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CLARION — The Heartland Museum’s latest program will pay tribute to a female Civil War-era benefactor.

Retired teacher Rosemary Harris will portray Annie Wittenmyer in a half-hour show during the museum’s “A Day at the Heartland” on Wednesday.

“I’m not a feminist, I wouldn’t burn my bra or anything like that,” said Harris. “Women’s contributions need to be brought to the forefront.”

Wittenmyer settled in Keokuk from Ohio in 1850. With the death of her husband, William — a merchant — she used the inheritance to commit to a variety of social causes affecting soldiers and war orphans.

“Rural towns have strong individuals. Growing up in a rural area grows a certain type of individual,” said museum volunteer Mary Tesdahl. “We think this is one piece of that.”

Wittenmyer’s legacy includes advocating for improved conditions in kitchens and hospitals for soldiers while head of the Iowa State Sanitary Commission.

She later served as the first president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and successfully convinced the U.S. Congress to establish pensions for Civil War-era nurses.

Wittenmyer also established the Cedar Falls’ Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, a precursor to UNI.

“Her attributes of strength and sacrifice spoke to me,” said Harris, a retired ESL teacher, “Being a school teacher, that’s kind of what we did.”

Her goal is to bring that story to a new audience, she said.

“That is kinda the reason I do this,” Harris said. “People don’t know what treasures Iowa has.”

Doors open at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20 and includes admission, lunch at its Opera House and Harris’ performance. The museum is located at 119 Ninth St. SW in Clarion.

For more information, call 515-602-6000.


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