|Creator:||Brown, Paula Watts (1909-1974)|
|Extent:||10.00 linear feet.|
|Repository:||Iowa Women's Archives|
|Summary:||Civic leader in Des Moines, Iowa.|
Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in boxes 14, 18, 23-24
Access: The papers are open for research.
Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The papers (donor no.2 ) were donated by Kenneth R. Brown in 1976.
Preferred Citation: Paula Watts Brown papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.
|Repository:||Iowa Women's Archives|
|Address:||100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Born in Arkansas, Paula Watts was raised in Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma, where she met and married Kenneth R. Brown. For the first seven years of their marriage, the couple lived in Rockford, Illinois, before moving to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1937. In Des Moines, Kenneth Brown operated his own engineering company. During World War II, while her husband was in the service, Paula Watts Brown took over the management of Brown Engineering Company. The Browns raised three daughters and one son and were both active in public service organizations.
In 1958 Paula Watts Brown resigned from all public service organizations to begin her own one-woman campaign of political involvement, feeling that she could accomplish more good as an individual than as the member of a group. A June 1, 1967 Perry Daily Chief article said, "Mrs. Brown of Des Moines...is one of those rare individuals who stands up to be counted--even if she's the only one standing."" Brown attended school board and city council meetings and was instrumental in changes to the education policy of the board and the beautification of Des Moines.
Brown campaigned on various issues at school board meetings and in editorial letters to the newspaper. All of her efforts were directed at improving the quality of education by increasing the emphasis on math, the sciences and student achievement. In 1954 Brown spearheaded a movement to get the school board to begin a policy of recognizing academic achievement in high school. Later, Honors Day ceremonies to honor academic merit and special scholarship recipients were instituted. ""Enriched"" courses were offered in the high schools enabling more students to prepare for college. She also worked for programs to upgrade the science fair held in school. Academic awards and an emphasis on the science fair were ways in which Brown hoped to motivate more students to excel in science and technical courses. The creation of the college track system and better recognition of scholarship were results of Brown's confrontations with the school board.
Brown also used her activism to improve the civic beauty of Des Moines. She fought to preserve the Old Federal Building in downtown. Though the building was lost, the effort made many people conscious of the need to preserve historic buildings. Brown saw billboards as an eyesore; she called them "obnoxious and dangerous" since they are designed to divert a driver's attention from the road. She helped get the Iowa legislature to prohibit future installation of billboards adjacent to interstates and state highways in 1972. Brown's urging convinced the greater Des Monies Chamber of Commerce to acquire most of the land around Gray's Lake to protect it from commercial development. With contributions from the Chamber, businesses, clubs and school classes, Gray's Lake became a park. Brown said afterwards that this campaign had been her only success.
Brown's public service included heading an early membership drive for the Des Moines Art Center. She was one of the first two women to be a member of the Edmundson Foundation Board of Trustees. She served on this art center board for ten years.
This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.