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Grefe, Mary



  • Existence: 1922-


Mary Arlene Cruikshank Grefe, educator, social activist, politician, and businesswoman, was born on November 7, 1922 to Arthur Cruikshank and Rena Cruikshank. The Cruikshanks had been farmers in the Algona area since 1905, and that is where Grefe spent her childhood. Grefe graduated from Algona High School in June 1939, and attended Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She graduated from Morningside with a B.A. in English and Speech in January 1943.

Grefe began her lifelong commitment to education soon after graduation. Over the next few years she taught high school and also at a junior college. Grefe served twelve years on the Des Moines school board, twice as its president. She later became involved with adult education. In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Grefe as his personal representative to the UNESCO World Conference on Adult Education in Tokyo, Japan. She was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the National Advisory Council on Adult Education beginning in 1974, and was its chair in 1976. Grefe also received a Mid-Continent Federal Regional Council Award for Education in 1975. Grefe continued her commitment to adult education through her involvement in the Educational Foundation of the American Association of University Women. Grefe was national president of the AAUW from 1979 to 1981, as well as the AAUW Educational Foundation president.

Grefe was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980. Grefe has published articles relating to adult education, leadership techniques and the women's movement, as well as a leadership manual with Claire Fulcher titled Techniques for Organizational Effectiveness (1973). Grefe founded LEAD Associates, Ltd., in Des Moines, Iowa, to give instruction on improving the quality of leadership in individuals as well as organizations.

Grefe has long been active in the women's movement. She represented the United States as a delegate to international meetings on numerous occasions, including the United Nations Mid-Decade Conference for Women in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980, the United Nations Decade Conference for Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985, and the Commission on the Status of Women in Vienna, Austria in 1988. Grefe visited China as a guest of the All China Women's Federation in November of 1986.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer papers

Identifier: IWA0160

American Association of University Women member and advocate for women's issues including dual listings for married women in Iowa telephone directories.


1997 ACCESSION: Boxes 1-11

2007 ACCESSION: Boxes 12-41

2008 ACCESSION: Boxes 42-65

Dates: 1931-2007

Mary Grefe papers

Identifier: IWA0186

Educator, social activist, politician and businesswoman who was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980.

Dates: 1943-1997

Additional filters:

2001-2010 1
Adult education 1
Air quality 1
Algona (Iowa) 1
Banks and banking 1