Arabella “Belle” Babb Mansfield graduated from Iowa Wesleyan University in 1866 before studying law with the firm of Ambler & Babb in the historic Union Block Building on the north side of the downtown square in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. In 1869, Belle was the first woman to pass the Bar Exam in the United States with the recommendation for entry by lawyers Edwin Van Cise and George B. Corkhill. This set a precedent for the future admittance of other women into the profession.

Just a year later, in June 1870, Belle served as the presiding president of the state’s first “enfranchisement” convention in Mount Pleasant. This two-day event yielded the establishment of the Iowa Woman’s Suffrage Association.

While not a practicing lawyer by today’s modern definition, Belle dedicated her life to the betterment of humanity as a whole. Education was a focus of her life, teaching at both Iowa Wesleyan University and Indiana Asbury University, now DePauw. Belle was a loyal community servant who made enduring contributions of great impact and significance to the advancement of human welfare and freedom.

Arabella “Belle” Babb Mansfield’s lasting legacy motivates the next generation of trailblazers from Southeast Iowa and beyond; “She Did. So Will You!”

Belle Babb Mansfield


In 2020, for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites established the National Votes for Women Trail.

Arabella “Belle” Babb Mansfield is recognized along with 249 other physical sites across the country to commemorate the people, places, and events important to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The historical marker at Iowa Wesleyan University was unveiled on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

For more information on the national Votes for Women Trail, including an interactive map, visit the National Votes For Women Trail.

Votes for Women Unveiling