Linda K Kerber

Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Acceptance - Aug. 29, 2009

Linda K Kerber
August 29, 2009— Des Moines, Iowa
Iowa Women's Hall of Fame ceremony
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Please copy-edit out most of those adjectives! But this is a great honor, and I’m delighted to accept. And I’m grateful to be adopted into Iowa at last; as someone who lives in a house which is still known (happily) by the name of its former owner, some 30 years later, I appreciate the seriousness of this adoption.

I accept this honor in the name of my colleagues at the University of Iowa, who have sustained the work of women’s history for so long, and with thanks to the people of Iowa, who have over the years [and we hope that they will again] maintained a robust General Education Fund that supports both teaching and research, the best possible economic investment we can make in our state’s future.

And I accept this in honor and in memory of Louise Noun, historian, philanthropist and reformer, whose pioneering book, Strong-Minded Women, was and remains the first and only history of suffrage in Iowa, and whose More Strong-Minded Women sketched the outlines of the women’s history we need to write of Iowa in our own time.

We should not have needed a special movement to create women’s history. All along, guys told us –by writing books with generic claims like “The History of the United States” –that they were accounting for everything. But if that were true, how come nobody told us that long before 1920, when a federal constitutional amendment granted women granted the right to vote in all elections in the nation, women had partial suffrage in Iowa? How come nobody taught me that –as a result of a long campaign to make the principle of “no taxation without representation a reality,” Iowa passed a law in 1894, providing that women may vote “in any city, town, or school election, on the question of issuing any bonds for municipal or school purposes, and for the purpose of borrowing money, or on the question of increasing the tax levy....”? How is it that nobody taught me that women had indeed voted in Des Moines under this law –in 1898 for funding for a water works? They were given separate ballots, placed in separate ballot boxes.

And how come no one told us that in 1907, when a special election was held in Des Moines to decide the question “Shall the city of Des Moines erect a city hall at a cost not exceeding $350,000?” the city administration thought it was clever when it phrased the question so that it did not specifically mention levying taxes or issuing bonds. Then they refused to provide separate ballots and ballot boxes for women that the law demanded, even though members of the Des Moines Political Equality Club asked for them in advance.

And when Mary Coggeshall and her colleagues went to various polling places on election day, they were all turned away. So they sued the city. They lost in District Court, but they appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, where they won. And the election was invalidated.

All this was found by a second-year graduate student, Elly McConnell. It should not have been left to her to find it.

So I’m here to say: Women, save your papers! Archive your e-mail!

Men, save the papers of the women in your family!

And turn to the wonderful archivists who are here today from the Louise Noun Iowa Women’s Archives, Karen Mason and Janet Weaver, and from the State Historical Society of Iowa, Mary Bennett.

Join us in preserving women’s history.