Rodine gift creates suffrage garden at Catt Hall

Through a gift from Iowa State alumni Sharon and Richard Rodine of Dallas, Texas, additional landscaping now beautifies the entry way to Carrie Chapman Catt Hall and its Plaza of Heroines.

Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden

The Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden was planted this summer in front of the wall circling the Plaza of Heroines on Iowa State’s central campus. The landscaping includes yellow prairie harvest roses, developed by legendary Iowa State horticulturist Griffin Buck; peonies; daffodils; daylilies; catmint and dwarf fountain grass.

In addition to adding beautiful plants and flowers near the Plaza of Heroines, the garden helps tell the story of how the yellow rose came to symbolize the women’s suffrage movement led by Carrie Chapman Catt, an 1880 graduate of Iowa State, to win female citizens the right to vote.

"I've always felt the Plaza of Heroines needed to be finished off with landscaping around the wall that incorporated the yellow rose and its story as the symbol of women's suffrage,” said Sharon Rodine, a 1971 graduate of Iowa State in political science. “We were so pleased to work with the Iowa State Foundation and Facilities Planning and Management staff to accomplish that goal. The fact that the yellow rose we selected was developed by the late Dr. Griffith Buck, nationally-known Iowa State horticulture professor, is an added bonus."

The garden also serves as a memorial to Sharon Rodine’s parents – Virgil and Cheryl Miller – who were early supporters of the Catt Center. The Rodines also support two endowed student internships at the Catt Center – the Alice Rodine Internship in Community Activism, named in honor of Richard Rodine’s mother, and the Sharon Rodine Leadership and Advocacy Internship.

According to Richard Rodine, a 1973 graduate of Iowa State in urban planning, their gifts also recognize the Catt Center’s completion of its first 20 years on Sept. 23, 2012.

Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden

“On the 20th anniversary of the Catt Center, we wanted to commemorate that milestone by expanding our support,” he said. “We chose to do that in several ways. The first was centered on students, through the endowment of two internships. The second was the addition of landscaping around the wall circling the Plaza of Heroines to beautify the front of Catt Hall."

In addition to the plants and flowers, the Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden will include a plaque on a stone marker that reads: “A gift from Richard (’73) and Sharon (’71) Rodine in memory of her parents, Virgil A. and Cheryl J. Miller of Ogden and Ames. United by their symbol, the yellow rose, suffragists led by Carrie Lane Chapman Catt (B.S. 1880) converged on the Tennessee legislature in August 1920 – the 36th and last state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Wearing a red rose, the anti-suffrage symbol, but carrying a letter from his mother urging him to help Mrs. Catt pass the amendment, 24-year-old legislator Harry Burn changed his vote on the third ballot, breaking the tie and delivering the right to vote to American women. One vote can make a difference.”

The Rodines worked with Jay Lettow, development officer with the Iowa State Foundation, in making their gift for the project. “When we told Jay about the prominent role that both Carrie Chapman Catt and the yellow rose played in the final and very contentious vote on women's suffrage in the Tennessee legislature, he became very excited about how our idea for landscaping around the Plaza of Heroines would not only enhance the beauty of central campus and Catt Hall but also provide a way to continue to share this important story with Iowa State students and faculty as well as guests on the campus,” Sharon Rodine said. “Jay has remained very enthusiastic and has done a superb job in coordinating the project with the various departments on campus.”

Project manager for the Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden was Chris Strawhacker, landscape architect with Facilities Planning and Management. Amber Vander Veen, a senior in landscape architecture, served as the project’s designer. “Amber designed the planting plan, coordinated ordering the plants and stone marker, marked out the bed and plant locations, and placed the plants for the crew to plant,” Strawhacker said. Campus Services groundskeepers Tim Wirth, Jim Schleier and Dave Madsen installed the project.

Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden

"Through the landscaping project, the Rodines have found a meaningful way to honor Sharon’s parents, recognize Carrie Chapman Catt and the yellow rose that symbolized the women’s suffrage movement, celebrate the Catt Center’s 20th anniversary and help beautify central campus for the hundreds of people who pass Catt Hall each day,” said center director Dianne Bystrom. “The Rodines approached this project with their typical enthusiasm and attention to details. We continue to appreciate their friendship and support.”

The Rodines will visit Iowa State University in early October to help dedicate the Yellow Rose of Suffrage Garden.