News from the Office on the Status of Women - June 2018

iowa department of human rights

June 2018

News from the
Office on the Status of Women

Meet the Commissioners on the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women:
Announcing our new Chair & Vice-Chair

Elizabeth Coonan, Chair

Beth Coonan

Elizabeth Coonan was appointed to serve on the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women in 2011. She also serves on the Iowa Department of Human Rights Board. Elizabeth is active in the Des Moines community, serving as a member of the Board of Directors of House of Mercy and the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. She previously served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Young Women's Resource Center, is a graduate of and a past member of the Board of Governors of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, and a past member of the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Des Moines. She also serves other non-profit organizations in varying capacities.

Elizabeth is a member of the BrownWinick law firm and serves as Co-Chair of the firm’s Employment Law practice group. Click here to read Elizabeth's full biography.

Rachelle Hunt Russian, Vice-Chair

Rachelle Hunt Russian

Rachelle Hunt Russian has been in the financial services industry for more than 30 years. Rachelle currently works for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage as a mortgage sales specialist. She has previously worked for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, KPMG LLP, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Rachelle is a graduate of Alabama State University, in Montgomery, Alabama. She has a B.S. in Business Administration. She also has a Master of Science in Management degree from University of Maryland University College, in Adelphi, Maryland. In addition, she has a Strategic Decision and Risk Management certificate from Stanford University, and is a certified John Maxwell Team coach, teacher, trainer, and speaker.

Rachelle is serving a second term on the commission. Click here to read Rachelle's full biography.

Welcome to our new commissioner:
Wendy Musgrave

Wendy Musgrave

Wendy Musgrave was appointed to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women in 2018, replacing Phyllis Peters. A native of Newell, Iowa, Wendy now resides in Johnston with her husband and two daughters. Since 2017 Wendy has been serving as the Pastor of Centennial United Methodist Church in Altoona. Wendy has a BFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University and a Masters of Divinity from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. Before serving as a pastor of a church, Wendy was a freelance publication designer and photographer.

Wendy is the mother of two daughters and has been a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, and a graduate student mom at various times since the birth of her first daughter in 2004. Because of this experience, the issues facing women and particularly mothers of young children are of interest for Wendy. In her role as clergy, a traditionally male dominated role, Wendy knows the value of the work for equal opportunity for women. She appreciates the women who have paved the way before her, and she aspires to continue the important work of inspiring and empowering the next generation of women leaders.

Four women to be inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame and one to receive the 
Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice

Iowa Women's Hall of Fame
Pictured: Hall of Fame members and recipients of the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice, 2017 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame ceremony

The 2018 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees are:

  • Dr. Dianne Bystrom (Ames): Long-time director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University; author; professor; mentor; researcher; advocate for women in politics and leadership.
  • Ruth Harkin (Cumming): Attorney; advocate; mentor; led the effort to establish the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University; woman of many firsts – first female county attorney in Story County, first woman appointed Deputy General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, first female President and CEO of OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation), and first woman to serve on a number of corporate boards (including Conoco Petroleum Company and Bowater Company).
  • Dr. Jean Jew (Iowa City): Professor; emeritus faculty at the University of Iowa; researcher; fought a decade-long landmark federal sexual harassment case against the University of Iowa and won; founding member of the Iowa Women’s Foundation; mentor; advocate for gender equity and combating sexual harassment in the workplace/academia.
  • Dr. Peggy Whitson (Houston, TX; originally from Beaconsfield, IA): Astronaut, scientist/biochemist, researcher; first female Commander to lead an expedition on board the International Space Station; oldest woman to walk in space; holds the record for the most space walks for a female astronaut; American Astronaut spending more days in space cumulatively, than any other American Astronaut.

2018 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice Recipient:

  • Janice Edmunds-Wells (Des Moines): Life-long state and national advocate and activist for multicultural and women’s health equity; former Executive Officer for the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health at the Iowa Department of Public Health; social worker.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 18th!


The Iowa Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 18, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa

The Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women will host a reception immediately following the ceremony. Both are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Kristen Corey at or 515-281-4470.

Announcing the DHR Iowa Immigrant Storytelling Series in June

DHR Immigration Series - Women


Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge Announcement

Iowa Women Lead Change has been chosen to take the lead on the Women of Achievement Bridge and corresponding Women of Achievement Award project in Des Moines. IWLC will be forming an advisory committee that includes representation from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, Riverfront Development Authority and community volunteers. 

The next Women of Achievement Award is scheduled to be presented in 2019. To stay tuned for criteria for the award and to nominate someone, visit and sign up for the IWLC newsletter.

For more information, contact Amy Eaton at IWLC at

Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Department announces the Edna Griffin Award of Courage and the Stanley Griffin Trailblazer Award

Edna Griffin

The Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Department announces the inaugural Edna Griffin Award of Courage and Stanley Griffin Trailblazer Award for the 2018 Edna Griffin Legacy Awards Dinner taking place on July 7, 2018 at Drake University Olmsted Center from 5pm-9pm. These awards celebrate the outstanding courage and achievements of everyday people who advance the legacy of Civil Rights in the state of Iowa. The Edna Griffin Award of Courage recognizes individuals of outstanding courage and achievement whose efforts have defied the status quo in order to advance community and the Stanley Griffin Trailblazer Award recognizes unsung heroes who are making substantial and perhaps unrecognized contributions to the community in their daily work. 

The nomination form can be found at:

To register for the Edna Griffin Legacy Awards Dinner please visit: 

Nominations will be accepted electronically at May 9, 2018 through June 10, 2018, 11:59 PM. Late nominations will be disqualified. The Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commissioners will review all nominations and select one individual for each category.

For more information, contact Monserrat Iñiguez at (515) 283-4284 or

"Count the Kicks" program is seeking participants

Count the Kicks logo

Nationally, 1 out of 167 pregnancies end in stillbirth. Women of color are at higher risk for stillbirth. Black women, for example, experience stillbirth at a rate of 1:94 pregnancies. Count the Kicks is committed to preventing stillbirth and eliminating racial disparities. 

Count the Kicks is seeking pregnant African American, Asian, and Hispanic women to participate in a video encouraging women of color to track fetal movement in their third trimester and to contact their provider if they have a concern about their baby’s well-being. 

Count the Kicks is an evidence-based stillbirth prevention public health program of the nonprofit Healthy Birth Day, Inc. Since its inception in 2013, Iowa’s stillbirth rate has decreased 26% and went from the 33rd worst to the 3rd best stillbirth rate in the country. 

Learn more at

To inquire about participating in the video, contact Lina Reinders at or 515-608-9643.

Crossroads of Iowa to host 2nd
Annual Women's Walk on July 21st

Crossroads of Iowa is hosting their Second Annual Women's Walk on Saturday, July 21st, Gray's Lake. Check-in begins 8:00am, the Walk starts at 8:30am. Children (10 and under are free) and dogs are invited to participate in the Walk.    

Registration can be made through or mail $30 to Crossroads of Iowa, 8350 Hickman Road, Suite 2, Clive, 50325. Registrations received by June 18th receive a free t-shirt! Crossroads works to reduce recidivism in the Polk County Jail and proceeds will be utilized to begin a special program, The Three Principals, for this purpose. For questions, please contact or 515-633-7968.

Upcoming Construction Camp for Girls:
June 25-June 29

Construction camp for girls

Women's Suffrage Primary Source Set is now available through the State Historical Society of Iowa

To align with Iowa's updated social studies standards and to provide resources for educators, the State Historical Society of Iowa has developed a number of Primary Source Sets about state, national and international history, along with handy tips for integrating those resources into the classroom. One of these is a primary source set on Women's Suffrage, along with others on School Desegregation, Immigration, Civil Rights, and much more.

If interested in learning more about these primary source sets for educators, please contact: Jennifer Cooley at 

In the News: Women and girls in Iowa, the nation & the world

Upcoming Events/Seminars/Conferences

Note: If you have an event taking place for women in Iowa that you would like to see added, please send it to