Four women will be inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame during a Saturday ceremony at the State Historical Building in Des Moines. The event corresponds with Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the day in 1920 when American women first obtained the right to vote. Joanie Axel, a Muscatine lawyer, is among this year’s inductees.
Axel says, "It’s probably one of the highlights of both my personal and my professional career. This is a commission from the state of Iowa that I’m well familiar with and I’m deeply honored and was quite surprised at the award."
Over the years, Axel has frequently been the first woman to serve on a board or lead an organization, including the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors, the first Iowa Lottery Commission and the first Iowa Communications Network Commission.
In addition to practicing law, the 65-year-old Axel says she devotes much of her time to mentoring women and girls in ways to reach their goals, to participate in good government at all levels, and to be economically secure.
"The achievements that are ones that I really do cherish are those that have to do with mentoring, assisting, being a friend and guardian angel with teens and women on issues that seemed insurmountable at many times in life," Axel says. "I’ve just had opportunities to do that both formally and informally for 30 or 35 years."
She took part in Iowa’s first sister-state mission to China in the 1980s with former Governor Robert Ray and, more recently, in the sister-state delegation establishing Iowa’s official ties to Stavropol, Russia. Axel was also one of the volunteer founders of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics at Iowa State University.
Axel says: "I’m not certain that I have any words of advice. I think often you just bring with you where you are. One of the things I remembered well is that I was taught to do my share and I was taught that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ as a youngster and I believed it, and I believe people just need to remember to do what they say they’re gonna’ do."
A release from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women says this year’s inductees "symbolize the diversity of Iowa, demonstrating outstanding achievements in the fields of law, civic involvement, politics, writing, teaching, and nursing. Generations of Iowans can look to these remarkable individuals as role models."
In addition to Axel, the other honorees are: Barbara Moorman Boatwright of Des Moines, Hualing Engle of Iowa City and a posthumous award to Marilyn Russell of Des Moines. Also, the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice will be awarded to Dr. Kesho Scott of Grinnell.