How Two Women Leaders Inspired Social Change in Iowa: The Story of Dorothy Houghton and Ruth Sayre
In the first half of the 20th century, Iowa was a hotbed of social activism and reform. Women played a vital role in shaping the state's history and culture, especially through their involvement in various clubs and organizations. Among these women, two stand out as remarkable leaders and visionaries: Dorothy Houghton and Ruth Sayre.
Dorothy Houghton (1890-1972) was born in Des Moines and graduated from Drake University. She married Hiram Houghton Jr., a lawyer and politician, and became active in civic affairs. She served as president of the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs (IFWC) from 1928 to 1930, and as president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) from 1938 to 1941. She was also a founding member of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, and a delegate to several international conferences on women's issues.
Ruth Sayre (1896-1980) was born in Shenandoah and attended Iowa State College. She married Charles Sayre, a farmer and educator, and became involved in rural development. She served as president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Women from 1936 to 1946, and as president of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) from 1947 to 1953. She was also a member of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and a recipient of the World Food Prize.
Both Houghton and Sayre were passionate about uniting women for action on various causes, such as education, health, peace, democracy, human rights, and international cooperation. They used their positions and influence to mobilize thousands of clubwomen across Iowa and beyond, creating networks of support and solidarity. They also advocated for women's participation in public life, encouraging them to vote, run for office, serve on boards and commissions, and join global movements.
Their legacy lives on today in the many organizations they founded or supported, such as the IFWC, GFWC, ACWW, LWVIA, UNCSW, and WFP. Their example inspires generations of women to follow their footsteps and make a difference in their communities and the world.
Some of the notable achievements of Houghton and Sayre include:
Houghton served as co-chairperson of Citizens for Eisenhower and campaigned for his presidency in 11 states[^1^]. She was also appointed as assistant director for Mutual Security for Refugees and Migration, and vice president of the Electoral College[^1^].
Sayre was appointed to President Eisenhower's Agricultural Advisory Committee in 1953[^3^]. She was also a recipient of the World Food Prize in 1980 for her contributions to improving food production and distribution[^3^].
Both Houghton and Sayre were involved in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, representing the interests and perspectives of rural women[^1^] [^3^]. They also participated in several international conferences on women's issues, such as the Pan American Conference of Women in 1945 and the International Council of Women in 1954[^1^] [^3^].
Both Houghton and Sayre were honored by their home state and nation for their outstanding service and leadership. Houghton received honorary degrees from Drake University and Simpson College, and was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975[^1^]. Sayre received honorary degrees from Simpson College and Iowa State University, and was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1976[^2^] [^3^].
Houghton and Sayre were not only leaders, but also friends. They met through their involvement in the women's club movement, and maintained a close correspondence throughout their lives. They shared their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears, their successes and challenges. They supported each other's endeavors, and celebrated each other's achievements. They were united by a common vision of a better world for women, especially those living in rural areas.
Uniting women for action: Dorothy Houghton, Ruth Sayre and clubwomen in Iowa, 1917-1980 is more than just a title. It is a tribute to two remarkable women who made a lasting impact on their state, their nation, and their world. aa16f39245