Charlotte Bowers Nelson

Honored by:Gustav Nelson and DAWN's List
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Honored by Gustav Nelson

"Could you write a few words about your mother?" I was asked. "Something about how she has influenced you both personally and professionally." A simple enough request, but one I found surprisingly difficult.

My mother has been my role model in so many ways that I have difficulty citing specific examples. After several false starts and scratched out sentences, I have realized that my mother's influence can best be summarized by the following:

  • Expect the best of yourself and others. Keep your standards high.
  • Be Involved.
  • Care for others.
  • Have integrity toward yourself and those around you.
  • Family comes first.
  • It's never too late.

These "credos" -- for want of a better term -- apply to all aspects of my mother's life. She lives her life with dignity, caring, and a deep commitment to both her immediate family and the community at large. I count myself blessed to have been raised by Charlotte Nelson. I am proud to say that she is my mother -- and my friend.


Charlotte Bowers Nelson graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University majoring in sociology; she received a master of arts degree in religion from Columbia University; and she received a master of public administration degree from Drake University.

Following her graduation from college, Charlotte was teenage program director for the YWCA in her home town of Bristol, Tennessee. Following her graduation from Columbia University, she taught religion and sociology at Beaver College in Pennsylvania.

Charlotte was president of the League of Women Voters in Beloit Wisconsin; she was office manager for the League of Women Voters of Iowa.

She served as an intern for the Lieutenant Governor of Iowa; she was a staff person for the Iowa Department of Human Services. Since 1985, Charlotte has been executive director of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women.

She has been on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Commissions on the Status of Women. Charlotte is an elder in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines; she is a member of the Women and the Church Committee of Des Moines Presbytery; she is a member of the special task force on sexuality, one of whose tasks is to study the homosexual issue. Charlotte was a member of the Committee on Representation in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.


a) Charlotte has worked for human rights for racial ethnics. Even in college, before the civil rights movement, she participated in an interracial group of students from three colleges and universities which met without university approval in the basement of the Duke University Chapel. With the YWCA, she planned and administered interracial conferences that had to meet in restricted areas in the south.

b) She coordinated the first course in women's studies at Drake University.

c) She has been an advocate for equal pay for women and minorities. She worked on a special project with the Iowa Telephone Company to foster women employment in non-traditional jobs. Working with the governor of Iowa, she has been able to improve pay equity for women in state government. She speaks frequently on wage disparity and measures to redress it.

d) She has served on a special state committee on welfare reform. Iowa is presently implementing a welfare reform program that will not be punitive against women and will foster training and employment.

e) She has worked for gender balance on boards and commissions of the state of Iowa. All of the Iowa’s boards and commissions, including the commission on the status of women, are now mandated to have gender balance.

f) She has been an advocate working to combat sexual harassment in the work place. She has developed and distributed public information on such harassment.

g) She has worked legislatively to alleviate domestic violence and sexual assault against women. She has provided free office space for the coalitions against domestic violence and sexual assault.

h) She has tried to change insurance laws that discriminate against women. Unlike racial ethnics, women are discriminated against in insurance. Charlotte has spoken out against the unfairness of this practice.

i) She is serving on the Board of Directors of Westminster House. Westminster House supports and works with mentally disturbed adults.

In 1994, Charlotte Bowers Nelson was chosen as one of three "Visionary Women" by the Young Women's Resource Center in Des Moines. She is included in Who’s Who of American Women.