Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees announced

Janice Edmunds Wells
Janice Edmunds Wells

Four Iowans, including one Iowa City resident, have been named for induction into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

On Aug. 18 at 9:30 a.m. at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines, Dianne Bystrom, Ruth Harkin, Jean Jew and Peggy Whitson will be inducted into the hall of fame and recognized for their contributions. In addition, Janice Edmunds-Wells will receive the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Human Rights.

The ceremony and following reception are open to the public.

As of 2018, 176 will have been inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and 31 people have received the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice.


Jean Jew, 69, moved to Iowa City when she was 24 years old to serve as a postgraduate associate with the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine. She later became a tenured professor and now is emeritus professor.

While there, Jew taught human anatomy, neuroscience and neurology to medical, physical therapy, dental, graduate and other health professional students and medical residents.

What’s more, Jew established herself as a role model for women when she embarked on a decadelong sexual harassment suit against the UI and the Board of Regents that she ultimately won, with a judge ordering the university to provide an environment free of such harassment.


Dianne Bystrom, 65, has been director of Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics since 1996. She will retire this month.


Bystrom is a frequent commentator on political and women’s issues for state, national and international media, with her research focusing on the styles and strategies used by female and male political campaigns and coverage of women candidates and political leaders by the media.

She has been a contributor, co-author and co-editor to 25 books and has written journal articles on women and politics, youth voters and the Iowa caucuses.


Ruth Harkin, 73, lived by the belief that “everything is possible,” according to the release.

After graduating from law school, Harkin became Story County’s first female county attorney. She went on to become the first woman to serve as the Deputy General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Harkin the first female president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

She also served as the first female Senior Vice President at United Technologies; the first woman on the board of directors of Conoco Petroleum Company; and was the first woman on the board of directors of Bowater Company.


Peggy Whitson, 58, was born near Beaconsfield, Iowa, and, after years of school, joined NASA Johnson Space Center in the 1980s.

In 1996, she was selected as an astronaut candidate and, following two years of training and evaluation, she was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Operations Planning Branch and served as the lead for the Crew Test Support Team in Russia.


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In 2002, Whitson was part of the crew of Expedition 5, which docked with the International Space Station.

She would go on to perform a total of three long duration missions in space and conducted a career-total 10 spacewalks, more than any other woman in the world. With a total of 665 days in space, Whitson holds the U.S. record for any astronaut. She has placed eight on the all-time space endurance list.


Janice Edmunds-Wells, 65, was born in Pennsylvania, but received her master’s degree and public health certificate from the University of Iowa. She now lives in Des Moines.

Edmunds-Wells began her work in minority health in Iowa in 1992 and in 2006 she codified the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health within an Omnibus Bill, serving as the executive officer until 2017, when the office was eliminated from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

While working in minority and multicultural health, Edmunds-Wells led public health policy, research and programming activities related to rapidly diversifying populations in the state of Iowa.

She was inducted last year into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame by the Black Cultural Center of Iowa State University.

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