Celebrating Women’s History Month


Women’s History Month is “an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.”  The purpose of the monthlong celebration is to commemorate and encourage the vital roles women have had in history.  Which got us thinking about the influential women of Clear Lake.

After a bit of digging – and with the help of Beth Ann Schumacher from the Clear Lake Historical Society – we found a handful of incredible Clear Lake women.

The book world is a competitive industry, but Clear Lake native, Dorothy Garlock, defied all odds with her 62 historical romance novels.  Dorothy and her husband, Herb, moved to Clear Lake with their children in 1954.  She worked for the Mirror Reporter as a bookkeeper before progressing to writing about weddings and obituaries. Her column, ‘My 2 Cents’ was a big hit.

Following her husband’s retirement, the couple wintered in Texas, where Dorothy ventured into the world of romance.  Dorothy sold more than 20 million copies of her books.  She was a mainstay on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.  Though Dorothy passed away at the Oakwood Care Center in 2018, her words are forever etched into the history books.

Nellie May Naylor became a chemist.  She was raised on a farm just outside of Clear Lake and attended Clear Lake High School.  Following her graduation in 1908 from Iowa State, she returned to Clear Lake to teach for one year before joining the staff at ISU.

Naylor taught chemistry at a time when women were pushed toward cooking classes, meal planning, and home decoration.  She defied all odds of this time period being only the second woman to hold the title of Professor in the Chemistry Department.

Rebecca Jane “Reba” Hurn was another Clear Lake woman who later became a lawyer and state legislator in Spokane, Washington.  She was the first woman elected to the Washington State Senate, serving from 1923 to 1930.  As the lone woman in the state senate, she mostly attracted attention as a novelty. At least at first.  It didn’t take long, however, for Hurn to prove her value as a serious legislator.  After two terms in office, she returned to her law practice in Spokane, remaining active in public affairs.

While these influential women of Clear Lake paved the way for success, there have only been a few public servants on the local level.

Lois Kotz served on the City Council from 1980 to 1987 before becoming Mayor of Clear Lake in 1990.  At present time, she is the only woman on record as Mayor.  Rhonda Mann served on the Council from 1988 to 1995, and Julie Steinberg served on Council from 2004 to 2007.

These women shattered the glass ceiling, defying the odds in positions typically held by men.

And this is why we celebrate them.

March is a time to reflect on the progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women.  Women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their communities.

We began celebrating women’s month when, in New York City, female textile workers marched in protest of unfair working conditions and unequal rights for women.  Since this historic day in 1857, March 8th has been dedicated to celebrating every woman’s social, economic, cultural and political accomplishments.

Inspiring women are identified by 5 key characteristics: First, they have PURPOSE.  Second, they BELIEVE in what they are doing.  Third, they have EMPATHY.  Fourth, they ENCOURAGE others, and fifth, they THINK BIG.

These characteristics remind me of a group of ladies in our community. Ones who work tirelessly to ensure the prosperity of economic success for our businesses.


Led by President and CEO, Stacy Doughan, the Chamber staff is currently comprised solely of women. Libbey Hohn is at the helm of Tourism, showcasing our community as the Midwest’s premier vacation destination.  Trish Fundermann and Jen Fasbender work on an endless loop of list-making and extreme organization to ensure each signature event plays off without a hitch. Ashley Weiss works directly with chamber members, connecting them to the tools and resources they need to be successful.  Gail Robinson is our Visitor Center Specialist and former Clear Lake City Clerk whose expertise is a perfect match to help visitors make the most of their time at the lake and answers all of their questions.  And finally, there’s me, Rachel Wumkes, writing all the words about this incredible community and our incredible activities and events.

Seven women who are the cheerleaders for business success and quality of life in Clear Lake.

And so, in the final week of women’s history month, we tip our hats to these influential women in Clear Lake.  The ones who paved the way for all women to have the courage to follow their dreams. Who stood up for what they believed in, and encouraged others to follow.