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and 33 individuals will have been awarded the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. 

Each year, the commission approves the induction of four women into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice by a committee composed of three commissioners, the chair of the commission (ex-officio) and two public members. The selection committee reviews all of the submitted nominations and selects the individuals to be inducted. The commission then reviews and votes to approve the suggested nominees to be inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame.

2022 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees: 

  • Elizabeth Bates Cowles (Des Moines, IA): She became active in Des Moines civic and social life, at the age of 23, and was a founder of the Civic Music Association. In 1934, she led the development of the Iowa Maternal Health League in Des Moines, which opened its free birth control clinic for “needy married women" and later became Planned Parenthood of Iowa. The free clinic was made available to all women, regardless of race. Elizabeth’s contributions to women, children and social justice through the arts, and health, continued throughout her life. Posthumous Award (1900-1976)

  • Mary Elaine Richards (Ames, IA): Mary was active in the League of Women Voters and a volunteer lobbyist at the Michigan statehouse. Her family moved to rural Story County, Iowa. She earned a degree in Political Science from Iowa State University and a Law degree from Drake University. She worked for the Iowa Legislative Services Bureau where she was assigned to staff a study committee revising the Iowa juvenile code. Mary’s work with youth caught Story County Attorney Ruth Harkin’s attention and Ruth invited her to become Assistant County Attorney with particular focus on vulnerable youth and justice. Mary was elected Story County Attorney, a position she held for 16 more years. She was active in the state and national association of county attorneys. In Iowa, she was the first women president of the Iowa Association of County Attorneys, and also was selected to serve on committees of the National Association of Counties (NACO).

  • Laurie Schipper (Ankeny, IA): Advocate with the Story County Rape Crisis and Advocacy Center (now know as Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Services – ACCESS), a victim service agency in Ames that provides comprehensive services to survivors before becoming the executive director of the organization. She advocated, organized and established the agencies first shelter for survivors of violent crime to seek safety and support outside of their homes. Executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), the state’s leading agency to prevent intimate partner violence, her leadership helped the agency grow to a membership of 23 direct service providers with more than 350 advocates that serve all 99 Iowa counties. 

  • Mary Swander (Kalona, IA): Swander graduated from the University of Iowa (MFA, Iowa Writers Workshop). She taught at Iowa State University for 30 years, reaching the rank of Distinguished Professor. She was the Poet Laureate of Iowa from 2009-2019. Mary is the co-founder and executive director of AgArts (based in Kalona, IA), a non-profit that imagines and promotes healthy food systems through the arts. She is the host of the podcast “AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land.” Swander has established residencies for artists on farms throughout Iowa and around the U.S., and she has hosted numerous international artists, touring them throughout the state.

2021 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Dr. Roxann Marie Ryan, Ph.D. (Cresco, IA): Former Iowa Commissioner of Public Safety, Assistant Iowa Attorney General, Educator & Scholar. Dr. Ryan is noted for her vast contributions in academia, groundbreaking work in public service, and celebrated leadership among students, colleagues, and citizens across the country. 

  • Cornelia Clarke (Grinnell, IA): Nature Photographer, Academic Contributor, Book Illustrator. Cornelia Clarke’s photographic legacy appeared in children’s books, scientific journals, newspapers, science magazines and encyclopedias all throughout the nation. Posthumous Award (1884-1936)

  • Donna Reed (Denison, IA): Actress, Academy Award Winner, Advocate for Peace. Donna Reed is celebrated for her successful career in entertainment, as a trailblazer for women in television, as well as a humanitarian who advocated for social justice and world peace. Posthumous Award (1921-1986)

  • Jan Mitchell (Des Moines, IA): Educator, 1997 Iowa Teacher of the Year, 2019 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame Robert D Ray Award for Equity and Justice recipient. Over the course of her career, Jan Mitchell has been instrumental in assisting the education and social mobilization of hundreds of Iowa’s Latinx students, championing women's rights, and prioritizing service-led compassion into her work with the community.

2020 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Betty Jean Dillavou Durden (Des Moines, Iowa): one of the founders of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, lifetime member of the American Association of University Women, community volunteer, World War II veteran of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service); author, mother, mentor and educator. Posthumous Award. (1923-2017)

  • Ann Fry Jorgensen (Garrison, Iowa): An agricultural trailblazer and pioneer; leader in business, government and higher education; over 50 years as an influential force for reshaping the lives of Iowa’s women and girls; entrepreneur; author and public speaker; served two U.S. Presidential appointments and was Iowa’s Outstanding Young Women (1976); Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame (1983); Iowa Master Farmer (2014) and Life Member of Farm Foundation (2016).

  • Helen Naomi Miller (Fort Dodge/Des Moines, Iowa): Former Iowa State Representative for the 9th House District representing the Fort Dodge area of Iowa; over 30 years of leadership as an attorney, legislator, volunteer, arts educator, non-profit organizations’ executive director and serves on the national board of Women in Government as the immediate past Chair. An inspiration for for all, Rep. Miller is noted for her leadership abilities to bring people together.

  • Mary Elizabeth Young Bear (Tama, Iowa): Born with the Meskwaki name of Bo na bi go, her contributions as an artist and art conservator, educator, cultural historian, civic leader and political activist, humanitarian, community leader and mentor inspire, empower, and motivate all those around her, especially young women and girls. Her pride is as a mother and grandmother with a family heritage of Iowa ancestry since the 1840s.

2022 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice Recipient:

  • The Honorable Ako Abdul-Samad (Des Moines, Iowa): Iowa House of Representatives 2007 - present; In 1996, AKO founded Creative Visions Human Development Institute focused on providing educational opportunities to address the rampant use of drugs, gang violence, and crime involving at-risk youths. Ako was elected to Des Moines Public School Board in 2003 and served as vice president. AKO has served the people of House District 35 in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2007. He currently serves on the Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Public Safety, and International Relations Committees and the Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee. He has worked on issues of particular concern to African Americans, such as Iowa’s terribly disproportionate incarceration rates of African Americans, racial profiling in policing, and equality in education, housing, and employment.

2020 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice Recipient: 

  • The Honorable Chief Justice Mark Cady (Fort Dodge, Iowa): Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court 2011-2019; wrote the historical Varnum v. Brien opinion in 2009, legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa; emphasized new ideas such as digital messaging for defendants and law enforcement; rotating Iowa Supreme Court hearings around the State of Iowa; received countless achievement and leadership awards from Drake University, Buena Vista University and many other recognitions from legal entities such as the Iowa State Bar Association, American Bar Association, Iowa Judges Association and Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers, among many others. Chief Justice Mark Cady passed away unexpectedly in 2019. Posthumous award.

2022 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Ceremony

The 2022 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 27, at the Playhouse, 831 42nd Street in Des Moines. 

2020-2021 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Ceremony 

Each year, the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony is held near the date that women won the right to vote in the United States in 1920—August 26.  Until we are able celebrate safely in person, the Commission will honor inductees in a virtual ceremony. You may view the 2020-2021 ceremony at

Iowa Women's Hall of Fame members: