Consider Carrie Chapman Catt's whole life and legacy

Dianne Bystrom: As with any historical figure, Catt’s life should be evaluated in its total in making the decision about the naming of Catt Hall.

For the past 26 plus years, I have conducted research on women political leaders – especially their communication strategies and media coverage as compared to men. Although my published research in journal articles and books has focused on contemporary women political leaders, I’ve also studied the women’s suffrage movement as director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University from July 1996 to August 2018. In my retirement, I speak often on the women’s suffrage movement and continue my reading and research on this topic.

From these perspectives, I offer my comments about Catt and the current consideration of the naming of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall at Iowa State University.

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Response to “ISU’s culture of exclusion on Catt Hall continues”

Jane Cox is a professor emerita from Iowa State University and the author of many one-woman plays, including one on Carrie Chapman Catt, which she performed in twenty-six states, including at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian.

As I read the commentary Bleeding Heartland published concerning Iowa State University and Catt Hall, I discovered that the writers believe the “university administration had failed to hold open discussions regarding Catt’s actions,” that “Naylor requested that the university hold open forms to discuss Catt’s history of political expedience, but ISU refused to seek student input,” that the university called itself “the best in the country while operating on stolen land,” that the university “neglected to change their recruitment and retention efforts towards BIPOC students in any meaningful way since the 1990s,” that “Iowa State clings to intellectual dishonesty,” that “Iowa State has always hid behind a veil of objectivity to dismiss the concerns of BIPOC,” and that now “the university has locked impacted students out of the renaming process once again.” 

Since I do not believe objectivity is a negative trait, here are a few facts for which there is documentation.

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Democrat Eric Van Lancker running for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats have their first confirmed candidate for secretary of state in 2022. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker announced on September 15 that he will seek the office, saying in a news release that he has a “passion for helping my neighbors vote, backed up by experience and an understanding of how to run elections the right way.”

Alluding to Republican incumbent Paul Pate, Van Lancker said in the statement,

“Iowans have never needed a voting advocate more than they do at this moment […]”

“Voters pay for the election system and they deserve to have leadership that builds confidence in the system instead of undermining it for short-term political points,” Van Lancker said. “It is long past time for a County Auditor to return to the Secretary of State’s office. Iowa voters deserve a state commissioner of elections who knows what it is like to be on the front lines of an election and has respect and knowledge of the work precinct election officials perform during an election.”

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Advocates ask Iowa SOS to allow Spanish-language voting materials

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has petitioned the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to allow elections officials in all 99 counties to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms.

The Secretary of State’s office has not yet replied to the petition and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about the matter. If it doesn’t issue the requested order within 60 days of the filing date (July 28), Iowa’s largest Latino advocacy group can go to court seeking an exception for voting materials from Iowa’s 2002 “English language reaffirmation” statute, more commonly known as the English-only law.

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"Vaccine Hunter" Todd Brady running for Iowa Senate in Ankeny

A Democratic challenger has emerged in the Iowa Senate district now represented by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, the upper chamber’s top Republican since 2018. Todd Brady announced on July 21 that he’ll run for the seat in Ankeny, a growing suburb to the north of Des Moines.

Brady has a computer science degree from Iowa State University and is best known as the creator of the Vaccine Hunter website, where thousands of Iowans scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations when appointments were scarce in the late winter and spring. Disclosure: in April, that website helped me find an appointment for my older son.

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Donald Trump, GOP officials mock the martyrs

Herb Strentz: White residents of Tulsa 100 years ago could not bear the success of Black citizens any more than Republican legislators today can bear the notion of communities of color helping to vote them out of office.

With all the dreams about achieving “herd immunity” to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worrying to consider how our nation may have already achieved a kind of “immunity” from the promise of our constitution.

Columnist Paul Krugman suggested as much in a recent column called “The banality of democratic collapse.” He was referring to democracy, not the Democratic Party.

He warned, “America’s democratic experiment may well be nearing its end. That’s not hyperbole; it’s obvious to anyone following the political scene.”

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