Rename Catt Hall

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To whom it may concern:

Members of the Iowa State University community call to your attention the need to change the name of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall, as well as all its affiliated programs, on the Iowa State campus. As the Black Lives Matter movement gains much-needed momentum, the issue of this beautiful building’s ugly history becomes even more relevant. 

The 1892 building is utilized on campus by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and the university in general. Incoming and prospective students interact with the building, and the courtyard that features names of numerous influential womxn, in their earliest days associated with the university. LAS students visit the building regularly throughout their Iowa State adventure to complete administrative tasks. Faculty, staff and students are recognized through the Carrie Chapman Catt Center yearly. A building that hosts such a variety of resources for the Iowa State community should reflect the values and morals of Iowa State; encouraging the continuation of Carrie Chapman Catt’s legacy of racist, anti-Black, classist, ableist, and xenophobic beliefs through the name of this building and its programs accomplishes the exact opposite.

Catt was a suffragist who contributed to women’s right to vote through her advocacy and founding of the League of Women Voters. Though her deeds were seemingly selfless, she was motivated by a hunger to further imbalance the power dynamic between white and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Americans by empowering white women while suppressing the voices of BIPOC. In an attempt to sway Southern states in favor of the 19th Amendment, Catt rallied white politicians by claiming that “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.” Catt's racism has often been excused as simply a political strategy to gain Southern support rather than an ideology she actually supported, but this argument is offensive and minimizes the horrific perpetuation of white supremacy that Carrie Chapman Catt actively encouraged and worked to uphold. Catt and other white women suffragists remained silent as BIPOC womxn were prevented from voting after the 19th amendment was ratified in 1919. Black womxn did not receive the right to vote until 1965, with the Voting Rights Act, and there have been continued voter suppression laws in Iowa and elsewhere ever since. 

If Iowa State is to march forward with its Black members of the Cyclone family in the pursuit of racial equality and justice, it must condemn racism and white supremacy in every form it presents itself; immortalizing and honoring a white supremacist is one of those forms. In order to fix this error and move forward, Carrie Chapman Catt Hall must be renamed to honor a womxn who has made change while still committing to equity and human decency. We suggest the following:

  • Olympic medalist and Iowa State alumna, Nawal El Moutawakel.
  • Possibly the first woman of African descent to receive a Master’s degree at ISU, Mary Evelyn V Edwards Hunter.
  • Co-founder of W.H. Passon Historical Society and George Washington Carver Museum, Ada DeBlanc-Yerwood.
  • The first black woman who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Botany (1926) and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Willa Juanita Ewing.

Some argue that Catt was a product of her time — so let’s keep her there. White supremacy, racism and discrimination have no place on any college campus in 2020. We thank you for considering our petition to give Catt Hall a new life and legacy through a new name.