Elaine Weiss

Honored by:Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
Brick location:I  map

Spring 2020 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics

Award-winning journalist and writer, Elaine Weiss, visited Iowa State University on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, as the 32nd recipient of the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics.

Weiss’ latest book, “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote,” chronicles one of the greatest political battles in American history: the ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. It tells the story of American women’s seven-decade struggle to win the ballot, as it all came down to a pitched battle in Nashville, Tennessee, to gain the final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment. The central character is Iowa State alumna and national suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt.

The book of narrative nonfiction has been hailed as a “riveting, nail-biting political thriller” with powerful parallels to today’s political environment. “The Woman’s Hour” was a Goodreads Readers’ Choice Award winner, short-listed for the 2019 Chautauqua Prize, and received the American Bar Association’s highest honor, the 2019 Silver Gavel Award.

Steven Speilberg’s Amblin production company is adapting the book for TV, with Hillary Rodham Clinton serving as executive producer.

As part of her visit to Iowa State, Weiss spoke about the lessons of the woman suffrage movement and the relevance of its themes in 2020, as the nation marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She delivered her talk, “The Woman’s Hour,” at 1 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Iowa State’s central campus, as part of the Catt Center’s commemoration of the centennial. Weiss’s presentation is free and open to the public.

“Carrie Chapman Catt was an extraordinary leader in the fight to expand our democracy and I’m especially honored to be able to speak about her role in the suffrage movement at her alma mater, Iowa State,” Weiss said.

Weiss’ magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in major national publications, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America.

Weiss’ long-form writing garnered a Pushcart Prize “Editor’s Choice” award, and she is a MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her first book, “Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War” was excerpted in the Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-Span and public radio stations nationwide.

Weiss holds a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. She has worked as a Washington correspondent, congressional aide and speechwriter, magazine editor and university journalism instructor.

She says she votes in every election.

The Catt Center has sponsored this annual speaker series since the fall of 1996 through the generous support of donors. It was established in 1995 to honor the Iowa native and longtime political and civic leader. Mary Louise Smith – the first woman to chair the Republican National Committee – was a mentor, friend and role model to many in the world of politics and civic, government and community affairs. The purpose of the chair is to bring nationally known political leaders, scholars and activists to Iowa State to enrich the experiences of students and educate citizens about the role of women in the political process.