Initial vote supports Catt's name on building

In its initial vote, a review committee has voted to keep the name of Carrie Chapman Catt on central campus' Catt Hall.

At the committee's Aug. 25 meeting, nine members voted to keep the name and six members voted to remove the name. As outlined in the university policy, two-thirds of the committee must agree to recommend a name removal.

The initial vote is not the end of the review process. The review committee will take a second and final vote following a public comment period.

Public comment welcome

That 60-day public comment period begins today, Aug. 31. The campus community and the public are invited to read the committee's draft report and submit comments on the public comment submission website. The draft report with its initial recommendation is available to download as a PDF document.

The public comment period ends Sunday, Oct. 29. The committee will then reconvene to review public input and take its final vote. Following the vote, the committee will finalize its report and present it to President Wendy Wintersteen.

The work to date

The review committee has met 27 times since it was named in 2021. The committee reviewed nearly 250 historical documents, compiled by an historical research firm from libraries, archives and databases around the country. It interviewed 12 persons with knowledge and expertise on Catt and events surrounding both the building's naming and the aftermath.

In her foreword to the draft report, committee chair Carol Faber, associate professor of graphic design, thanked the committee. "The work of the committee has been thorough and comprehensive," reviewing volumes of historical material to gain a better understanding of complex issues. Faber wrote that the committee "engaged in an earnest, well-informed discussion. It is serious business to develop a recommendation to keep or remove a name on university property, and the committee has given the task thoughtful consideration and careful analysis."

The committee's draft report examines the history of Carrie Chapman Catt, the building that was named in her honor in 1990 and the subsequent controversy centered on accusations that Catt used racist language and tactics in the push to ratify the 19th Amendment.

The draft addresses each of the principles outlined in the university policy on considering renaming requests, including evaluating legacy, weighing factual evidence and assessing potential impact on the university.

ISU's policy on considering removing names on university property was developed in 2020. Following its adoption, students, staff and alumni submitted 21 requests about Catt Hall.

Who was Catt?

Catt graduated from Iowa State in 1880 with a degree in general science. Soon after, she joined state and national efforts to advocate for woman suffrage and eventually succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In her second stint as president of the association, she led the effort that culminated in 1920 with ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving American women the right to vote.