5 Incredible Iowa Women
In honor of National Women's History Month, we chose five fearless women whose accomplishments make us smile.
Leaping towards opportunity, smashing through glass ceilings (and the earth's atmosphere!), these women have made a positive impact in our great state and around the world:
1. Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor – St. Charles
Iowa's current Lieutenant Governor is on the verge of making state history by becoming Iowa's first female governor.
Her role as the state's 47th Lieutenant Governor isn't her first rodeo in politics. Prior, she served as a four-term county treasurer for Clarke County and as a state senator from 2009-2011.
One of her most notable platforms is improving access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education for all Iowan students.
Learn more about Kim.
2. Peggy Whitson, Astronaut – Mount Ayr
Space may as well be Peggy Winston's second home, as she has spent more time in great beyond than any other U.S. Astronaut.
Peggy began working for NASA in 1989, and was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996. Her first mission was in 2002, and she worked as the International Space Station commander in 2008. During her astronautical career, she has accumulated 377 days in space and performed six spacewalks.
Peggy is currently part of Expedition 50/51 at the International Space Station. At the age of 56, she is the oldest female astronaut to ever be in space. Give her a wave next time you're out stargazing!
Learn more about Peggy.
3. Danai Gurira, Actress and Playwright – Grinnell
Not many people can include “award-winning playwright” and “professional zombie slayer,” on their resume, but Danai Gurira is the exception.
Danai is perhaps best known as the katana-wielding master “Michonne” on The Walking Dead, but her talent extends beyond primetime television drama. You can also find her on Broadway!
As a celebrated playwright, Danai focuses her work on strong women and powerful social issues. Her work has won several nominations and awards, including several Obie Awards and a Tony.
Learn more about Danai.
4. Shawn Johnson, Olympic Gymnast – Des Moines
After noticing her climbing on, jumping from and tumbling off of household furniture, Shawn Johnson's parents signed her up for gymnastics, sealing her Olympic destiny at the age of three.
Under the guidance of renowned coach Liang Chow, Shawn earned several Pan American and World accolades all before she turned 16. Her greatest achievement came during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where she won the gold medal for the balance beam event and three silver medals for the team, all-around and floor exercise events.
Since her athletic retirement, Shawn has written three books, made guest appearances on popular shows such as Dancing with the Stars and has made significant philanthropic contributions.
Learn more about Shawn.
5. Mildred Benson, Author of Nancy Drew – Ladora
Many may not know the name Mildred Benson, but they sure recognize her collaborative pen name “Carolyn Keene.“ Our teenage book-loving selves can thank this small-town writer for her contribution to the bestselling Nancy Drew mystery series.
Writing was a lifelong gift for Mildred, as she became the first student in Iowa to graduate with a master’s degree in journalism. She enjoyed a long and successful journalistic career until she passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.
In addition to Nancy Drew, she wrote 112 children’s books and countless short stories.
Learn more about Mildred.
These five incredible Iowa women bring a new meaning to class and sass; they know how to take care of themselves, accomplish their goals and give back to our communities. We are proud to celebrate these women and look to other Iowa women and girls who will shape our even brighter future.