The Plaza of Heroines, located in front of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall at Iowa State University, honors Catt and other women who have made an impact on their families, communities and society. In the nearly 20 years since the first bricks and pavers were placed, more than 3,600 women and organizations have been honored there. In addition, the plaza’s website tells the stories of many of the heroines, with narratives and photos submitted by the people whose lives were touched by these women.
In June, the Catt Center began a multi-year project of re-engraving weathered pavers on the plaza. Over the next three years, sections of worn pavers will be removed, re-engraved and reinstalled.
In conjunction with this project, the center is encouraging everyone who has honored a woman on the plaza to consider providing updated information for their heroine’s profile. For example, those who submitted a narrative for a heroine in the past might want to update the biographical information or submit a new photo.
“For those who have not yet submitted a narrative or photo, it’s not too late to send us the reason why you honored her, biographical information and a favorite photo,” said Sue Cloud, who manages the plaza for the Catt Center. “If your heroine’s profile is perfect the way it is, then you don’t need to do anything at all.”
Cloud has sent letters to more than 2,800 plaza donors over the past month – with the last set of letters postmarked today – about submitting or updating their heroine’s biographical information and/or photo.
“The response has been good, with a number of people sending in updated biographical information or a new photo,” she said. “I look forward to getting even more updates in the coming weeks.”
To add a narrative or photo to an existing brick or paver, email the Catt Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your submission(s) to 309 Carrie Chapman Catt Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011.
The following narratives featured in this issue of Voices were chosen because they provide a variety of the reasons why people have chosen to honor their heroines.
“If you haven’t yet submitted a narrative for your heroine, perhaps one of these will provide the inspiration to do so,” Cloud said.
Des Moines Chapter NOW
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the first and largest feminist organization in the world. Des Moines NOW is one of the oldest NOW chapters in the country and has been in the business of working to bring women into full participation with men in all areas of life since 1971. We are honoring all of the women who are the “bricks” of this powerful organization.
Honored by Des Moines NOW
Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” rocked the consciousness of hundreds of thousands of American women. I was one of them. This book changed my life. It should be required reading for anyone who cares to understand the modern women’s movement.
Honored by Mary Louise Smith
A tribute to one’s sister almost seems to go against the “Code of Brotherhood” and the obligation to tease. But I will do my best. I choose to honor my sister Marilyn Gail Hanson in this Plaza of Heroines because of what she has taught me about life: be willing to try new things, care about other people, enjoy the world around us and be firm to your convictions. It is a difficult standard to achieve even though she is able to make it look easy. She makes a difference in the world around her. I thank God and proudly tell the world that Marilyn is my sister!
Honored by Gary Hanson
Yvonne Hardesty: to Kathy and Dian, a mom; to some, president of the League of Women Voters; to others, a friend and staunch supporter of women’s rights; and to me, a wonderful person who taught me so much about love, friendship, generosity, politics, antiques and enjoying life and living it to the fullest. In memory of Yvonne, I place her name permanently into the Plaza of Heroines.
Honored by Cheryl Schendt
Nellie Harrington was my landlady while I was a student at Purdue University. She rented a room to me for very little money. The only thing she wanted from me was my company and rides in my 1966 Volkswagen Bug. In the three years I lived with her (and the following nine years until her death), I was inspired by her faith, wit, intense desire to learn and experience new things, and her zest for living. Although she was 88 through 91 years of age during my stay, she was extremely active and always interested in the new and modern. I learned from her that age is meaningless and continued enthusiasm for learning and life enriches all the years of our life.
Honored by Mary Ann Meschi
Wendi Linn Harris
We honor our daughter/sister because she has persevered to achieve her goals. She followed her heart’s desire to become an accomplished violist, a caring pediatrician, a loving wife and now begins a lifelong adventure as a mother. Wendi excels at whatever she does – not for recognition but because she only can imagine doing her very best. She has enriched our lives and continues to be a source of love and joy for us both. There’s not much the three of us together can’t handle. What a gift to know one’s best support team is always there!
Honored by Judirae Obrecht and Susan Harris
Jane dedicated more than 24 years to Iowa State’s Center for Teaching Excellence/Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Jane helped establish the center as a treasured resource for all ISU faculty and instructors. This brick is presented by CELT faculty and staff in honor of Jane at her retirement.
Honored by the CELT faculty and staff
My mother, Awilda Olmeda, has been an integral part of my success and the reason that I continue to move forward in my education and in my life, overall. This brick is dedicated to her and to all Latina mothers who never give up on their children. Family is a cornerstone of Latino culture. Our matriarchal community teaches us to honor our mothers and to give back to them. This brick is a small token of my appreciation for that never-ending love! Te quiero mucho mucho mucho, Mami!
Honored by Nathan Olmeda
Eleanor Welt was my grade school teacher in a one-room school house in rural Johnson County. She was the consummate school teacher; she never gave up on any of her students. She took the time to help me and gave me hope. She always said that I could achieve with hard work and her help. When I graduated from Iowa State University, I know it was because she and others really cared. I am eternally thankful for her help, support and guidance.
Honored by Roger and Sally Stutsman