Belle Babb Mansfield – 1866

Arabella (Belle) Babb Mansfield graduated from Iowa Wesleyan University in 1866. The following year she began studying law with her brother at his law office in Mount Pleasant.  In 1869, although Belle successfully passed the State Bar exam, she was denied entrance to the bar because of a state law that excluded all but white men from the practice of law. In response to Belle’s challenge, the Court ruled the exclusion unlawful. A few months later in 1869, in a second-floor office in the Union Block Building on the Mount Pleasant square, Belle was sworn into the State Bar and admitted to the practice of law in the State of Iowa. Belle went on to become an educator, administrator, and activist who worked closely with the early suffragettes whose work eventually secured women’s right to vote.