Lawther Hall is named for Anna Bell Lawther, a distinguished leader in the women's suffrage movement in Iowa. Miss Lawther was born on September 8, 1872, in Dubuque, Iowa, to William and Annie Elizabeth Bell Lawther. She attended Miss Stevens Boarding School in Philadelphia and Wells College. In 1897 she received her B.A. degree from Bryn Mawr College.
After her graduation, Miss Lawther remained at Bryn Mawr where she served first as an assistant in the Bursar's Office, then as the college secretary, and later as the director of alumnae. She returned to Dubuque in 1912 where she became associated with charitable and political work. Miss Lawther was a charter member of the board of the Hillcrest family services organization when it was formed in 1914 and served on the board for forty years.
Miss Lawther was president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association from 1916 through 1919. She was the first woman delegate from Iowa to the Democratic National Conventions in 1920 and 1924. She was a member of several community and national organizations, including the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, the P.E.O., and local clubs. She also served on the State Council of Defense during World War I. In 1921 she became the first woman member of the Iowa State Board of Education, where she served until she retired in 1941.
Miss Lawther received many honors. Morningside College awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1927, and in 1936 she was honored with a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Dubuque. In 1940 Miss Lawther was the first woman to deliver a convocation address at the University of Iowa. Also in 1940 Lawther Hall, a women's residence hall on the UNI campus, was named in her honor.
She died on October 21, 1957.
Compiled by Susan Witthoft, Gerald Peterson, and Julie Peterson; edited by Gerald L. Peterson
Special Collections and University Archives