Thursday, November 11, 2021
By Payten Little

On this Veteran’s Day, Iowa Law is proud to share the story of alumna Phyllis Propp Fowle (33JD). Phyllis was accustomed to being a woman of firsts. She was one of only two female graduates in Iowa Law’s Class of 1933 and was in the first group of women to sign up for the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps when it was created in 1942. She went on to become the first female judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the United States Army, the first female post judge advocate, the first judge advocate to earn a combat patch and overseas service stripes, and the only female judge advocate to serve overseas in World War II.

Class of 1933 class composite photo
Iowa Law Class of 1933 class composite photo. Phyllis is pictured four rows up and center. 

As a legal assistance officer, Phyllis advised soldiers on a broad range of personal legal matters, including wills, estates, family law, and income taxes.

During Phyllis’ time as a JAG officer she was sent to Europe and processed hundreds of legal cases in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, Germany. In 1947 the army discharged all women, but they asked Colonel Propp to remain in Europe and serve as the civilian chief of legal assistance, which she did until 1951.

After meeting her husband in Germany, she moved to New York where she served on the board of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), and held terms as president of the Riverdale Committee on Intergroup Relations. She also served as president of the chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America.

Towards the end of her career, she served as advocate general in the Army Reserve in New York City. Often times, she would work on encouraging female law students to follow her path into military service.

In 1999, Phyllis was named Distinguished Member of the Judge Advocate General's Regiment, the regiment's highest award, and a suite at the JAG school was named in her honor. In 2000 the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession awarded her its Trailblazer's Certificate.

Phyllis officially retired from practice in 2018.

She was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001, a year after her passing

Phyllis was a trailblazer who paved the way for women lawyers to serve their country as both a soldier and attorney. Her commitment to her practice, her country, and her dedication to paving a path for other women lawyers to follow, was truly unmatched.

We thank her for her incredible service and thank all those who have served our country.