Each year, I.O.W.A. gives two awards, the Arabella Mansfield Award and the Gertrude Rush Award. Both are presented at the I.O.W.A. Annual Awards Gala. On August 20, 2022, IOWA was pleased to award the 2021 and 2022 awards at a joint ceremony.
2021: Arabella Mansfield: Judge Annette Scieszinski, post-humous. Gertrude Rush: Chief Justice Susan Christensen
2022: Arabella Mansfield: Roxanne Conlin. Gertrude Rush: Judge Odell McGhee
Chief Justice Christensen with nominators Judge Celeste Bremer & Roxanne Conlin delivers her acceptance speech
Judge Constance Cohen, with MC Emily Chafa.
Arabella Mansfield, also commonly known as Belle Babb Mansfield, was the first woman lawyer admitted to the practice of law in the United States. Ms. Mansfield studied law in her brother's law office for two years and was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1869. She was admitted despite the fact that Iowa law required an applicant for bar admission be white, male, and over the age of 21. Arabella and her husband taught at Iowa Wesleyan College, then moved to Greencastle, Indiana in 1876, to teach at DePauw University. She served as Dean of the School of Art in 1893, and Dean of the School of Music in 1894. She was also active in the women's suffrage movement, chairing the Iowa Women's Suffrage Convention in 1870, but died in 1911, nine years before women obtained the right to vote. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980.
Gertrude Rush was the first African-American woman to be admitted to the practice of law in Iowa, in 1918. She began to study law in 1908 under the tutoring of her husband, James Rush. She sat for and passed the Iowa bar examination in the summer of 1918. She was the first and only African-American woman practicing law in Iowa, until 1953, when Willie Stevenson Glanton was admitted to practice law in Iowa. Gertrude Rush became one of the founders of the National Bar Association after she and four other black lawyers were denied membership in the American Bar Association in 1924. The National Bar Association was officially founded in 1925 and incorporated in 1926. Gertrude Rush was also a composer of religious songs and was active in many church and civic organizations.
Arabella Mansfield Award
Gertrude Rush Award