I’m enjoying getting to know some women that led the Association years ago. One woman in particular that was a way-paver is Kate Milner Rabb, the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the IU Alumni Association. She did so in 1913-1914, before the 19th Amendment was passed in the United States. For her to be in this role before she and those of her sex could even vote in America, was remarkable to me indeed.
Before there was a CEO/Alumni Secretary (the first being Ralph Sollitt), the volunteer at the helm held a critical position to interact regularly with Indiana University administration and keep an eye on alumni activities. It was a different world to be sure – we didn’t have engagement platforms or 170+ communities around the world. Nonetheless when President William Lowe Bryan identified Mrs. Rabb as the next alumni leader, he knew what he was doing. In a time when women were still not finishing degrees at IU in large numbers, she had earned her IU bachelor’s degree in 1886 and a master’s degree in 1888.
Mrs. Rabb was not only a pioneer in women’s alumni leadership, but she had a close affection for real Hoosier Pioneers. Growing up in Rockport, Indiana, she was known for her research of and writings of early Indiana history and the hardships and lessons those settled surely learned. She was a widely respected author and columnist for The Indianapolis Star At the dedication of the Kate Milner Rabb Hall at Teter Quadrangle in May 1961, then-President Herman B Wells called her a “great Hoosier and loyal alumna of Indiana University” and called upon many distinguished people in the university family to celebrate her as well.
Although Mrs. Rabb didn’t enjoy all the freedoms I do in 2019, she certainly had power (of the press) and influence.
Happy Independence Day!