Phebe W. Sudlow


"Phebe Sudlow's legacy in our school district is an incentive, not only for our female students and those women who aspire to be administrators, but it also remains a source of motivation for everyone who wants to be a strong, effective administrator."
— Dr. Peter F. Flynn, 1992

Phebe W. Sudlow, born in New York in 1831, became a teacher at the early age of 15. In 1856, she moved with her family to Scott County, Iowa. By 1859, she had become the first woman public school principal in the United States, supervising both a grammar school and a district school in Davenport. In 1869, she became the first woman to present a program at the Iowa convention of county superintendents. In 1872, she was the first principal of the Davenport Training School for Teachers. Two years later, she became superintendent of public schools. In 1877, Sudlow was elected the first female president of the Iowa State Teachers' Association. A year later, she was appointed the first female professor at the University of Iowa (Department of English). Due to ill health, Sudlow retired from teaching in 1881 but continued to be active in her community. Among her later accomplishments were co-owning a bookstore, helping to establish a library in Davenport, and personally directing The Ladies Industrial Relief Society for 15 years. That organization assisted poor families and working mothers by providing a day nursery, washing machines, and cooking and sewing lessons. Sudlow died in 1922 at the age of 91. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.