Iowa Wesleyan History Book


Iowa Wesleyan University was founded in 1842, four years before Iowa’s statehood. Pioneer Hall, in use by students and faculty by 1846, is among the older academic buildings in continuous use west of the Mississippi River. Abolition and women’s enfranchisement were key hallmarks of this pioneer Methodist school. Iowa Wesleyan graduated its first female student, Lucy Killpatrick Byrkit, in 1859. Iowa Wesleyan’s president, James Harlan, entered the national spotlight when he was elected to the US Senate in 1855. He was a stalwart abolitionist and supporter of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Just after the Civil War, Iowa Wesleyan produced the first female attorney in the United States, Arabella Babb Mansfield (1866), who passed the bar exam in 1869. This small-town Iowa university also produced two explorers of space: James Van Allen (1935), discoverer of the magnetic belts that radiate around the planet, and Peggy Whitson (1981), the first female to serve as commander of the International Space Station. Today, Iowa Wesleyan University has the most diverse student body campus in Iowa, with young scholars hailing from small towns, big cities, and many nations abroad.

Jeffrey Meyer is the director of the Chadwick Library at Iowa Wesleyan, and he serves as assistant professor of history. He has master’s degrees in archaeology and library science.