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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Charlene Conklin papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1954-1981
Creator: Conklin, Charlene (1929-)
Extent: 7.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0004
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Member of the Iowa House of Representatives,1967 to 1969, and the Iowa Senate, 1969 to 1973.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 5) were donated by Charlene Conklin in 1984.

Preferred Citation: Charlene Conklin papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Charlene Conklin was born on July 10, 1929 on a farm in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, as Willa Charlene DeWitt, daughter of Charles and Viola DeWitt. After graduating from Griswold High School in 1947, she attended Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), graduating in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. From 1950 to 1952 Conklin taught English, speech, and mathematics at Massena (Iowa) High School. In 1952 she married Dr. Dwight E. Conklin, an anesthesiologist in practice at St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. The Conklins, who made their residence in Waterloo, raised five children. In 1953 Conklin graduated from the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) with a Master of Arts degree in speech pathology and audiology and worked from 1953 to 1954 as a speech therapist at the University Hospital for Handicapped Children in Iowa City.

In 1966, running as the candidate for the Republican Party, Conklin was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives from Black Hawk County to serve in the 62nd General Assembly for the 1967-1968 term. In 1968 she was elected to the Iowa Senate and served in that capacity for two consecutive terms, 1969-1970 (63rd General Assembly) and 1971-1972 (64th General Assembly). She served on the following Senate committees: Appropriations, Constitutional Amendments and Reapportionment, and Social Services, and was the ranking member on the Schools Committee. In 1973 she chose not to run for reelection.

Conklin is perhaps best known for being a key figure in the legislative struggle for the liberalization of abortion rights in the early 1970s. In fact, "she became in some sense the legislative point person for Iowa abortion reform"" (see "Iowa's Abortion Battles", by James C. Mohr in The Annals of Iowa, vol. 50, 1989, p. 71). However, efforts to liberalize Iowa's abortion policy in 1970 and 1971 were repeatedly defeated. The issue was raised again in 1973 after Conklin's retirement from the Senate, but the struggle for reform in Iowa and elsewhere was summarily preempted by the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 1971 Conklin, with four other senators, co-sponsored a resolution authorizing the State of Iowa to take possession of Terrace Hill mansion, the classic Victorian home of Frederick M. Hubbell in Des Moines for use either as the governor's mansion or a state museum, or both. After leaving office, Conklin helped organize and was elected president of the Terrace Hill Society, a non-profit group designed to provide funding for and give direction to the restoration of the mansion. The mansion was eventually restored and opened to the public in 1978.

The Charlene Conklin papers date from 1954 to 1981 (bulk 1965-1978) and measure 7 linear feet. They are arranged in three series: Biographical material, Speeches and writings, and Subject files.

The first, Biographical material, contains a press release with biographical data, a published biographical sketch, and a resume, arranged chronologically.

The second series, Speeches and writings, contains Conklin's speeches, speech notes, and her newspaper column, "Under the Gold Dome," arranged chronologically.

The third series, Subject files, comprises by far the bulk of the papers. It includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed materials, legislative bills both proposed and adopted (called House Files (H.F.) or Senate Files (S.F.)), campaign literature, a scrapbook, voting records, and other files relating to Conklin's legislative career, especially her efforts to liberalize Iowa's abortion policy, and to her subsequent involvement in acquiring and restoring the Terrace Hill mansion in Des Moines for the State of Iowa. Of special note in the Terrace Hill Society file is a complete set of blueprints for the mansion. This series is arranged alphabetically.
A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators oral histories (IWA): This collection includes the transcript of an interview with Charlene Conklin.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
Series 2: SPEECHES AND WRITING
Series 3: SUBJECT FILES

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
  • Box 1:
  • Press release [includes photograph] - 1966
  • Biographical notice from "Two Thousand Women of Achievement" - 1970-1971
  • Resume - 1973
  • Series 2: SPEECHES AND WRITING
  • Box 1:
  • Speeches - 1968-1971
  • "Under the Gold Dome": newspaper column - 1969-1970
  • Series 3: SUBJECT FILES
  • Box 1:
  • Abortion: Correspondence (2 folders) - 1969
  • Abortion: Correspondence (2 folders) - 1970
  • Anti-abortion reform, correspondence: January - 1971
  • Box 2:
  • Anti-abortion reform, correspondence: February (2 folders) - 1971
  • Anti-abortion reform, correspondence, undated - 1971
  • Pro-abortion reform, correspondence: January - 1971
  • Pro-abortion reform, correspondence: February - 1971
  • Pro-abortion reform, correspondence: March-December - 1971
  • Pro-abortion reform, correspondence, undated - 1971
  • "Voters' lobby": program on abortion on Iowa Educational Broadcast Network - 1971
  • Abortion: Correspondence - 1972
  • Abortion: Correspondence - 1973
  • Abortion resource file - 1969-1970
  • Box 3:
  • Abortion resource file (4 folders) - 1969-1970
  • Abortion resource file (2 folders) - 1971
  • Abortion resource file - 1972
  • Box 4:
  • Abortion resource file (2 folders) - 1973
  • Abortion resource file - 1974
  • Abortion bill from the State of Hawaii - 1970
  • Abortion laws: responses to "Zero population growth" newspaper query - 1971
  • Adoptions - 1971
  • Agriculture: Correspondence - 1969-1972
  • Agriculture: Resource file - 1969-1972
  • Alcohol and drugs - 1971-1972
  • Appointments - 1971-1972
  • Assistance payments (State) - 1970-1971
  • Blood alcohol testing legislation - 1969-1970
  • Bow hunting - 1971-1972
  • Campaign literature, undated
  • Cedar Valley Historical Society - 1971
  • Centralized purchasing and H.F. 129 - 1971
  • Coin laundry - 1971
  • Common law marriages - 1969-1970
  • Conservation - 1971-1972
  • County officers - 1972
  • Court employees - 1971
  • Box 5:
  • Court reform and S.F. 428 - 1971-1972
  • Courtesy letters - 1969-1973
  • Credit card legislation (S.F. 1247) - 1970
  • Dental practices - 1965-1967
  • Drugs: Education: Correspondence - 1971-1972
  • Drugs: Education: Resource file (including S.F. 1) - 1965-1971
  • Early childhood education - 1971-1972
  • Editorials (television and radio) - 1971-1972
  • Educational television: Correspondence - 1971-1972
  • Educational television: Resource file - 1971-1972
  • Election reform - 1971-1972
  • Environment and agriculture - 1971-1972
  • Environmental preservation - 1970-1971
  • Eyeglasses - 1971
  • Firemen - 1972
  • Flag (State of Iowa) - 1971
  • G.O.P. - 1972
  • Box 6:
  • Gun control: Correspondence - 1968-1969
  • Gun control: Resource file (including S.F. 175) - 1968-1969
  • Hake, Herbert (Director of Radio-TV, University of Northern Iowa): radio scripts - 1970-1972
  • Health, education, and welfare - 1971
  • Higher education - 1970
  • Higher education - 1971
  • Highways: Correspondence - 1969-1972
  • Highways: Resource file - 1971-1972
  • Historic landmarks of Black Hawk County - 1954-1971
  • Box 7:
  • Historic landmarks of Black Hawk County - 1954-1971
  • Historical societies - 1971
  • Home rule - 1971-1972
  • Hospitals - 1971
  • Iowa High School Athletic Association - 1970
  • Iowa history - 1970-1971
  • Iowa Public Employees Retirement System - 1971-1972
  • Judicial matters - 1971
  • Law enforcement - 1971-1972
  • Legislation needed in - 1973
  • Legislation research requested by Conklin - 1970-1971
  • Legislation sponsored by Conklin - 1970
  • Legislation sponsored by Conklin - 1971
  • Legislation sponsored by Conklin - 1972
  • Legislative contact persons (physicians) - 1972
  • Legislative issues - 1972
  • Legislative redistricting - 1971
  • Legislature - 1970-1972
  • "Liberty amendment" - 1971
  • Lotteries and liquor - 1971
  • Low rent housing - 1971
  • Box 8:
  • Majority rights: Correspondence - 1971-1972
  • Majority rights: Resource file - 1971-1972
  • Medical (licensing of physicians) (2 folders) - 1970-1972
  • Merit pay for teachers and H.F. 183 - 1971
  • Miscellaneous Correspondence - 1969-1970
  • Miscellaneous Correspondence - 1971
  • Miscellaneous Correspondence - 1972
  • Miscellaneous Resource file - 1970
  • Miscellaneous Resource file - 1971
  • Motor vehicles and S.F. 302 - 1971
  • Municipal court - 1972
  • National Guard - 1972
  • Natural history of Iowa - 1971-1972
  • Box 9:
  • Pending legislation - 1971
  • Personal correspondence - 1969-1972
  • Pets - 1971-1972
  • Pharmacy - 1971-1972
  • Politics - 1972
  • Priorities for - 1972
  • Proposed legislation - 1967-1971
  • Public employees (collective bargaining) - 1971
  • Public power districts - 1971
  • Reapportionment - 1972
  • Regents and private colleges - 1971-1972
  • Rural Electric Cooperatives - 1971
  • Schools: General correspondence - 1971
  • Schools: General correspondence - 1972
  • Schools: Appropriations (H.F. 121) - 1971
  • Schools: Bills proposed - 1971
  • Schools: Bus transportation - 1969
  • Box 10:
  • County schools systems: Correspondence (2 folders) - 1972
  • County school systems: Resource file - 1972
  • Department of Public Instruction (H.F. 709) - 1971
  • School: Elections - 1972
  • Schools: Litigation (Serrano case) - 1971
  • Schools: Lunch program - 1971
  • Schools: Malcolm Price Laboratory School, University of Northern Iowa - 1971
  • Schools: Miscellaneous - 1972
  • Private schools - 1966-1972
  • Box 11:
  • Schools: Publications - 1971
  • Schools: Reorganization - 1971-1972
  • State Board of Education - 1972
  • Superintendent of Schools: Blackhawk and Buchanan Counties - 1972
  • Superintendent of Schools: State Superintendent - 1971-1972
  • Schools: Systems and standards (interim studies) - 1971
  • Schools: Systems and standards (interim studies) - 1972
  • Schools: Waterloo - 1972
  • Scrapbook - 1969-1971
  • Senate rules - 1971
  • Senior citizens - 1971-1972
  • Sex discrimination - 1971
  • Sex education - 1971-1972
  • Social services - 1970-1972
  • State Capitol - 1965-1970
  • Box 12:
  • State Capitol - 1965-1970
  • State Historical Board: Membership and H.F. 1491 - 1977-1978
  • State Historical Board: Meeting agendas, Oct. 23, '74-Nov. 17, '77 - 1974-1977
  • State Historical Board: Minutes, Oct. 23, '74-June 1, '78 - 1974-1978
  • State Historical Museum Committee: Minutes, June 15-Dec. 15 - 1977
  • State Historical Society: Correspondence (2 folders) - 1973-1981
  • State Historical Society: Resource file (2 folders) - 1973-1981
  • Tax bill (early editions) - 1971
  • Box 13:
  • Taxation Study Committee: Membership, rules, and authorization - 1970-1971
  • Taxation Study Committee: Minutes, July 10-July 17 - 1970
  • Taxation Study Committee: Minutes, July 20-Aug. 7 - 1970
  • Taxation Study Committee: Minutes, Aug. 19, '70-Feb. 2, '71 - 1970-1971
  • Taxation Study Committee: Correspondence
  • Taxation Study Committee: Miscellaneous
  • Taxes: Correspondence
  • Taxes: Correspondence - 1967-1970
  • Taxes: Correspondence - 1971
  • Taxes: Correspondence - 1972
  • Taxes: Resource file - 1971-1972
  • Box 14:
  • Taxes: Exempt property - 1971-1972
  • Taxes: Property tax survey responses - 1971
  • Taxes: Questionnaire and responses (3 folders) - 1971
  • Taxes: Veterans' exemption - 1972
  • Terrace Hill: General correspondence - 1970-1978
  • Terrace Hill Planning Commission: Minutes - 1971-1975
  • Terrace Hill Society: General - 1955-1977
  • Box 15:
  • Terrace Hill Society: General (2 folders) - 1955-1977
  • Terrace Hill Society: Blueprints - 1962
  • Terrace Hill Society: Bylaws, Annual meetings, Minutes - 1975-1977
  • Terrace Hill Society: Committee reports - 1954-1975
  • Transportation - 1971
  • Unemployment compensation - 1971
  • University of Northern Iowa: Correspondence - 1967-1972
  • University of Northern Iowa: Newspaper clippings - 1967-1972
  • Voting records - 1965-1967
  • Ways and Means Committee - 1972
  • Women in politics - 1966-1970
  • Women's liberation - 1971-1972