Helen Navran Stein


"Stein was motivated by a concern for individuals of all races, religions, and cultural groups. She felt challenged by a strong belief that if we allowed ourselves to get to know one another, some preconceived notions and prejudices would fade away."
—Arlene J. Morris, 1997

Helen Navran Stein of Des Moines pioneered the Know Your Neighbor Panel, which is credited with breaking down racial, religious, and social prejudices at a critical time in American history. In 1960, when Iowa and the nation were experiencing tremendous turmoil in race relations, Stein organized a panel of six Des Moines women of varying races, cultures, and religious beliefs to travel statewide to open communication for better human relations. The panelists told their personal narratives as members of different racial and ethnic groups, promoting understanding through knowledge. The panel made appearances throughout the country, achieving both statewide and national prominence. From 1960 to 1972, the Know Your Neighbor Panel appeared before thousands, many of whose attitudes were touched and changed by the panel's message. In 1955, Stein originated a service for blind students in the state of Iowa, making it possible for those students to have their textbooks recorded. Stein's community service also includes serving as a crisis line counselor and as a certified Braillist. At the present time, she is a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children who are victims of abuse and neglect. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923, Stein and her husband, Arthur, have two sons, Jay, Iowa City, and Art, Washington, D.C. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1999.

UPDATE: Stein died on April 23, 2010.