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!”