When Iowa State College (University) first opened its doors in 1869, military training was mandatory for all male students, based on the terms of the Morrill Act. Iowa was the first state in the country to accept the terms of the Morrill Act, under which the state would receive land to sell to raise funds for the establishment of a college of “agriculture and mechanic arts.” These schools included compulsory military training–but not for women.
Carrie Chapman Catt was an early ISC student, attending from 1877 to 1880, who later became a prominent women’s suffragist and political activist. She was instrumental in the movement to establish women’s military drill on campus. Women’s voluntary drill began in 1879 and continued until 1897, and the women even joined the men as part of the Iowa delegation to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
More information about early military training can be found in the Department of Military Science Subject files (RS 13/16/1). See the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers (RS 21/7/3) and related items in the Digital Collections for more on this early Iowa suffragist.