Sue M. Wilson Brown


Sue M. Wilson Brown’s life was a commitment to the foundational development of women leaders and the social, political, ethical, and economic upward mobility of African Americans... She was the great organizer of her day and we have yet to see her equal." — Gwendolyn Wilson Fowler, 1995

Sue M. Wilson Brown was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1877. She graduated from Oskaloosa High School, and later moved to Des Moines. Brown dedicated her life to improving the status of African Americans on both a state and national level. To achieve that, Brown founded several clubs, including the Intellectual Improvement Club, Iowa Colored Women, and the Des Moines League of Colored Women Voters. She served as president of the Iowa Federation of Colored Women, the Colonel Charles Young Auxiliary of the American Red Cross, and the Des Moines branch of Church women’s Interracial Commission, and as the first female president of the Des Moines Branch of the NAACP. She served as a charter member of the Central Association of Colored Women and the First Interracial Commission on Civil Rights. As chairperson of the Iowa Association of Colored Women, Brown supervised the building of the University Girls’ Home in Iowa City, which became one of the first owned and operated university dormitories for African Americans outside any traditional African-American colleges or universities. She served as a delegate to the International Council of Women. Brown wrote three books about African-American women and is featured in Who’s Who in Colored America. She died in 1941. Brown was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.