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New book from Raygun features Iowa women history and artists

DES MOINES –Amazing Iowa Women,” a new children’s book written by Iowa State University School of Education professor and native Iowan Katy Swalwell and illustrated by Iowa female artists, is now available through Raygun. With stories of more than 100 Iowa women, the book is sure to inspire and educate readers of all ages.

When Swalwell wanted to create a resource to help teach Iowa history, she knew she wanted to focus on the state’s many extraordinary women and use art to help tell their stories. With that initial idea, she approached Raygun in Des Moines about collaborating to publish the book. 

“We were so excited about this idea that we jumped on it.” said Raygun designer Jen Leatherby.

For nearly a year, Swalwell combed through archives and newspapers to find stories of women who represented a range of professions, ethnic backgrounds, ages and time periods.

“I wanted to make sure that everyone reading the book could see themselves represented,” Swalwell said. “These women’s stories are incredible and more people need to know about them.”

The book includes women like Neta Snook Southern of Ames who taught Amelia Earhart how to fly and Edna Griffin, the “Rosa Parks” of Iowa. It also includes Atlantic’s Denise O’Brien, honoring her decades of work advocating for family farms, female farmers and rural communities. Currently, O’Brien is running as the Democratic candidate for the 21st District of the Iowa House of Representatives.

The book also features a diverse array of Iowa women artists alongside the history. More than 30 professional and student female artists from around the state contributed portraits to accompany each biography. An Indiegogo campaign secured donations from supporters to commission the artists.

Raygun launched “Amazing Iowa Women” in October along with a website,, featuring supplemental curriculum for teachers, additional information about the artists and information on a free traveling exhibit of portrait banners. The book is available in Raygun stores, on and various independent book stores around Iowa, but not on Amazon or major book chains. 

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