Florence Kimball – first female graduate of ME at Iowa State

Florence Kimball Stoufer in 1954. Photo via the Council Bluffs Public Library

This article is part of a series of stories for Women’s History Month. To learn about other pioneering female engineers from Iowa State, click here.

Florence Kimball became the first female graduate of Iowa State’s mechanical engineering department when she completed her degree in 1908.

Kimball was born in Anamosa, Iowa in 1885. Her father, Charles, taught “practical shop mechanics” at Iowa State (then called Iowa Agricultural College) prior to 1892 when the family business moved its foundry and machine shop to Council Bluffs and also shifted its focus to manufacturing freight elevators.

Kimball enrolled at Iowa State in 1904 after completing her junior year of high school and chose to study mechanical engineering. Her father actually encouraged her to pursue ME, though his reason was less than flattering: “because she would probably never get married.” As a student at Iowa State, Kimball played right guard on the varsity field hockey team, was a board member for The Bomb yearbook, and also served as the first president of the Gamma Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta sorority.

Florence Kimball (first row, third from left) poses with other members of the 1907 Iowa State College women’s field hockey team. Photo via The Bomb, 1909

Much to her father’s dismay, she married Donald B. Stoufer in 1911 and became Florence Kimball Stoufer. Donald Stoufer was a fellow mechanical engineering graduate from Iowa State, was captain on the 1905 football team, and was also a member of the track team.

Following their marriage, the couple moved to Council Bluffs to work for Florence’s family business, Kimball Elevator Co. Florence managed the company’s real estate properties, including the historic Ogden House hotel.

The Ogden House hotel was one of the real estate properties Kimball managed. This shot shows the hotel in 1975. The building was demolished in 1982. Photo via the Council Bluffs Public Library

Florence and Donald had three children, all of whom went on to graduate from Iowa State: Richard (General Engineering ‘35), William (Mechanical Engineering ’38), and Lucy Beall (Home Economics ‘46). Three of their seven grandchildren also attended Iowa State.

In 1976 she was awarded the Alumni Key by the Omaha-Council Bluffs chapter of the ISU Alumni Association.

Florence Kimball Stoufer poses with then-ME department chair Arthur Bergles (left) and longtime ME professor Henry Black (right) outside of the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory building during a visit to the Iowa State campus in November 1974. Photo via mechanical engineering department records

Florence Kimball Stoufer passed away in 1977 at the age of 91. The Florence Kimball Stoufer Recognition Award was established in 1978 to honor the achievements of female students in ISU’s mechanical engineering department. The award was discontinued in 2001.

In 1995 she was posthumously honored with a brick on the Plaza of Heroines memorial outside of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall on the Iowa State campus. Her brick reads:

Florence Kimball Stoufer
First woman to graduate from
Iowa State College
with degree of bachelor of
mechanical engineering
conferred on her
the fourth of June 1908
first president
of Sigma Sigma chapter
Kappa Delta sorority

Florence Kimball Stoufer’s brick on the Plaza of Heroines memorial outside of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall on the Iowa State campus. Photo by Nick Fetty


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