Gertrude Durden Rush


"Mrs. Rush not only contributed to this nation and this world, but to her own local community, making life better for so many in her cry for justice..."
— Dr. Cleota Proctor Wilbekin, 1994 Attorney

Gertrude Durden Rush, born in Navasota, Texas in 1880, moved to Des Moines in 1907 to become the first African-American woman to be admitted to the Iowa Bar. She remained the sole African-American female to practice law in Iowa until the 1950s. Receiving her B.A. from Des Moines University in 1914, Rush began studying law under her husband, James B. Rush, a Des Moines attorney, passing the Iowa Bar Examination in 1918. In 1924, after denial of membership in the American Bar Association, Rush and four other African-American lawyers, who were men, created the National Bar Association, a minority bar association, which officially began in Des Moines in 1925. Rush was a member of the Illinois Bar, maintaining offices both in Des Moines and Chicago, residing in Des Moines. She also held positions in many nationally and community organizations, including president of the Iowa State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs and president of the Des Moines Colored Federated Clubs. She died in 1962. Two monuments in her honor are located at the Des Moines Public Library and St. Paul AME Church. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1994.