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Iowa History Daily: July 11 - Phebe W. Sudlow

Iowa History Daily: On July 11, 1831, women’s rights activist and education pioneer Phebe W. Sudlow was born. The first female public school principal and first female municipal superintendent in the United States, Sudlow left a legacy of shattering glass ceilings.

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, Sudlow’s family moved to Ohio where she attended school in a log cabin. After a brief stint at Athens Academy, Sudlow returned at the age of 15 to the log cabin school to start her teaching career. After her father died in 1851, Sudlow moved first to Rockford, Illinois, before eventually moving to Round Grove in Scott County, Iowa.

While in rural Scott County, Sudlow’s teaching prowess caught the eye of Davenport superintendent Abram Kissell. In 1858, Kissel named Sudlow assistant principal of Grammar School No. 2 and District School No. 3 in Davenport. In 1860, Sudlow rose to become the principal of both schools. By 1874, Davenport tabbed Sudlow as superintendent of public schools. Later in the decade, in 1877, she gained distinction as the first female president of the Iowa State Teachers’ Association. In 1878, the University of Iowa hired Sudlow as the first female professor in the university’s history.

Over the course of her career, Sudlow actively advocated for equal pay for women educators, and she eventually forced the Davenport Board of Education to adopt an equal pay scale for all teachers. Today, Phebe Sudlow finds remembrance in Davenport’s Sudlow Intermediate School. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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