New members are inducted today (Saturday) into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Charlotte Nelson, director of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, says all made big strides for women in recent decades. She cites Johnnie Hammond, the first woman elected to the state legislature from Ames, who went on to serve there for 20 years. Hammond served at the county level and in community endeavors as well, and did work at the statehouse that “definitely improved women’s lives” in Iowa, Nelson says. Brenda LeBlanc is a community activist who lives in Des Moines, and fought for the rights of property owners and their privacy.LeBlanc contested a city proposal to inspect every home and require repairs, and from that time on she became a visible advocate for the rights of property and home owners in low-income neighborhoods. The late Susan Schechter was at the University of Iowa when she tackled the problem of spousal abuse. She led the nation in shaping a response to domestic violence, and Nelson says Schechter’s work has been noted nationwide. “It will continue to make a difference in the lives of victims of domestic violence.” Joanne Zimmerman was also a woman visible in an unprecedented political role. Probably best known as the first woman elected lieutenant governor in Iowa, Zimmerman was a nurse by profession and also served in the legislature. She continues to serve through the “health ministry” of First Christian Church in Des Moines. Since 1975, the Commission on the Status of Women has added four women each year to the Hall of Fame, and is already taking nominations for next year’s honors. Nelson notes that Women’s Equality Day was celebrated this week. She says the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote, in 1920 after a 72-year effort. “We look back and see that some gains have been made,” Nelson says, “but we still have work to do.” The event is free and open to the public this (Saturday) morning at 10:30 at the State Historical Building in Des Moines, with the awards presented by Iowa’s current Lieutenant Governor, Sally Pederson. Individuals or groups can nominate someone for the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame with a form available on the commission’s website.
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