Women’s Experience at Iowa State from 1960-1979

Key Figures and Groups

Notable Students

Mary Lou Lifka (Class of 1968)
Early female Vice-President of the Government of Student Body, later became the first female President of the GSB when Don Smith resigned.

Jill Wager (Class of 1976)
First elected female President of the Government of the Student Body. She was elected in 1976.

Judy Ritts
Former President of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was president when NOW first filed suit against Iowa State in 1971.

Susan Newcomer
Former President of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was president in 1974.



National Organization for Women (NOW)
Described as “a legally oriented group of people” (Equal Pay, Equal opportunities, N.O.W., 1975, LD2548 Io9b.1975, Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives, Ames, Iowa.) The Ames ISU chapter of the National Organization for Women or NOW was the group on campus who filed lawsuits against Iowa State on the basis of sex discrimination. More can be read about the cases on the NOW Sues ISU page.

Women’s Caucus
The women’s causes was a group of politically focused women across Ames, who wanted to tackle women’s discrimination politically. They organized the state convention which brought a focus to women in the political sphere.

Women’s Coalition
A group of women who promoted feminist thinking and groups. Women’s Coalition sponsored and ran many pro-women events and centers to help women across Ames.

University Committee on Women
The University Committee on Women was created to put forth policies that would benefit the women of Iowa State. This group was comprised of both faculty and students.

The YWCA was a women’s group whose contributes stretched passed campus groups. They partook in several different activities that helped the community at large. While the group mainly partook in women’s empowerment activities, their stated goal was to combat racism on campus and in the community.

Lesbian Alliance Group formed by two lesbians seeking other lesbians on campus. The group worked under anonymity, so that no one was outed. Very little is known about the group or its members.


President Robert Parks
President of the university from 1965-1986. He was in charge during the majority of the years this exhibit covers.

Nurse Kathy Bates
Kathy Bates was a well-liked nurse, who primarily worked in the gynecological department of on campus health clinic. When she was transfer to a different department, women around campus spoke-out against the transfer, saying Bates was the only one who made the experience tolerable. She later quit working at the clinic altogether and instead worked at the Ames high school. Nurse Bates’ kind smile and demeanor are often cited as the main reasons why so many women wanted her to stay at the male-dominated gynecological clinic.