Helen Navran Stein
was motivated by a concern for individuals of all races,
and cultural groups. She felt challenged by a strong belief that
if we allowed ourselves to get to know one another, some preconceived
notions and prejudices would fade away."
Arlene J. Morris, 1997
Helen Navran Stein of Des Moines pioneered
the Know Your Neighbor Panel, which is credited with
breaking down racial, religious, and social prejudices at
a critical time in American history. In 1960, when Iowa
and the nation were experiencing tremendous turmoil in race
relations, Stein organized a panel of six Des Moines women
of varying races, cultures, and religious beliefs to travel
statewide to open communication for better human relations.
The panelists told their personal narratives as members
of different racial and ethnic groups, promoting understanding
through knowledge. The panel made appearances throughout
the country, achieving both statewide and national prominence.
From 1960 to 1972, the Know Your Neighbor Panel appeared
before thousands, many of whose attitudes were touched and
changed by the panel's message. In 1955, Stein originated
a service for blind students in the state of Iowa, making
it possible for those students to have their textbooks recorded.
Stein's community service also includes serving as a crisis
line counselor and as a certified Braillist. At the present
time, she is a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children
who are victims of abuse and neglect. She is a graduate
of the University of Wisconsin. Born in Kansas City, Missouri
in 1923, Stein and her husband, Arthur, have two sons, Jay,
Iowa City, and Art, Washington, D.C. She was inducted into
the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1999.
UPDATE: Stein died on
April 23, 2010.