Cover photo for Charlotte B. Nelson's Obituary
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1931 Charlotte B. Nelson 2023

Charlotte B. Nelson

June 28, 1931 — July 9, 2023


Charlotte Bowers Nelson, 92, died on Sunday July 09, 2023 in Chicago, IL. She was born in Bristol, VA and
raised in Bristol, TN, the daughter of Dr. Thaddeus and Ruth Bowers. Charlotte was the treasured wife of the
late Dr. Gustav C. Nelson for 54 years.

Charlotte attended Duke University, where she majored in sociology and graduated summa cum laude and Phi
Beta Kappa. She also received a master of arts degree in religion from Columbia University; and a master of
public administration degree from Drake University.

After her graduation from Duke, Charlotte served as the director of teen programs for the YWCA in her
hometown. After graduating from Columbia University, she taught religion and sociology at Beaver College in

Charlotte was president of the League of Women Voters in Beloit, WI and office manager for the League of
Women Voters of Iowa. She coordinated the first course in women’s studies at Drake University in Des Moines,

After earning her MPA she served as an intern for the Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, then as a staff member for
the Iowa Department of Human Services. In 1985, Charlotte was appointed as the Executive Director of the
Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, a position she held for 22 years, through both Republican and
Democratic administrations.

Throughout her career Charlotte’s work was anchored by her lifelong belief in the inherent value of all human
beings. At the Commission, she represented and advocated for women and girls with legislators, government
officials, and the people of Iowa. She promoted pay equity, gender balance on state boards, initiating equity-
related legislation (including naming two state office buildings for women, supporting family planning, and
combating domestic violence and sexual assault), and served on a special State committee on welfare reform.

Charlotte was kind, caring, and relentless in her pursuit of what is right and just. After retiring, she continued
her advocacy by serving on the boards of several organizations, including Iowa Friends of Legal Services, Iowa
CareGivers, Westminster House, and the National Association of Commissions on the Status of Women.

Charlotte was a loving wife, devoted mother, and doting grandmother. She and Gus were dedicated fans of
Duke basketball, and adventurous travelers who saw much of the world together. She made friends wherever
she went; people were drawn to her because of her genuine interest in them and their lives.

Charlotte was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, and her sister, Ruth Elizabeth “Betsy Bell”
Harward. She is survived by her brother, Thaddeus Ray Bowers III (Judy) and her daughter Ruth Bendig
(Brian), sons David (Michelle) and Thomas, and grandchildren Krystal, Cullan, Charlotte, Joshua, Christopher,
John David, and Caroline. She was a loving aunt to her nieces and nephews, and mentor to many. Charlotte
made an immeasurable difference in the lives of those lucky enough to know her, and will be sorely missed.

“Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye, in every gesture dignity and love”


A memorial service will be held at a later date. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to
Iowa CareGivers, Planned Parenthood, or a charity of your choice.



Arrangements entrusted to Chicagoland Cremation Options of Schiller Park, IL

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Charlotte B. Nelson, please visit our flower store.
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