(July 12, 1876-Sept. 7, 1965). Nelle Bowman was born in Knightstown, Indiana, and moved to Indianapolis as a child. She graduated from Shortridge High School and Indianapolis Normal College. She was an Indianapolis Public Schools teacher from 1897-1907. In 1902, she married bank executive Brandt Chase Downey. The couple had two sons, Brandt C. Downey Jr., who died at age 11, and Bowman Downey.

Downey led successful fundraising campaigns for the Indianapolis Community Fund (see United Way Of Central Indiana). She also organized and headed its Women’s and Junior Speakers Bureau. She served six times as state chairperson and Indiana representative for the National Women’s Committee for the Mobilization of Human Needs (1929-1935), a national group charged with raising funds for local community funds. During World War Ii Downey was chief of the block system of the Marion County Civilian Defense Council.

Downey represented Marion County in the General Assembly for six terms, from 1941 to 1948 and again from 1951 to 1954. Her work in the legislature focused on public welfare and education. Among other accomplishments, she helped to modernize the state public school and child welfare laws. She was appointed the Indianapolis representative to the National Probation Association in 1947.

Among many community organizations, Downey was active in the Propylaeum, woman’s department club, Ywca, Indianapolis Home for the Aged, Alpha Home, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Women’s Committee (known as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Association as of 2018), Daughters of the American Revolution, and Indianapolis Council of Affiliated Church Women. She was president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Indianapolis Public Schools 27, 68, and 70.

Revised March 2021

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