It’s Women’s History Month and perfect timing for another post in our Notable Women of ISU series. This time we’ll take a look at Margaret Sloss, the first woman to graduate with a D.V.M. at Iowa State (1938).
Margaret Wragg Sloss was born in October 28, 1901, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She and her family moved to Ames in 1910, where her father, Thomas Sloss, was hired as the superintendent of buildings, grounds, and construction at what was then Iowa State College. Sloss House, the home of the Sloss family for 11 years starting in 1925, is now the home of the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center.
Sloss spent her entire career at Iowa State, working her way up from Technician in Veterinary Pathology (1923-1929) to Professor (1965-1972), and Professor Emeritus upon her 1972 retirement. She was the author of many publications and was active in several professional associations including the American Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, Phi Kappa Phi, and helped establish the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association (1947) for which she served as president (1950-1952).
In one of her writings, she made the following observation (from a shortened paper or possible speech derived from her publication “Women in the Veterinary Profession,” undated, RS 14/7/51, box 3, folder 10):
The question presented most frequently to the woman veterinarian is, “Why did you decide to study veterinary medicine?” This question always puzzled me as I am sure it has puzzled other women veterinarians. Should, I ask myself, one have to have a reason for taking the course that seems logical to everyone, simply because they belong to the female sex? Are men veterinarians plied with this question as constantly as women? It seems just as illogical to ask a woman why she decided to study veterinary medicine as it would be to ask a man why he took up dancing, singing, costume design or any number of other things as a profession.
Undoubtedly, many female veterinarians have been asked that over the years, and women in other traditionally male-dominated careers have encountered (and still encounter) the same. Being the first woman to graduate veterinary school at Iowa State, Sloss helped pave the way for future women veterinarians – who now dominate the profession.
Sloss received much recognition for her achievements, including an honor by the Women’s Centennial Congress as one of 100 women in the United States to successfully follow careers in 1940 that were not followed by women 100 years previously. She also earned the Iowa State Faculty Citation (1959) and the Stange Award for Meritorious Service (1974), as well having Iowa State’s women’s center – the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center – named after her (1981).
She passed away on December 11, 1979 and is interred in the Iowa State University Cemetery.
For more information on Margaret Sloss, stop in and see the Margaret W. (Margaret Wragg) Sloss Papers, RS 14/7/51. See also a couple of online exhibits – one created for ISU’s sesquicentennial celebration, and the other on Twentieth Century Women of Iowa State.