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Located on the Iowa Wesleyan University campus, this monument commemorates women's rights activist and educator Arabella Babb Mansfield (1846-1911), who became the first female lawyer in the country in 1869. The monument consists of a statue depicting Mansfield reading a book, four historical markers in the concrete base, and four stone seats. Mansfield, whose birth name was Belle Aurelia Babb, taught at Simpson College, Iowa Wesleyan College and then at DePauw University, where she served as dean of the school of art and dean of the school of music. In 1870, Mansfield chaired the Iowa Women's Suffrage Convention. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980. Artist Benjamin Victor created the sculpture.

Belle Babb Mansfield, who is also known as Arabella Mansfield, became the first female lawyer in the United States in 1869. The statue was created by sculptor Benjamin Victor.

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Arabella Mansfield was born on May 23, 1846 in Benton Township in Des Moines County, Iowa. She spent the first years of her life her family's farm before moving to Mount Pleasant around 1852. Two years earlier her father, Miles, went to California to become a gold miner. He eventually became superintendent of the Bay State Mining Company but tragically he died when a mine caved in. Mansfield's mother, Mary, decided to relocate to Mount Pleasant to give Mansfield and her older brother, Washington Irving Babb (he was named after the famous writer), a better education.

Mansfield attended local schools and Howe's Academy, where she began to develop her interest in law. She then enrolled in Iowa Wesleyan College in 1862 and started to call herself Arabella. She graduated in 1866 as valedictorian (Miles graduated in the same class as salutatorian) and began teaching political science, English, and history at Simpson College, which is Indianola, Iowa. It appears she returned to Mount Pleasant in 1867 where she started to study law at Miles' law office called Ambers & Babb. In 1868, she married her high school sweetheart, John Mansfield, who was a professor at Iowa Wesleyan College. She joined the faculty and started teaching English and history. Over the course of the next year, they studied law together and both passed the bar exam in 1869.

This was an unprecedented achievement for Mansfield, who earned a high score, since at the time only white men over the age of 21 could take the exam. Not everyone was ready to accept a woman lawyer and the status of her membership in the bar was taken to court. The court ruled in her favor, declaring that women and minorities had a right to practice law in Iowa. Later in 1869, she took the oath as a lawyer in a in ceremony at the Union Block building in downtown Mount Pleasant.

Despite becoming a lawyer, Mansfield never practiced law. She continued teaching at Iowa Wesleyan and also earned a master's degree in 1870 and a law degree in 1872. She helped established the Iowa Woman Suffrage Society and became its first secretary. As noted above, chaired its convention in 1870. Throughout her career, Mansfield continued to support women's voting rights and educational opportunities. In 1879, she and Miles started teaching at DePauw University (it was called Indiana Asbury University at that time) in Greencastle, Indiana. She remained there for the rest of her life. She died on August 1, 1911.

"Arabella Mansfield." Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed November 15, 2021.

"Arabella Mansfield." Iowa Department of Human Rights. Accessed November 15, 2021.

"Arabella Mansfield." Law Library - American Law and Legal Information. Accessed November 15, 2021.

"Belle Babb Mansfield." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed November 15, 2021.

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The Historical Marker Database