Honoring Carrie at the Floyd County Courthouse

Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock students Ella Carroll and Kyrstin Brunner hang the portraits of Chapman Catt during Wednesday afternoon's ceremony.
Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock students Ella Carroll and Kyrstin Brunner hang the portraits of Chapman Catt during Wednesday afternoon’s ceremony.
By Kate Hayden, khayden@charlescitypress.com

The schedule kept by Carrie Lane Chapman Catt sounds exhausting. Starting in 1887, Chapman Catt organized the Iowan and national Woman Suffrage Associations, presided over the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance and toured up and down both U.S. coasts and abroad. She would come close to victory both at the state level and national level on multiple occasions, but wouldn’t see her lifetime efforts rewarded until 1920.

Through the efforts of local county officials and residents, Chapman Catt’s portrait is on permanent display at the Floyd County courthouse. Students from Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock and Charles City high schools contributed a video/audio project, three student essays and a second portrait of Chapman Catt, all shared with the audience in a district courtroom presentation.

Chapman Catt’s great-great niece Ivadelle Stevenson shared memories of receiving mail from the relative she was never able to meet in person, and recalled her grandfather was “very, very proud of Carrie.” Charles City High School students Kristyn Pellymonter, Elizabeth White and Alex Riley shared essay reflections on Chapman Catt’s quotes. Linda Hughes recounted Chapman Catt’s biography as she spoke in character.

Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden, the first woman to serve in a Floyd County supervisor’s seat, was one of several speakers during the hour and a half dedication. Tjaden shared the progress women’s rights have made in her own lifetime — from the 1950s, when women across the U.S. were restricted from owning or selling properties, to the women serving in elected leadership positions today.

“I know when I was a child, I didn’t think that we had much impact or could make an impact like Carrie did back then,” Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden said. “When you hear her life story, it’s important for students today to think, my gosh, they have a lot of time left to make as much of an impact as Carrie did in her lifetime.”

“They just need to be reminded that even though they’re in their teens, they have a lifetime ahead of them to make a change,” Tjaden added.

Two portraits of Chapman Catt, created by Charles City High School senior Sara Martin and Floyd County artist Janiece Bergland, were hung next to the U.S. Constitution on the second floor of the courthouse. Chapman Catt faces the portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and President Abraham Lincoln.

“I think the student participation is probably one of the most important things, because kids need to realize how important it is to vote,” Susan Jacob, member of the National 19th Amendment Society, told the Press.

The society is planning a Woman of Influence Luncheon for April 30, which will honor past and present women serving in elected office within Floyd County.

“We have been very fortunate to have a number of women serve,” Jacob said.

Student essays and projects that were not shared during Wednesday’s ceremony will be on display this summer at the Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home, a museum maintained by the 19th Amendment Society. The museum opens for the season on May 28.