Carrie Chapman Catt Center For Women And Politics – Ames, Iowa
Founded in 1992, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics provides leadership development and educational opportunities for women and men interested in politics, public policy and administration, and public service through programs blending the resources and scholarship of the academic environment with the actual experiences of individuals in the public and private sectors.
The Center honors Carrie Chapman Catt–one of Iowa State’s most distinguished alumni–and a leader of the U.S. woman suffrage movement, founder of the League of Women Voters, crusader for international peace, and an advocate for the expansion of women’s rights throughout the world. The Center is located in Carrie Chapman Catt Hall, which is also home to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.
Carrie Clinton Lane Chapman Catt–suffragist, early feminist, political activist, and Iowa State alumna–was born on January 9, 1859, in Ripon, Wisconsin, to Maria Clinton and Lucius Lane. At the close of the Civil War, the Lanes moved to a farm near Charles City, Iowa, where they remained throughout their lives.
Catt entered Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, in 1877 and completed her degree in three years. She graduated at the top of her class and, while in Ames, established military drills for women and became the first female student to give an oration before a debating society. She earned money as assistant to the librarian, and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
After graduation, she became the high school principal in Mason City, Iowa. Two years later, in 1883, she was appointed Mason City School superintendent, one of the first women to hold such a position. In this capacity she met Leo Chapman, publisher and editor of the Mason City Republican. They married in February 1885.
After her husband’s tragic death from typhoid in 1886, Catt worked in California as a newspaper reporter and then returned to Iowa in 1887 to begin her crusade for woman suffrage. She joined and became an organizer for the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association. Early in her suffrage work, Catt became reacquainted with an Iowa State College classmate, George W. Catt, a Seattle, Washington, engineer. They were married in 1890. George Catt supported his wife’s work both financially and personally, until his death in October 1905.
When the women’s vote was attained in 1920, Catt encouraged the formation of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan educational group. Catt was honorary president of the group for the rest of her life. The League remains active today and is frequently a training ground for women who later compete for electoral office.
At the outbreak of World War I, Catt joined Jane Addams and others in forming the Woman’s Peace Party. In 1923, she published "Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement" with Nettie R. Schuler. In 1925, she founded the Committee on the Cause and Cure of War and served as chairwoman of the organization until 1932 (thereafter as its honorary chairwoman). She also was active in support of the League of Nations, relief for Jewish refugees from Germany during and after World War II, and a child-labor amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She strongly supported the United Nations after World War II.
Catt attained recognition for her work throughout her life and received many awards such as the Chi Omega, the Pictorial Review Award for her international disarmament work in 1930, the American Hebrew Medal, and induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. She donated her entire estate to her alma mater, where, in 1921, she was the first woman to deliver a commencement address. She died in March 1947 at her home in New Rochelle, New York.