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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Polk County Women's Political Caucus records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1974-1987
Creator: Polk County Women's Political Caucus
Extent: 8.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0748
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: County branch of a national organization to support candidates who promote women's rights and women's participation in the political process.

Access: The records are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The records (donor no. 20) were donated by Victoria Herring in 1998 as part of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus records.

Preferred Citation: Polk County Women's Political Caucus records, 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

Upon her return from the first National Women's Political Caucus convention in Texas in early 1973, Roxanne Barton Conlin, then Assistant Attorney General for the State of Iowa, initiated the organization of both a state and a local chapter of the caucus. She called a meeting for June 26, 1973 to organize the Polk County Women's Political Caucus (PCWPC); Jo Von Stein served as the chair, and the caucus became active almost immediately. The first monthly newsletter was published in July 1973, and an application for affiliation with the newly-formed state chapter was submitted in June 1974.

The caucus was governed by a Steering Committee consisting of the chair, vice-chair, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, treasurer, parliamentarian, three delegates to the State Steering Committee, and chairs of the standing committees, initially Political Action, Finance, Public Relations, Membership, Legislative, and Program. At times, additional members were appointed to the Steering Committee to represent other organizations of interest to the caucus, including the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and the Metro Women's Network. The Steering Committee met monthly. The PCWPC membership lists from 1974-1975 show nearly 300 members, while those from 1983-1984 (last available in collection) are closer to 200 members.

The purpose of the organization as stated in the bylaws was to "ensure first class citizenship and free and equal participation in the political process" to all persons of the state of Iowa. The caucus supported candidates who promoted women's rights, and worked to increase women's participation in the political process as voters, activists, lobbyists, candidates, campaign workers, and elected officials. The priorities of the caucus covered a wide range of issues including sexism in education and the workplace, the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, child care, and improving women's access to credit. The caucus placed an emphasis on active involvement in local elections; members distributed questionnaires to candidates to learn their views, hosted candidate forums for school board, city council, and other local elections, and endorsed candidates.

The PCWPC faced internal conflict on some of the same issues that were difficult for the state caucus: establishing endorsement guidelines and procedures, maintaining an active membership, and having a clear and unified purpose. The records show repeated returns to discussions of these themes.

As an affiliate member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus (IWPC) located in the state capital and largest city of Iowa, the PCWPC was more involved with the IWPC than most local caucuses. The IWPC held many events in Des Moines, including lobbying efforts, receptions for legislators, and the annual auction, and also hosted occasional visits by members of the National Women's Political Caucus. Many of the chairs of the IWPC and other high profile political women in Iowa were members of the PCWPC, including Katherine Ella, Alicia Claypool, Roxanne Conlin, Victoria Herring, Louise Noun, Mary Louise Smith, Julia Gentleman, and Jo Ann Zimmerman.

The Polk County Women's Political Caucus records date from 1974 to 1987 and measure eight linear inches. The records were part of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus records donated by Victoria Herring, but were separated to form their own collection. Records for the earlier years of the PCWPC can be found in the Iowa Women's Political Caucus collection, which also contains a more extensive collection of the PCWPC newsletters. The records are arranged in three series: Administrative Records, Political Activities, and Organizational Affiliations.

The collection consists primarily of the Administrative Records of the organization, including bylaws, Steering Committee minutes, Annual Meeting minutes, financial reports, and extensive membership records. Of note are the handwritten ledger in which the Steering Committee recorded its minutes from 1978-1982, the 1979 membership handbook which contains a comprehensive list of current members, and the untabulated 1982 membership surveys which were returned by about fifty members.

In addition, there are records that document many of the caucus's Political Activities, including the endorsements of candidates and candidate questionnaires and forums. The candidate questionnaires are very detailed, and demonstrate the seriousness the caucus placed upon the need to form a constituency to influence elected officials and effectively advocate women's issues. The questions indicate which issues the caucus found most compelling in each election. The file on endorsements contains a letter dated September 15, 1984 from Kappie Spencer in which she voices strong objections to a PCWPC candidate endorsement decision. Her letter and the accompanying answer illustrate one aspect of the tensions over this issue.

Finally, there are records showing some of the Organizational Affiliations of the PCWPC, including the state and national Women's Political Caucuses, correspondence with state and local governmental agencies, and other miscellaneous organizations with which the caucus worked. A list of state legislators attending a 1987 Iowa Women's Political Caucus-sponsored reception is impressive; it contains close to seventy-five names, including Ralph Rosenberg, Jean Lloyd-Jones, Elaine Baxter, Richard Varn, Bev Hannon, David Osterberg, Minnette Doderer, Mary Neuhauser and Tom Miller. It is a good demonstration of the political respect the IWPC had achieved.
Iowa Women's Political Caucus records (IWA)
Roxanne Conlin papers (IWA): Conlin was a founder of the PCWPC.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: ADMINISTRATIVE
Series 2: POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
Series 3: ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Series 1: ADMINISTRATIVE
  • Sub-Series: Bylaws
  • Box 1:
  • Bylaws - 1976, 1981, 1985
  • Sub-Series: Financial records
  • Box 1:
  • Budgets and budget comparisons - 1982-1987
  • Political action committee treasurer's reports - 1981-1986
  • Treasurer's reports - 1981-1987
  • Sub-Series: Meetings
  • Box 1:
  • Annual (3 folders) - 1982-1986
  • Member - 1985
  • Steering committee (2 folders) - 1977-1987
  • Sub-Series: Membership
  • Box 1:
  • Attendance sheets - 1981-1984
  • Committee report and records - 1981
  • Committee report - 1984
  • Handbook - 1979
  • Lists: Officers, committee chairs, and committee members - 1982-1986
  • Lists: Miscellaneous - 1980-1986
  • Packet - 1982
  • Recruitment materials - 1982-1985
  • Reporting forms to and rebates from state chapter - 1984-1987
  • Surveys - 1982, 1984
  • Telephone trees - 1981-1984
  • Sub-Series: Memos to steering committee
  • Box 1:
  • Memos to steering committee - 1981-1985
  • Sub-Series: Miscellaneous
  • Box 1:
  • General, undated
  • Reports and memos - 1981-1985
  • Series 2: POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
  • Box 2:
  • Candidate questionnaires and forums - 1976-1985
  • Endorsement guidelines, recommendations, and issues - 1978-1985
  • Newsletter and flyers - 1974-1985
  • Miscellaneous events and activities - 1984-1987
  • Series 3: ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES
  • Box 2:
  • City and state government - 1978, 1983
  • Iowa Women's Political Caucus - 1979-1987
  • National Women's Political Caucus - 1985
  • Other organizations - 1978-1985