NWHM lost its long-time friend and supporter, Lonabelle “Kappie” Kaplan Spencer on Wednesday. For years, Kappie lent her support to the Museum through generous contributions as well as through her active membership. She passed on Feb. 2 at her apartment in Sarasota, Florida after having fought a difficult bout of lung cancer.
Spencer was born in Steele County, Minnesota in 1925. Her father, Reuben, was an entrepreneur, inventor and tool manufacturer in Owatonna, Minnesota. She spent her formative years in Owatonna and in August of 1946, became the first woman to solo at the Owatonna Airport in a single engine, polished aluminum Ecroupe. She graduated from Grinnell College in 1947 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education.
An ardent and committed advocate of women’s rights, Spencer spent her life working to improve conditions for women in all areas. When she ran for the Iowa Senate in 1976, but learned she couldn’t be found in a phone book, she said ““Women were simply invisible. The CEO just laughed when I insisted that it change, and that was his mistake. I researched the directory and showed that the addition of women’s names in the directory would actually help to identify the Bob Johnsons, Smiths and Jones, and I proved that the telephone companies were actually losing money, losing revenue by their stubborn refusal.”
Spencer also served as National Legislative Director and Chair of the National Board of Directors for the American Association of University Women from 1978 to 1983. She also spearheaded a Gender Balance Project in Iowa to pass legislation requiring state appointed boards and commissions to be balanced by gender. Her Gender Balance Project went nation-wide, for which she became National Director.
In addition to supporting NWHM, Spencer volunteered for six decades with the Girl Scouts of America, helping to teach young girls life-learning skills and building their self-esteem.
NWHM honors the memory of Kappie Spencer and is deeply grateful for her life’s commitment to working to improve the lives of women and girls.