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Oct. 6, 2006

Cox creates show for women's center anniversary

by Samantha Beres

Margaret Sloss is known for being the first woman to enter and graduate with a DVM (1938) from Iowa State's College of Veterinary Medicine. But when she first applied, the top-notch student was denied admission.

Margaret Sloss

Margaret Sloss in 1935, working in the veterinary pathology lab. Photo by John W. Barry (from University Archives, ISU Library).

She didn't accept the answer. She brought the land-grant charter, which said students could not be denied based on gender, to admissions.

"That's a moment that shows a lot about the kind of person she was. She was self-sufficient and persistent," said theater professor Jane Cox. Cox will perform Not One of the Boys: A One Woman Play About Margaret Sloss at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 in Tye Recital Hall.

Cox, who also is writing the play, was just starting her career as Sloss was ending hers. The two were friends, in part due to Sloss' longtime interest in theater.

"I remember being on a bus with her once that was taking 40 people to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis," Cox recalled. "The bus driver took a wrong turn and everyone was yelling, telling him what to do. Then Margaret, in her booming voice, said to the driver, 'Remember, this advice is worth as much as you're paying for it.' Sloss was witty, with a razor-sharp sense of humor."

Cox will combine her own insights with archival material to portray an older Sloss who reflects back on her life and work.

Sloss was 10 when her family moved to Ames in 1910. They lived across the street from the Vet Med complex (now Lagomarcino), which became a hangout for her. (Her father was superintendent of buildings and the family later moved into what is now the Sloss House.) She watched operations with a fearless eye -- other kids would leave before an operation was over, but not Sloss. Her less serious side had her leading friends down a mail chute behind Curtiss Hall and crawling into the dome of Beardshear for fun.

"I think it's characteristic of intelligence when people have a spirit of adventure and curiosity, which Margaret had," Cox said. "She took her work quite seriously, but didn't take herself seriously."

Penny Rice, director of the Margaret Sloss Women's Center, asked Cox to create the play in honor of the center's 25th anniversary.

"Sloss was radical for her time," Rice said, adding that Sloss never seemed to complain about the hurdles she encountered. Her speeches often delivered positive messages, in a nutshell, encouraging people to use their gifts and go in search of what they want, rather than waiting for things to happen.

"There is really a lack of women's history, and this play offers one way to learn about it," Rice said. "I think people will come away from this feeling motivated and empowered and considering how to solve problems with new and different possibilities."


Not One of The Boys: A One-Woman Play About Margaret Sloss, written and performed by Jane Cox, ISU theater program

  • Thursday, Oct. 19
  • Tye Recital Hall, Music Hall
  • Wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Performance begins at 7 p.m.
  • Tickets ($25) on sale at the Sloss House

This event celebrates the 25th anniversary of ISU's Margaret Sloss Women's Center. All proceeds will be contributed to the center's programming and initiatives fund. For more information, call 4-4154.