Ruth Cole Nash


Ruth Cole Nash

"Ruth was a true activist, organizer, and a dedicated worker in the struggle for justice and equal rights."
- Dr. Percy G. Harris

Ruth Cole Nash, born in Minneapolis on February 10, 1922, was a supporter for the arts and worked tirelessly for social change. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1944. She effectively organized study groups and neighborhood activism in opening housing to all races, helping to end segregation in Cedar Rapids. Nash was active in the NAACP and Faces and Voices, an annual multicultural celebration in Dubuque. She resigned from Delta Gamma sorority in 1962 after a chapter was put on probation for allowing an African-American woman to pledge. Nash saw the arts as a means to end racism, prejudice, violence, and injustice. She was instrumental in starting and supporting numerous cultural programs and events in Dubuque: Dubuquefest, which was the city's first festival; Iowa Citizens for the Arts, now called Iowans for the Arts, a statewide lobby; Dubuque Fine Arts Society; Dubuque Museum of Art; Rocco Buda Art Resource Center; and art programs targeting youth and the disadvantaged. She was a mentor and supporter for many artists in different fields: fine arts, photography, crafts, poetry, and fiction. Committed to making the arts accessible and exciting to everyone, especially the less fortunate, Nash often provided scholarships and gave gallery space at no cost. She believed deeply in the necessity for art in every person's life, and in the rights of the individual. An activist to the very end, Nash brought attention to the right of a person to end a life of pain and mental deterioration when she drowned herself on September 15, 2002 in Dubuque. Nash was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2004.