The women who made UNI

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  • Alison Aitchison (1874-1964)

  • Bertha Martin (1862-1929)

  • Marion McFarland Walker (1861-1957)

  • Annie Turner Wittenmyer (1827-1900)

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With March officially kicking off Women’s History Month, the Northern Iowan will recognize a few of the women who contributed and influenced the creation and betterment of the University of Northern Iowa’s campus.

These women were leaders in the classroom, on campus, and locally in the Cedar Falls area. Although women’s contributions to history have been often pushed to the margins of history books, without these remarkable women our campus and community would not be the same as it is today.

University Special Collections and Archives was utilized for this article.  Their website can be found through Rod Library’s database.

Marion McFarland Walker (1861-1957)

Walker was a Professor of Applied English from 1890-1897, and supervised all literary societies on campus. She became the first Dean of Women at UNI from 1908 to 1929 and was tasked with supervising the well-being of all female students on campus.

Annie Turner Wittenmyer (1827-1900)

Wittenmyer is known as one of the most influential female social reformers, relief workers and writers of her time. She was instrumental in creating the Cedar Falls Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, which later became the University of Northern Iowa in 1876. Wittenmyer was also the first President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Bertha Martin (1862-1929)

Martin was a professor for UNI Theatre from 1905-1929. Along with introducing new methods of acting, she also taught students how to direct, speak publicly in various competitions and expanded course offerings in drama. Beloved by the campus community, she died after a short struggle with pneumonia in 1929.

Alison Aitchison (1874-1964)

Aitchison earned her Master of Didactics degree at UNI in 1903, and she remained  to teach geography and natural science. She was a nationally recognized teacher of geography and was the first woman in the U.S. to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the National Council of Geography Teachers. She was named an outstanding faculty member for the 1938-39 school year.