Four of Iowa’s 99 counties are named after women. One is located along the Mississippi River --- named after a fugitive. Another located along the Cedar River is named after a famous writer. A county in Western Iowa is named for the first child of immigrants in the area and another after a famous Native American woman.

Probably the most obvious is Pocahontas County, named in honor of Pocahontas, the Native American. The name of was suggested by Iowa Senator, John Howell of Jefferson County in the 1850s. The county is located in the northwest quadrant of the state.


Ida County, located in Western Iowa along Highway 20, is named after Ida Smith, the first child of European immigrants to be born in this region. But her family eventually moved to Woodbury County and created the village of Smithland.

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Louisa County, located in Southeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River, was named in honor of Louisa Massey. According to IowaGenWeb, in 1834, Woodbury Massey, a new resident of Dubuque, purchased a mining claim. He later learned that it was also claimed by a Mr. Smith and his son. A judge awarded the claim to Mr. Massey and when he arrived at the site to evict the Smiths he was shot and killed.

In anger, the Henry, the brother of Woodbury Massey, shot and killed his brother’s murderer.  Vowing revenge, William Smith rode to Dubuque and announced he would kill the first Massey he met. 16-year-old Louisa Massey had heard of his arrival, and saw Smith in a dusty street.

Ordering Smith to turn and defend himself, Louisa fired a pistol and hit him in the chest, mortally wounding him. He had a large wallet in his chest pocket, preventing the bullet from entering his body. He lived for two years but eventually died from internal injuries caused by the shooting.

Louisa fled Iowa after the shooting and lived in Illinois until her death in 1849. Although technically a fugitive, no attempt was ever made to arrest her. See the newspaper clipping of the story HERE.

However, other historians claim the name was given in honor of Louisa County, Virginia.

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435 square mile Bremer County was established 170 years ago in 1851, less than three years after Iowa became the 29th state.

It was named in 1850 by Iowa’s second Governor, Stephen P. Hempstead, who was an admirer of the Swedish writer, Frederika Bremer. Bremer County is thought to be the only Iowa county named after a person in literature.

Fredrika Bremer was born on August 17, 1801, in what is now known as Turku, in Finland.

She is considered founder of the Swedish novel. Her first works, Sketches of Everyday Life volumes, were very popular in Britain and the United States in the 1840s and 1850s.

She became known for women's emancipation in Sweden. She wanted women to be allowed to study in both elementary schools and universities to become professors, judges, and physicians. She argued that women were owed the same rights as men.

She died in Sweden on New Year’s Eve in 1865.

The town of Frederika in Bremer County, although spelled differently, is named after her.

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