Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT - The Belle Babb Mansfield statue on the Iowa Wesleyan University campus was recognized as a designated location of the National Votes for Women Trail on Thursday afternoon.
The trail is a national project recognizing sites across the country that tells the story of women suffrage. The Belle Babb Mansfield statue, placed on the campus in 2008, is one of 248 designated sites.
The dedication of the new historical marker was part of the university's annual educational symposium named after Mansfield, which began in 2014.
In a short address, university President Christine Plunkett, recalled Mansfield's accomplishments and contributions to the women's suffrage movement.
'It's important that we note not only her global legacy of achievement, but her continued impact on our own region,” Plunkett said.
Mansfield graduated from the university in 1866 before going on to study law with a local law firm at the Union Block Building in Mt. Pleasant and later becoming the first woman in the country to become a lawyer after passing the bar in 1869.
In 1870, Mansfield would become the presiding president of the first enfranchisement convention in Mt. Pleasant which helped establish the Iowa women's suffrage movement and association.
Plunkett said the statue is a 'visual reminder of a woman's place in higher education and the professional sphere” and is glad to continue to honor and remember Mansfield each year with the university's symposium.
Anna Villareal, a member of the symposium leadership team and director of the Harlan-Lincoln House museum on campus, said the marker and designation of the statue as part of the trail is particularly important in 2020. Villareal said the state had a 'Hard Won, Not Done” program, which included hundreds of events across the state celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment.
Because of the pandemic, many of the events were not able to take place.
'I think something physical like a trail and trail marker is a consistent reminder and consistent presence in the community and for those visiting - it really makes that history resonate with you when you walk past it,” she said.
Villareal said she feels it is important to keep on honoring and celebrating Mansfield because even though 'the history behind it never changes … our relation to it and experience to it always changes depending on current circumstances.”
'History is a set of events, but we approach it differently depending on what the current experiences are … Also, It's really interesting to see how our students relate to Belle and each of them come at it a different way so it's kind of all of our stories,” she added.