Charlotte Bowers Nelson


"With her grace, dignity, intelligence, and perseverance,
she has led the way in changing the lives
of all women and girls in Iowa."
— Laurie Schipper, 2011


Charlotte Bowers Nelson has elevated the status of women and girls in Iowa through her leadership and advocacy for justice and equality for everyone. With her grace, dignity, intelligence, and perseverance, Nelson has addressed issues impacting women and girls. She was a YWCA teenage program director, Office Manager of the LWVIA, State Director of the LWVUS "Sex Equity in Vocational Education" project, and coordinated the first women’s studies course at Drake University. For 22 years, she served as the Governor-appointed executive director of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women. With her knowledge of public policy, she represented women and girls with legislators, government, and the people of Iowa. From reforming Iowa’s welfare system, establishing gender balance on state boards, initiating equity-related legislation (including naming two state office buildings for women, supporting family planning , and combating domestic violence and sexual assault), Nelson led a compassionate, multi-faceted effort that made a difference. This soft-spoken radical continues her advocacy on boards like the Iowa CareGivers Association and Iowa Friends of Legal Services. Her degrees are a Duke B.A. (summa cum laude), a Columbia M.A., and a Drake M.P.A. Born in Bristol, Virginia in 1931, and raised in Bristol, Tennessee, Nelson has lived in Des Moines since 1974. Nelson was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.