Credited for being one of the founders of the National Bar Association in 1925, Gertrude Rush plight to become a lawyer was not an easy one. However, she overcame those obstacles and became the first African-American female lawyer in Iowa.
Rush was born in Navasota, Texas, to Frank and Sarah Durden. She later attended high schools in Parson, Kansas; and Quincy, Illinois. She married in 1907 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Des Moines College in 1914, later earning a law degree through distance learning at La Salle Extension University. Rush was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1918, and up until 1950, she remained the only female lawyer in Iowa.
She would later take over her husband’s law practice after his death. Rush was elected president of the Colored Bar Association in 1921. After being denied admission to the American Bar Association, Rush and four other African-American Lawyers founded the Negro Bar Association, later renamed National Bar Association.
In addition to taking over her husband’s law practice, Gertrude Rush also took his place as a community activist. She focused on women’s legal rights in estate cases in her law practice, while also looking for other ways to improve the African-American communities.
Rush also organized the Women’s Law and Political Study Group, served as a delegate to the Half Century Exposition of Negro Emancipation, and was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She died on September 5, 1962.