Mary E. Wood


"As an outstanding dedicated black woman, she has maintained and promoted high principles in spite of repeated racial rejections, making a difference in this community and in the nation." —Lois Eichacker, 1996

Mary E. Wood, Des Moines, born in 1902, was the only African American to graduate from East High in Des Moines in 1920 and from Drake University in 1924. She received her M.A. degree at New York University and is a certified social worker. Active all her life in the YWCA, Wood has served as branch youth program director for the YWCA in Tulsa, Oklahoma; branch youth and camp director in Denver, Colorado; branch executive director, Newark; and branch executive director, Southwest Belmont, Philadelphia. In 1956, Wood became the first African-American woman in the United States to be named executive director of a metropolitan YWCA—Buffalo and Erie County, New York—and later went on to serve as metropolitan executive director of Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has also served on numerous committees, social agencies, churches, and Women's organizations, including the New York State Board of Education. Among her honors are Woman of the Year, Zeta Phi Beta; Alumni Distinguished Service Award, Drake University; listed in "Who's Who Among Women of the World;" and September 4 designated Mary E. Wood Day in Pittsburgh. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.  

UPDATE: Wood died in November of 1998.