Guide to the Emma Harvat papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920-2001
Creator: Harvat, Emma (1870-1949)
Extent: 2.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0163
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: First woman mayor of Iowa City, serving from 1922 to 1925.

Administrative Information

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has not been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 235) were donated by Carl Stach, in 1994, (a nephew of Harvat's business partner, May Stach) and by Doris Malkmus (donor no. 731), 2001.

Preferred Citation: Emma Harvat 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

Biographical Note

Emma J. Harvat, the first woman mayor of Iowa City, was born in 1870 to Mary and Joseph Harvat. She was educated at Iowa City High School and Williams Commercial College. After working for several years at her uncle's stores,Lee Brothers Book and Stationery, Harvat bought into the business and became a partner. She later opened her own book store in Missouri, which she owned and operated for several years before selling it for a profit and returning to Iowa City. Upon her return in 1913, she opened the largest women's ready-wear clothing store in Iowa City with her business partner and friend, May Stach, and founded the Iowa City Professional and Business Women League.

In April 1921 Harvat ran on the Republican ticket for alderman-at-large and was elected. She served in that position until June 1922 when Iowa City's mayor resigned and the city council appointed her as standing mayor for the remainder of his term. Harvat thus became not only the first woman mayor of Iowa City, but also the first woman mayor of any city in the United States with a population over 10,000. Harvat was re-elected by the public to a second term. Her administration was known for running the city like a business and opposing bootleggers during prohibition. During her term as mayor, Harvat organized the first juvenile home in Iowa City and began paving Iowa City's streets. Harvat served as mayor until 1925. She died in 1949 at the age of 79.

Content Description

The Emma J. Harvat papers date from 1921 to 2001 and measure 2.5 linear inches. They include photocopies of numerous newspaper articles about Harvat's mayoral term published in the 1920s in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the San Francisco Examiner, Punch of London, The Evening Star of Shanghai, and her obituary published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The articles describe Harvat's business background, her political platform of ridding the city of bootlegging and gambling, and the decisions she made as mayor.

Additional newspaper articles and correspondence dating from 2000-2001 chronicle the efforts of a group of Iowa Citians to rename the city council chambers after Harvat, and declare August 25th Emma Harvat Day. The group was successful in 2001. The collection includes flyers, invitations, biographical information on Harvat, and announcements about the dedication as well as drafts of the script used in the ceremony. An interview with Carl Stach, the nephew of Harvat's business partner May Stach, reveals his early memories of Harvat. Photographs of Harvat, May Stach, and the home Harvat shared with Stach complete the collection.

Detailed Description of the Collection

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This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Harvat, Emma, 1870-1949
Stach, Carl
Stach, May

20th century

Women in public life
Women in politics


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Iowa City

Genre/Form of Materials:
Personal papers

Women, Politics and the Law