Olive Vander Wal

Honored by:The League of Women Voters of Pella
Brick location:F:20  map

Olive Adlard Vander Wal was born September 20, 1904 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England and moved with her family to Saskatchewan, Canada in 1907. She later lived in various U.S. locations where her father served as a Unitarian minister, graduating from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in 1926 with a degree in English and a Phi Beta Kappa key.

She worked the next four years as an executive secretary for the Dean of Iowa State University in Ames, lowa, marrying Robert John Vander Wal in 1929.

While Dr. Vander Wal, a pioneer in the development of polyunsaturated fats, worked on lipoid research for Armor and Company, Olive became deeply involved in the League of Women Voters. She assumed leading roles with both the La Grange, Illinois and the Chicago leagues, also serving as president.

The couple retired to Pella, Iowa where Dr. Vander Wal taught in the physics department of Central College and Olive set out to establish a Pella league.

Enlisting the help of a couple of faculty wives, Olive convinced enough women to begin a Provisional league. She then led them through the initial studies of city and county government with so much skill that Pella became a recognized league almost a year sooner than the process usually required. Always professional, Olive was quick to protest, "That's NOT the League way!" She demanded strict adherence to proper procedure and wielded a lethal editor's blue pencil, honing all wordy material into clearly well-written pieces. She believed the "League-way" did not produce articles which focused on individual achievement but which were presented objectively.

Visible board members did not work for political candidates or parties in an election year. Leaguers studied. Leaguers thought. Leaguers achieved consensus after intelligent discussion.

The League of Women Voters of Pella owes its existence to this wonderful high-standard-setting leader and became the child she never had.

Olive died December 13, 1981.

Submitted on 12/21/94