Governor Ray's Commission on the Status of Women was formed in the fall of 1969 when Governor Robert Ray convened a meeting in Des Moines of several Iowa women's organizations. Following the meeting, each organization submitted a list of suitable candidates to serve on the Commission. Ray appointed thirty-two women and men, including several legislators, to the Commission. Governor Ray's Commission on the Status of Women met for three years, from 1970 to 1972, when the Iowa legislature created a statutory Commission on the Status of Women. Many members of Governor Ray's Commission served on the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, which had its first meeting in 1973.
The purpose of Governor Ray's Commission on the Status of Women (GCSW), as stated in a May 1970 summary, was to "discover the status that women hold in this state and to advise the Governor as to how that status should and could be improved." Betty J. Durden chaired the GCSW, which defined itself as a "moderate" voice for women's rights. The Commission addressed issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), abortion reform, daycare, equal pay for equal work, and sex discrimination in employment, insurance, and education. At the end of 1970, the GCSW reported two major legislative accomplishments: the passage of no-fault divorce laws and the addition of "sex" to the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Governor Ray's Commission on the Status of Women records date from 1964 to 2003 and measure 7.5 linear inches. They are arranged in four series: History, Ralph Brown's files, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, and Resource Files.
The History series (1964-2003) includes the first report of Governor Hughes's Commission on the Status of Women in Iowa, which Governor Hughes appointed in 1964; this Commission was dissolved when Governor Hughes left office in 1968, and was succeeded by Governor Ray's Commission on the Status of Women (GCSW). In 2002, Patrice Beam conducted interviews with several early GCSW members. This series includes the audiotapes and partial transcripts of these interviews (see appended notes about the interviews). Durden used these interviews and other primary documents such as reports, minutes, press releases, and newspaper clippings to compile, edit, and write an "Informal Retrospective of Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray's Commission on the Status of Women, 1969-1972," which is also included in this series. The "Retrospective" documents the GCSW's goals and accomplishments with annotated primary documents, and includes an introduction that describes the history of the GCSW and its transition to a statutory commission in 1973.
The Commission's work--especially its 1970 legislative efforts to change divorce and abortion laws, and pass the ERA--is documented with local, state, and national newspaper clippings. Many clippings describe the 1970 Women's Strike for Equality Day and discuss the emerging women's movement. A general report on the background and work of the Commission written in 1970 and annual reports with recommendations to the Governor in 1971 and 1972 complete the series.
The Ralph Brown series (1969-1975) documents Brown's work as chair of the legislative committee of the Commission. The Administration folder includes lists of Commission members, meeting minutes, press releases, and correspondence. The Legislative committee folder includes correspondence with legislators, committee members, and members of commissions in other states on bills the Commission supported, statements to the Republican and Democratic Parties' platform committees, and reports on the committee's work. The ERA file includes the statement presented by the Commission to the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on the proposed ERA, and correspondence with national leaders U.S. Senator Birch Bayh and U.S. Congresswoman Martha Griffiths. The Abortion file includes press releases on the bill the Commission supported to reform Iowa's abortion laws, the roll call vote on the 1971 bill to reform Iowa's abortion laws (which failed 56-44), a copy of Roe v. Wade, and a copy of the 1973 Iowa decision in Doe v . Turner, which held that Iowa's abortion statute was unconstitutional in light of Roe. The Speeches and articles folder includes a statement made by Brown at a December 1970 seminar called "Women's Role in Today's World: Privileges . . . Responsibilities," a speech given at the De Witt Lions Club Ladies Night called "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle . . . Is Also the Hand that Cradles the Rock," and a guest article published in the Quad Cities Times-Democrat titled "Equal Rights and Responsibilities." The Interstate commission folder includes copies of the organization's bylaws and miscellaneous correspondence. The Department of Labor folder includes a report on statutory commissions on the status of women, a fact sheet on changing patterns in women's lives, and information on a program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the department.
The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) series (1972-1975) contains a short history of the ICSW, the ICSW's annual reports to the legislature, and a 1975 paper submitted to the legislature titled "A Study of Insurance Practices That Affect Women." Pamphlets published by the ICSW pertain to women and Iowa law, sexism in schools, and the work of the Commission. A proposed bill affecting the treatment of male and female members of armed forces and a study released by the Iowa Women's Political Caucus on the gender imbalance on state-appointed commissions in Iowa are located in the Miscellaneous folder.
The Resource files series (1968-1974) includes booklets, handbooks, reports, and pamphlets on topics such as the ERA, organizing local and state commissions on the status of women, the effects of sex-role stereotyping in children's educational materials, and women and labor.
APPENDED NOTES ON THE INTERVIEWS FOR THE RECORDS OF GOVERNOR RAY'S COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
Dorothy Goetsch: Served as vice-chair of the Commission, from Davenport. Supervised 14 Fannie Mae candy stores in eastern Iowa and Illinois. Had worked with the unions in this capacity and was aware that women were pushing for more rights. She was the legislative chair for Republican Women's Clubs of Iowa, and a very active chair. Her husband, Howard Goetsch later became the fire chief. She loves politics and is disappointed that so many women still avoid it. She watches C-Span all the time! Women should realize how much politics affects their lives.
Edwin C. Lewis: Professor of psychology at Iowa State University in 1969, and also helped run the honors program there. His research had been on women's career development, and that was probably why he was asked to join the Commission.
Evelyne Villines: Executive Director of the Governor's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped in 1969. It was an independent state agency, and there were not very many women who headed state agencies in those days; she had been appointed to that position by Governor Hughes. She was disabled with polio at age 3. She thinks she was chosen for the GCSW in order to show that disabled people can still raise a family, flourish in leadership positions, and enjoy life.
Ralph Brown: Attorney who had just graduated from Drake Law School in spring 1969 and passed the Iowa bar that summer. He had worked on Governor Ray's campaign, and figures he was on Ray's list to get some kind of job. He was thrilled at the opportunity to serve in this capacity, as his friend Cris (Wilson) was also on the Commission, and there was so much to do in the area of women's legal rights. He headed the legislative committee. His office is in Dallas Center.
Arlene Dayhoff: In 1969, she was married and did a lot of political and other volunteer work. She was a retired nurse and volunteered with Red Cross. She worked on Joan Lipsky's campaign, which is probably why she was selected for the Commission. She and Lipsky had often discussed women's issues and problems in areas such as insurance, housing, education, and employment. Her mother was a suffragist, and so she was happy to accept this appointment.
Betty Durden: Chair of the Commission. She had just come to Drake to start a continuing education program for women; she had previously worked at the Des Moines YWCA on employment issues for women. She raised the issue with Governor Ray--other states had commissions, Iowa should too. Ray asked her to attend the national meeting of state commissions which was held in Washington, DC in May 1969.
Alice McKee: The first Executive Director of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women after the Governor's Commission became statutory. She was enrolled at Drake at the time--had been very active in AAUW at state and national levels. Her children were old enough, and the women's movement was first and foremost on the minds of many women.