DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds has proclaimed Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, as “Mia Peterson Day in Iowa'' to commemorate the 50th birthday of an under-recognized Iowan who worked throughout her adult life to promote self-advocacy and equal treatment.
Peterson served in state and national roles while living in Iowa and Ohio. She returned to Iowa in 2005, and passed away in 2021, but her legacy endures. The proclamation includes Peterson’s belief that we should "let people with disabilities speak for themselves, and don't let others speak for them."
Iowa Developmental Disability Council Chair Brady Werger of Waverly will read the proclamation during a ceremony at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at the State Historical Building of Iowa in Des Moines. It will be live-streamed via Facebook Live. The program will serve as the official event for the proclamation.
“Mia Peterson created a lifelong advocacy legacy,” Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Brooke Lovelace said. “She was an inspiration to everyone, always encouraging people to be their own voice. This proclamation just keeps her legacy alive and will continue to encourage others to be their own advocate.”
Peterson was born in Sioux City in 1973, grew up in Webster City, and became the first person with Down syndrome to serve on the Iowa Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, known today as the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council. She would go on to testify before Congress, serve on the National Developmental Disabilities Council, and be viewed as a national trailblazer for self-advocacy.
“I learned of Mia Peterson’s importance shortly after her death,” said Leo Landis, state curator for the State Historical Society of Iowa. “She was a model for all Iowans to seek ways to shape society. When we wanted to recognize Iowans who changed our state and nation in our ‘Civics in Action’ exhibit, I wanted to include her, and we are honored to share a bit of her story. We can all learn from her example.”
The State Historical Museum of Iowa’s “Civics in Action” exhibit features the Iowa caucuses and Iowans of action with more than 60 artifacts, including Peterson’s Olympic torch, a Ding Darling political cartoon, election tickets from the 1860s and '70s, Iowa caucus artifacts – banners, buttons, brochures – and the pen Ambassador Terry Branstad used when he was governor to sign legislation for the construction of the State Historical Building.
The State Historical Society of Iowa has been a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy since 1857. With a dual mission of preservation and education, it maintains a museum, two research centers, and seven historic sites. The society preserves and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources through a variety of statewide programs, exhibitions and projects while serving as an advocate for Iowa’s past and connector to the future. The society is part of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. Follow the State Historical Society of Iowa on Facebook and Instagram.