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COLLECTIVE MEMORIES: on Being in League

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December 2018

COLLECTIVE MEMORIES: On Being in League

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of Johnson County

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emories are part of our identity. Both personally and League’s foundational nonpartisanship, to study issues, work out collectively, we rely on memory—and memories—to guide positions, and advocate. us, to remind us who we are and what we hope to be and In addition to memories, these long-term members share some of do, and to keep us in the present but looking to the future. their collective wisdom: Don’t close doors on yourself; try to open As a part of the League of Women Voters’ upcoming centennial them. Retain what works—the studies, and the open and nonpartisan commemoration, our LWVJC planning committee decided to ask long voter services. Revive things that might work again—the observer -term local League members to share their recollections of their corps of the 1960s and 1970s, or the thorough and substantive years in the organization. We wanted to celebrate their individual League-sponsored national Presidential debates. Try something new— achievements and their thoughts on the past, present, and future of a transportation committee. Use the upcoming League centennial in the League. Newer members conducted the interviews, knowing they 2020 as a time for reflection and a renewal of efforts. Persist! would gain knowledge and inspiration from the senior members, who The editors of this volume are grateful for the services of many would in turn enjoy meeting newer colleagues. Six newer members others, including proofreader Katy Hansen, online publisher Linda volunteered. From this volume of recollections by nine long-term Schreiber, copyeditor Gail Zlatnik, and interviewers Susan Enzle, Johnson County League members emerges a sense of the League’s Simone Frierson, Talor Gray, Tessa Heeren, Shiela Slocum and collective identity, as well as the unique contributions that each has Dhuha Tawil. All the credit for this collaboration goes to them and made to creating our organization. to long-term members Barbara Beaumont, Claudine Harris, Pat Of the common threads weaving together the stories recorded here, Jensen, Jean Lloyd-Jones, Nancy Lynch, Nancy Porter, Rebecca several stand out. One is the joy of each new member in belonging to Reiter, Carol Spaziani and Sally Stutsman. an organization whose origins are in the woman-suffrage movement’s Syndy Conger and Gaylen Wobeter century-long struggle. Another is the professional sense of co-editors commitment to League work, which each has understood as essential to securing for all US citizens the right to vote and to participate in democracy. A third is the freedom each of them has felt, within the December 2018

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arbara Beaumont. An active member of the League of Women Voters for more than fifty-five years, Barbara Beaumont is a star example of staying power. She first joined the League in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1962, when she was twenty-three, married, and a stay-at-home mom. From her early participation in League study groups, she thought that some issues, such as land use, could be “boring” (at least that was her perception then, as a new and very young League member). Nevertheless, the League provided her with opportunities to learn about the Princeton community. After moving to Iowa City in 1964, Barbara discovered that involvement in the League was a creative way to engage with other adults in adult-oriented activities.

the expectation that Barbara read it and cast an informed vote. Indeed, Barbara voted.

Not surprisingly, Barbara has witnessed numerous changes in the League over her years of membership. Among LWVJC’s Barbara has never settled for being a League member in name activities that are only. From 1998 to 2003, when she lived in Rochester, Minnesota, she transferred her membership to the League there now only history is the publication of and served on the Rochester board for four years. In Iowa she a communityhas served two terms as president of LWVJC and has been the Voter Services chair. She has organized candidate and legislative resource booklet, forums and participated in study groups, becoming an advocate included in Iowa City’s Welcome for League positions and bringing them to greater public and Wagon package. government awareness. She has served on the board of the Updating the League of Women Voters of Iowa and attended national booklet every ten conferences on behalf of both LWVIA and LWVJC. years was a tedious Barbara considers the role she took in organizing candidate and task in the prelegislative forums to be her most important official contribution Internet, preto the League. In addition, she found it personally rewarding to Google era. know our legislators and be able to have better-informed and Barbara was relieved to learn from a League member at the comfortable communication with them. state level that the LWVJC didn’t have to compile the When asked what has inspired her through more than a halfcommunity-resource booklet. (The booklet survived without the century of League engagement, Barbara credits her mother, League and is now the responsibility of the local libraries; Pauline, who was a nurse before becoming a stay-at-home mom. information is available to the public through the Internet as A naturalized American citizen from Canada, Pauline stressed to well as in print form.) her daughter that “voting and being informed are duties as well Another now-vanished activity of the League is the “observer as privileges.” During a college break, Barbara discovered what corps.” Members of the corps attended public meetings such as her mother meant: Barbara arrived home to learn that there was those of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, which on an upcoming school board election, and she knew nothing about occasion sought input from their observers. As a member of the the candidates. Her mother placed an article in her hands with 4

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“Voting and being informed are duties as well as privileges.” Barbara Beaumont

pumps and dresses, with sandwich boards hanging from their shoulders. Can any of us imagine twenty-first-century League members so attired marching in downtown Iowa City? That surely would get attention!

What does Barbara see in the League’s future? Barbara is concerned about the dwindling number of local chapters across corps, Barbara was assigned to the Iowa City Community School the state (there are now only eleven) and the urgent need to District board during what proved to be tumultuous years for the attract new generations of members. But how will this happen? board and in turn a rather stressful experience for her. Since Perceptions of the League vary. Younger women have voiced many public meetings are now available on cable television and/ concerns to her about the preponderance of “gray heads” in the or over the Internet, the need for an observer corps has become League. Some view the League as too partisan, even though less compelling, although League members still occasionally nonpartisanship is a League bedrock; some see it as not partisan attend public meetings on behalf of the League. enough. Barbara observed that today’s Americans are much less inclined to join civic organizations, the League included, citing The League has changed in another significant way: the “how” of a League study differs. Chairing a study group in the past was Robert Putman’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. She also wishes that the League could overwhelming to many, Barbara included, because so much study more issues but realizes that is unlikely, given the time energy and time were required to collect information through involved. interviews and by researching library archives. The advent of search engines has expedited the information-collection process. The League’s survival is linked to those activities that are Study group members now have more time to evaluate their specifically targeted at citizens, that is, voter education and research and develop thoughtful, well-informed registration, as well as the nonpartisan legislative and candidate recommendations for League positions. forums. While other organizations, like the Chamber of Ironically, what had been a “boring” topic to a twentysomething Barbara—land use, and the need to preserve land in Johnson County in the face of constant pressures for development—emerged as a primary concern for her. Her passion for conservation and preservation of the land led to the generous gift of forty acres that she and her husband, Kurt Hamann, made to the Bur Oak Land Trust, a parcel now known as the Muddy Creek Preserve. Barbara served on the Johnson County Comprehensive Planning Committee in 2017 and has been an active leader in the Sierra Club Iowa City chapter for many years. Barbara has been not only a League activist but also an environmental activist. Barbara could not provide a photograph of her early (1960s) League advocacy work in Iowa City on behalf of campaign finance reform. We are left to visualize her, along with other League members, marching along Clinton Street in high-heeled December 2018

Commerce, may appear to copy the League’s forums, they usually have a narrower focus, with questions targeted at that organization’s interests. Barbara believes that the League’s approach is distinctive because it includes forum co-sponsors, allows the audience to ask questions, and welcomes all who wish to attend. (She adds that the latter would seem to be obvious aspects of a forum of elected officials, yet we know that at some “public” forums, the audience has no voice and not everyone who wishes is permitted to attend.) Reflecting upon her involvement with the League, Barbara modestly remarked that she has gained more from the League than the League has from her. She hopes that people remember her for being a “do it” person. She will certainly be remembered as a star League member with staying power!

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laudine Harris. When Claudine Harris was born in Paris, France, in 1926, the League of Women Voters was just six years old. “Born” almost four thousand miles away, in the country to which Claudine would move as a teenager in 1941, the League was just waiting for Claudine’s citizenship, membership, and energy. Her citizenship was established in 1948, not long before the presidential election, and Claudine well remembers the excitement of casting her first vote. She initially joined the League in 1961, in Massachusetts, then a young mother at home with small children and little time for involvement other than attending meetings. She was inspired by the examples of her great-aunt, a member of the International Council of Women, and her mother, a League member in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1940s.

“The best protection any woman can have . . . is courage.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Claudine’s League membership became active soon after she and her family moved to Iowa City, in 1967, when her husband began employment at the University of Iowa. She saw a notice for a meeting, she says—and just went! League meetings were held during the day, permitting stay-at-home mothers to attend even as students and others with daytime responsibilities were less likely to be included. Unemployed at the time, she became the editor of the Voter, the League’s newsletter, in part because of her ability to format copy on her business typewriter, an unusual talent in pre-computer times. She also worked on the laboriously compiled directory to Johnson County government, a booklet, then being written by League member Ruth Bonfiglio, that was a unique source of local information. She also remembers making fundraising calls on behalf of the League, “preferring bright sunny days” that made her and the potential donors more receptive to such tasks. Claudine cites as her most rewarding League experience her attendance at the legislative forums held every year by LWVJC, during the state legislative session. There she found that the questions she asked legislators and the answers they offered to the listening public were a means to promote mental services in her role as legislative chair of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She and her husband had been instrumental in founding

COLLECTIVE MEMORIES: On Being in League

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“There is plenty of work ahead.” Claudine Harris the Iowa City chapter of NAMI (the name of which reveals our evolving understanding of the issues; it was originally the Alliance for the Mentally Ill). Each served as president of the local group, and Claudine was president of NAMI-Iowa from 1992 to 1996. Claudine became increasingly active in NAMI, even as she retained many of the close friendships she’d nurtured through the League. Nor is the League’s work finished, she believes, and not just in its concerns for mental health services.

"I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality."

“There is plenty of work ahead,” she says. The best advice she can offer? “Don’t close doors on yourself. Try to open them”— wise words that have sustained a journey of thousands of miles, and a lifetime nearly as long as the League’s.

Alice Paul

Simone Frierson

December 2018

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at Jensen met her husband, Dwight, at the University of Iowa, while both were studying journalism. After marriage and graduation, they moved to Des Moines to work for the Des Moines Register. Dwight was covering governmental and political stories and suggested to Pat that she might enjoy both the work and the members of the League of Women Voters. As a busy mother of two young daughters, with a third child on the way, Pat decided that she might enjoy having more time with adults. She went to the newcomers coffee, joined the League, got involved in a committee—and the rest is history! That was 1959, and fifty-nine years later she is still a vibrant, active, inspirational, and contributing member of the League. If you ask what has sustained her many years of service—she has been designated a lifetime member by the national League and is the historian of LWVJC—she will say that she finds what the League does “very interesting,” and she especially enjoys studying government and related issues. She adds, “Over the years, some of my best friends have been League members.” Throughout her research, study, lobbying, writing, leading, speaking, teaching, and organizing, Pat has worked on all levels of the League, local, regional, state, and national. As a result, she can explain to new members the intricacies of the League’s multilevel calendars of state and national conventions, and local, state, and national studies and positions. She has been president for four Leagues over the years: the LWV of the National Capitol Area (1973–75), as well as those of the state of Virginia (1979–81), Johnson County (2000–02), and the state of Iowa (2003–05). While in the DC area, she also served on the board of the national League of Women Voters (1982-86). In the 1990s, Pat and Carol Spaziani co-chaired a study of Johnson County government. After many months of observing meetings of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, a League study committee interviewed all the supervisors and other elected officials, as well as county department heads. After further research and membership meetings, LWVJC reached consensus and developed positions on our county’s government. 8

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“Over the years, some of my best friends have been League members.” Pat Jensen After so many years of active membership, Pat finds it difficult to single out just a few memorable and rewarding experiences, but she offered these: While she was on the board of the Virginia League, the LWVUS sponsored its first presidential debates. Pat remembers being present when Ronald Reagan debated Jimmy Carter, and she attended several debates thereafter while she was on the national board. Another exciting experience was lobbying during her service in DC for a new metro system. She and other League members were invited to don hard hats and tour the underground route before its opening. Pat is too modest to acknowledge the recognition and many awards she has received over the years, but it goes without saying that she has been an important inspiration to many League members around the country for her commitment, her knowledge, and her leadership. She says that her experience with the League “has enriched my life and my mind, expanded my interactions with people, and given me many learning experiences.” Thank you, Pat, for all your years of service to the League. We treasure your knowledge, your contributions, and your wise and steady presence. Shiela Slocum

“The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guaranty of your liberty. That vote of yours has cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women. Women have suffered agony of soul which you never can comprehend, that you and your daughters might inherit political freedom. That vote has been costly. Prize it! The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully. Progress is calling to you to make no pause. Act!” Carrie Chapman Catt

December 2018

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ean Lloyd-Jones. Born in Washington, DC, and raised primarily in New Mexico, Jean Lloyd-Jones graduated from her Albuquerque high school at age sixteen, then attended the University of New Mexico. She majored in English, but also studied French, art appreciation, and philosophy—and met her future husband. After their wedding and a honeymoon biking across England, Scotland, and Wales, they went to Iowa City, where he attended the University of Iowa in pursuit of a PhD. Jean worked as an art secretary with the University of Iowa, then transitioned into a stay-at-home mom. Taking piano lessons in an attempt to carry on her husband’s family tradition, although playing piano was not her calling, Jean found a new passion—the League of Women Voters—because her piano teacher, Betty Fife, was a League member.

controlled legislature and talked to key stakeholders, including the League’s volunteer lobbyists and the employee at the state’s Legislative Services Agency charged with drawing the districts. After Jean began to help with mailing the Voter and eventually thorough attended a League unit meeting on world trade. She was investigation, attracted by the stimulating conversation, a contrast to her home life raising four children. She somehow found time for the the League League in addition to her other community engagements, which concluded that the redistricting included leadership positions in the Johnson County chapter of plan had been the Iowa United Nations Association (president); a cooperative gerrymandered preschool (president); the Iowa City Public Library (board member); Cub Scouts (den mother); Girl Scouts (leader); and an to favor Republican active member of the Trinity Episcopal Church. Jean thrived in those roles and decided to pursue her international interests by incumbents, but the board was enrolling in a US foreign policy master’s program. After her break from League activities to focus on school, the League was divided on eager to reactivate her skills and leadership when she graduated whether the League should be involved as a formal plaintiff in a legal challenge. in 1971. Shortly thereafter, she was asked by the LWVJC nominating committee to serve as president. Jean cast the deciding vote for LWVIA to join the petition to Jean’s reintroduction to the League began with a meeting about compel the Iowa Supreme Court to review the reapportionment plan. Jean said of her decision, “As president, I wanted the reapportionment, an issue about which the League was particularly knowledgeable, as well as the subject of contentious League to be more active, and I said to myself, ‘we can study debate among state legislators. Jean recognized the opportunity forever and educate, but what have we done?’ We had been the League had to influence the extremely consequential process spectators too long; it was time to get down on the field and play ball! The three liberal groups assembled to challenge the of redistricting, and she welcomed her election to the presidency of LWVIA. In subsequent board meetings, the League plan—the Iowa Federation of Labor, the Iowa Democratic Party, studied the reapportionment plan developed by the Republican- and the Iowa ACLU—were thrilled to have the support of a nonpartisan organization like the League. 10

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collaborative working style was a product of her citizen-focused philosophy, she said, as “the best legislation is done in a bipartisan manner. You need buy-in from both parties. If a law is passed with just one party, when the other party gains control, the law is repealed and there is no lasting impact.” Jean Jean Lloyd-Jones recognized how inconsistency and reversals in public policies damaged trust and relationships between constituents and the The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the challenging groups. government. Jean said the League prepared her for her work in the After the verdict, Jean sent a memo to League members to address the redistricting issue, asking for fifty cents per member legislature, noting that she came in with the needed skills, including facilitating meetings, researching topics, and to finance rental of computer time to automate redrawing the district map based on population. LWVIA’s decision to challenge organizing people. As a representative, Jean continued to encourage citizen involvement in government, saying, “The the reapportionment plan not only preserved the state’s democracy but provided the League with publicity and a surge of League of Women Voters taught me that you have to have interest and members. The small financial request was met with outside pressure on the legislature; they’re not going to do it unless they hear people out there, voters, saying ‘We need overwhelming support. this.’” When the next census was completed ten years later, prompting Along with fellowship among League members, Jean said her redistricting, Jean was again a key player in the state’s reapportionment plan, but this time from the vantage point of a continued interest in the League was fueled by a cycle of influencing change, adding to the momentum to take on more state representative. The districts were drawn using the issues. She has high hopes and expectations for the future of the League’s computer-generated, population-based methods. The League, and envisions a League that is robust in membership, legislature then could review two plans and make amendments activities, and studies, and bold in taking action. She sees the to a third plan if the first two were rejected. The third round and amendment process were never used, as the League’s effort upcoming centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020 as an resonated with the legislature. They were, Jean said, “afraid the opportunity to engage League members and the public in reflection and recognition of accomplishments, and garner League of Women Voters would take them to court again!” renewed interest and energy in grassroots organizing. Jean described her role in redistricting as one of the most personally rewarding experiences for her, and indeed, Iowa leads Jean is also active in Iowa’s 50/50 by 2020, another nonpartisan the nation in simple and fair districting processes. Jean says this group, with a goal of gender-balanced representation in all levels of government. issue was important to her because of the voters, who need reliable information about their districts, candidates, and polling Of her numerous and inspiring accomplishments, Jean is modest, places, without the confusion and delays of partisan influence. saying, “Well, you just sort of go along and do what seems right at the time.” Jean served in Iowa’s state legislature, the General Assembly, for sixteen years, her tenure split as a representative in the Susan Enzle House, and then as a state senator. She has fond memories of her service, recalling a collegial environment and bipartisan lawmaking in health, education, and environmental issues. Her

“The League of Women Voters taught me that you have to have outside pressure on the legislature.”

December 2018

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ancy Lynch joined the League of Women Voters in 1990 and discovered that she really liked the people she met through the League. Her admiration of League member Carol Spaziani, and of Carol’s determination, motivated her to maintain her membership. Nancy had earned a degree in environmental engineering at the University of Iowa; she knew how to fix problems—but not how to convince the public that a problem existed, nor how to persuade people to search for solutions. That she learned in the League. She and Carol established a water-quality group; they gave presentations and held public meetings on water quality. They lobbied the legislature to allocate funds to improve water quality. She became highly motivated by working on voting rights and trying to make people understand how large industries and corporate agriculture have influenced the legislature in Iowa.

“If we learn from experience, there is no failure, only delayed victory.” Carrie Chapman Catt

The League committee that included Nancy turned its focus to the local and regional governments of Johnson County, developing positions as they progressed. They talked to government officials on all levels and in every office, suggesting measures to create more efficient and effective services, in part by consolidating small-town fire departments, bus systems, emergency communications systems, and certain city and county positions. In some cases, government officials were resistant to change. Nancy still remembers an encounter with the head of a local fire department who began to cry, fearing he would lose his position under the League-promoted consolidations. Often, governments adopted League ideas; a prime example is the Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Network. Nancy assumed an important task when she became a member of the LWVJC Board of Directors around 2010. She quickly realized that most of the board members didn’t know how to use computer technology, so she took on all the jobs that required computers—editing the League Voter, writing news releases for media outlets, and setting up a LWVJC Gmail account and a website. Of all these tasks, Nancy identifies doing the newsletter for the League as her “most rewarding experience.” “It gave me a definite job to do,” she adds.

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She took on all the jobs that required computers. In a reprise of her early interest, in the fall of 2017 Nancy put together an event on water quality with help from fellow League member Lee Wood. She admits that event planning isn’t her forte, but she persisted because she believes so strongly in the importance of the related issues. She brought in experts from across the state as speakers, and the forum was very well received and attended.

“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”

In the future, Nancy hopes the League will stay committed both to water quality and to voting rights, particularly by engaging minorities, as these are two areas she has worked on. She knows that ongoing education in both areas is important. She hopes for future legislative attention to the critical issue of water quality, because contaminated water from Iowa contributes to pollution in the Mississippi River region, its communities, and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Recognizing that many taxpayers are reluctant to pay for environmental projects, she says she would personally be thrilled to have her taxes go up to promote water quality! She believes that the Environmental Protection Agency must continue to act on a national scale; we must persuade Congress to care. Water is a precious resource.

Susan B. Anthony

Nancy’s message to everyone at the League is “Keep going.” Every single person who is registered to vote is important. Every stream cleaned up is a triumph. Persist! Dhuha Tawil

December 2018

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ancy Porter’s husband, a union activist, came home from work one night and said, “If you really want to know what is going on politically, you ought to check out the League of Women Voters.”

“OK,” she said. “How do I do that?” “They’re having a meeting at the Iowa City Public Library tonight. You ought to go.” “So you’ll watch the girls?” “Sure,” he said. “The meeting starts in an hour.” She was off shortly afterwards, about to discover a world she had not imagined. At the time, Jean Lloyd-Jones was the LWVJC president, and she chaired the proceedings that night. Nancy found the meeting impressive and concise, over in less than two hours. Before leaving, she complimented Jean, thinking at the time that she wished she’d had a calendar at hand, to see when she would be available for future League events. It was a while before she joined the League, as Nancy was teaching full -time and had two young daughters. She did begin to attend the League forums held early each year, when the state legislature was in session, and she always asked an “education-based question,” usually about funding and programming. Colleagues and friends often approached her after the meetings to ask how she knew which issues needed attention. That gave her the chance to promote the educational advantage of joining the Iowa State Education Association, but she also assured them that legislators’ replies provided useful information. She gradually saw her colleagues become more knowledgeable and active. She came to realize that every political decision affects the classroom, to appreciate and respect her legislators, and to be thankful to the League for running such polite, political forums. Once Nancy joined the League, she was asked to serve on the board of directors. It was a challenge at first, because, she says, she didn’t really have the time to devote to the League. The local president at the time was understanding and supportive. “Come when you can and do what you can do,” she told her. With that, Nancy decided to focus her energies on the forums, both legislative and candidate, because they seemed so important. Very quickly, Nancy learned about national and state issues with the help of Pat Jensen, a member who had 14

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“It is so gratifying to work with people who don’t need to be told twice to do their job, and who go for it with passion.” Nancy Porter served in other local Leagues, two state Leagues, and the national board of directors before coming to Johnson County. Barbara Beaumont, another long-term member who was coordinator of the forums at the time, helped Nancy to put educational issues as a featured topic on the forums calendar every January, the month the legislature begins to work on the budget. As the years progressed, Nancy’s knowledge of how to contact legislators, speak at hearings, and get people’s attention increased. Local officials became her friends. Chair of the LWVJC Advocacy Committee in 2013 was a natural position for her, and she remains the advocacy chair to this day. She served on the board of directors from 1980 to 1982, and again from 2012 to 2018. She chaired the LWVJC study group on education when it was an LWVUS study topic. Nancy has also worked with the VOTE411 committee, and continues to mentor student teachers, substitute in the University of Iowa Hospital’s Educational Psychology Ward, and serve on Iowa City Education Association and Iowa State Education Association boards and committees. She is currently on the League of Women Voters of Iowa Board of Directors, and she is helping to start a new League in the Davenport area. While Nancy enjoyed the social involvement and the League’s people and priorities, she was also getting educated. She believes in lifelong learning, and feels that there is not only a strong educational component to the League’s activities but so much dedication and intelligence among the membership. Even with her own educational background and her leadership training, she was learning about issues in a new, nonpartisan way and was “thoroughly engrossed.” “It is so gratifying to work with people who don’t need to be told twice to do their job, and who go for it with passion.” As examples, she mentions three members: the recent energetic and effective Voter Registration coordinators Julie Wittig and Susan Enzle; Gaylen Wobeter, who stepped into the presidential role when she was fairly new to the community and got Nancy involved in the state board; and Linda Meloy, who is currently writing a book on Iowa December 2018

League history for its hundredth anniversary. “It’s these outstanding and dedicated people,” Nancy notes, “who make me want to stay and support this strong women’s group.” Nancy believes that the League of the future will continue to be on the right track. As long as the League can keep voters—especially young people—convinced that politicians’ decisions affect all of us, it will be successful. With voter restrictions emerging across the country, registering voters is now more important than ever. She hopes someday to write a book of her own, and she knows that League activities will be a highlight. Nancy summarizes her League experience by saying, “What more worthwhile thing could one do than to leave behind a better, more informed world?” Tessa Heeren

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

COLLECTIVE MEMORIES: On Being in League

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ebecca Reiter joined the Johnson County League of Women Voters in the early 1990s. She has served on the Board of Directors as membership chair and vice president, and contributed to various committees, including housing, water, regional government, and joint emergency communication systems. With Dawn Suter as chair she also worked as co-chair on the Constitution Series of educational forums. Originally from Melcher, Iowa (now Melcher-Dallas), Rebecca received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell College. She credits her education at Grinnell with equipping her with confidence and problem-solving skills. Following graduation, she completed a year of service (comparable to a Peace Corps experience) in Sri Lanka, and when she returned stateside, worked as a biology researcher at the Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. She returned to Iowa to be closer to family and completed a master’s degree in biology at the University of Iowa. Afterwards, she took a job setting up a new lab in the biology department at the university, where she conducted developmental biology research. Rebecca was first asked to get involved in the League of Women Voters by her friend and LWVJC member Carol Spaziani. Rebecca had reservations about joining, because she was active in a political party’s central committee, and she knew that being a League member meant nonpartisanship, as well as additional work. Carol’s persistence eventually won out, and Rebecca’s first League project was service on the Joint Emergency System Committee, which aimed to unify emergency communications between the Johnson County sheriff and the Iowa City police department. Fragmented communication between local governments was identified as an issue after the 1991 shooting on the University of Iowa campus. Through the League’s methods of gathering information and interviewing stakeholders to solve problems, Rebecca and the committee successfully coordinated more-efficient communication between the city and county governments. Rebecca noted that this improvement was rewarding, since citizens would be better served through the new streamlined 16

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She has embraced being part of an organization that has had such an important role historically and continues to shape society today. It is apparent that she is experienced in cooperating with others to make a difference and cares deeply Rebecca Reiter about the impact of government on everyday people.

“League members do the work, with or without recognition.”

system. After this initial success, Rebecca recognized how deeply the purposes and issues of the League resonated with her, and was intrigued by the commitment of fellow members, saying, “League members do the work, with or without recognition.” Rebecca continued applying her passion for efficient processes internally with LWVJC. As membership chair, she worked on administrative tasks, such as maintaining and updating membership lists and contact information. Reminiscing about how the League made the transition from mailed newsletters to email, she notes that using email for communication seems obvious today, but recalls that her suggestion to do so was initially met with some resistance. Rebecca did her due diligence and had a role in gathering the evidence to support her position (including savings estimates), which helped mitigate some uncertainty and turned the idea into a reality. Other roles Rebecca filled in the League included moderating forums and the United States Constitution series events. The Constitution series was her most rewarding experience in the League, she says, and was a prime example of how a highly respected organization like the League can influence stakeholders to come together to address pressing issues in areas including law, healthcare, and immigration. Perusing the vibrant and attention-catching posters which promoted the Constitution series events, Rebecca described working closely on each one. In one instance, she noted, she was reviewing the final draft of a text and nearly overlooked a wording mistake that changed the substance of the sentence to mean its exact opposite. Fortunately, the edit was made just before printing the poster!

Rebecca hopes that the League’s future includes restoring a few traditions. Specifically, she envisions more-robust voter registration efforts, and a return to moderating the U.S. presidential election debates. She believes that a strength of the League was its provision of strong and organized moderators for those debates, which were remarkably substantive under League leadership. Locally, Rebecca suggests assembling a transportation committee to promote attendance at League events for those who want to attend but have transportation barriers. Tessa Heeren

"To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves." Carrie Chapman Catt

Rebecca is sure that being a League member gave her a better understanding of how the government works at all levels, and how citizens can participate in improving policies and systems. December 2018

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to learn what was truly happening in their community. After graduation, Carol worked at UCLA’s biomedical library, while her then husband, Eugene, studied for his doctorate in endocrinology. Upon her husband’s graduation, the two set out on their next adventure. After spending a year exploring England, Carol and Eugene moved back to the US, and to Iowa City when Eugene accepted a job at the University of Iowa. Library science was—and still is— Carol’s passion, and, always ready for a new challenge, she decided to explore the possibility of a Master’s degree in the field. The two library schools closest to Iowa City in the 1960s were in Madison, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois. She chose Champaign, it being a tad closer to Iowa City, although she spent much of the time living near the campus with three politically conservative international women in an attic room. Carol realized, thanks to her attic-mates, that she was a California radical. Upon earning her Master of Library Science degree, Carol worked temporarily at the University of Iowa Libraries, until, through a series of policy and position changes as well as strong support from her community, she secured a permanent position at the Iowa City Public Library doing what she loved. She joined the League and became a permanent resident of Iowa City. Johnson County would be a very different place if Carol had not landed in the Midwest, and all of Iowa is lucky to have her. Iowa City holds its annual Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival in her arol Spaziani. In 1961, the League of Women Voters of honor, indicating the impact Carol has had in her community. Johnson County gained a fierce advocate for civil rights When Carol first joined the League in the 1960s, there were and judicial reform: Carol Spaziani, a self-proclaimed about three hundred local members, many of whom were stay-at “rabble-rouser.” Carol grew up in the sunny state of -home mothers who wanted to be involved in the community. California and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, Carol began her membership working with Beverly Full, Mary where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in preAnn Madden, Lolly Eggers, Jean Hubbard, Jean Lloyd-Jones, librarianship. She also took a political science class that left a Ann Feddersen, Louise Larew, and Mary Bryant on a state lasting impression and sparked her interest in political advocacy. judicial-reform amendment that required a nonpartisan merit Her professor told his students to become active in both a selection-and-retention election process for Iowa judges. Carol political party and the politics of their community, wherever developed many League friendships through this time and they ended up after graduation. This wise professor also witnessed the state Judicial Reform Amendment pass in Iowa in suggested that his students join a local League of Women Voters 1962.

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Reapportionment of the Iowa legislature was next on Carol’s League agenda, under the direction of Minnette Doderer, a longtime state legislator from Iowa City. Because of opposition from the Farm Bureau, the path towards reapportionment was tough, and eventually led to a lawsuit demanding changes in districting. Under leadership of state president Jean Lloyd-Jones, the League joined the Iowa Civil Liberties Union and the Iowa AFL-CIO. The suit was successful: the court ruled in favor of reapportionment and “one man [sic], one vote.” The next steps involved researching and developing a nonpartisan and fair way to draw district boundaries. Local League members attended Farm Bureau county and township women’s groups to talk about the process with the community and the advantages of the upcoming reapportionment. Carol remembers being whisked into all aspects of the reapportionment project. “The satisfaction to me for this type of work was that it kept me and the interesting women I met active and involved,” she explains. Carol is not afraid to ask tough questions and confront inequality, and that is exactly what she did while working with the League and the community to help develop Iowa City’s first fair housing ordinance. Speaking with Linda Schreiber, a fellow LWVJC member, she said, “The early days were exciting. They became even more exciting when, in 1964, LWVJC member Mori Costantino involved LWVJC in a survey of discrimination in housing conceived by Iowa City’s Human Rights Commission. “We asked two questions: 1. Do you rent houses in Iowa City? 2. Do you discriminate? “They all said, ‘Yes.’ “The Board of Realtors and the Home Builders Association were opposed to a fair housing ordinance. When the time came for a city council public hearing, Mori enlisted engineering professor Phil Hubbard to make a speech. Phil told the audience that he was not able to buy a home until he asked a white friend to buy it first. You could have heard a pin drop. After Phil’s speech, the council voted to adopt the city’s first fair housing ordinance.” Carol has been involved in numerous additional LWVJC campaigns, such as regional planning and downtown urban December 2018

renewal, and held many positions: co-president, vice president, study chair of the local urban renewal campaign, and member of the housing-discrimination survey team, among others. When asked how the League has changed her life, Carol responded, “It gave me skills in community organizing, research, and report writing, and chances I had not had before to interact with community leaders.” In addition to fostering an interest in local government, the League fostered long-term friendships with many other League women. Carol is now retired and lives in a retirement complex with limitations on transportation, so she has been less active in the League of late. However, she keeps up with League activity as best as she can. What she would like to see in the future of LWVJC is a stronger focus on recruitment of new members. She believes that more advocacy action and report updates, showing progress and how League gets things accomplished, could be effective in retaining members. To stay relevant and attract new members, she notes, the League will need to evaluate and remold its operational procedures and goal—not an easy task, but one that will ensure a League presence for generations to come. Carol Spaziani is an immensely intelligent woman with a heart of gold, unafraid to hurt feelings if doing so is for the greater good. Asking uncomfortable questions to start important and necessary conversations is a skill not many have, but Carol is comfortable in playing that role of catalyst. As the League moves into the future, many will need to learn this skill and learn from Carol’s experiences. Talor Gray

Iowa City holds an annual Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival in her honor.

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S

ally Stutsman. Did you know that a member of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County is listed in Wikipedia? Quite an achievement, indeed!

Born and reared in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Sally and her twin sister were among the first generation in their family to go to college. Sally went to Fort Dodge Community College and then to Iowa State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. At ISU she met her future husband, Roger, who is from a farm family in Johnson County. After graduation, they married, and Sally moved with Roger to Johnson County, where she has lived ever since. Sally joined LWVJC in the late 1980s after Linda Whitaker invited her to get involved with the League. At the time Sally was the executive director of 4Cs, Community Coordinated Child Care, a nonprofit organization that provided training for in-home daycare providers. Sally knew of the League, and it seemed to be the right time for her to become a member. Her experience underscores her belief that personal invitations to join can be powerful. Sally sees the valuable contributions the League has made through in-depth forums and studies of issues such as mental health services funding and land use. The League’s pursuit of good functional government continues to impress her.

“That we have the vote means nothing. That we use it in the right way means everything.” Lou Henry Hoover 20

Through the League Sally came to know women like Susan Horowitz, Naomi Novick, and Carol Spaziani, all of whom had considerable experience with and knowledge of the political process. They served as the catalysts for Sally’s first run for public office in 1994. Sally had discovered that there was a dearth of books in the public library providing any guidance on campaigning for an election. Fortunately, Susan, Naomi, and Carol provided that guidance. Both Susan and Naomi had been elected to Iowa City’s city council, and each had served as mayor of the city. Carol, a librarian, had an in-depth understanding of League issues and had studied local governments. She and Naomi endowed Sally with the confidence and “savvy” to stand as a candidate for county supervisor. When elected to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in

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The League’s pursuit of good functional government continues to impress. 1994, Sally was only the fifth woman supervisor since 1947. (As of September 2018, the tally for women supervisors in Johnson County still remains low with only eight women in the past sixty years who have ever been elected supervisor as of October 2018.)

organization after expending energy on their jobs and families. Still, there is much the League can offer them, and today’s young women, like busy young women before them, can target their participation however they wish. Sally has always been impressed with the people power and time that League members devote to researching and formulating positions on issues. Sometimes as many as twenty League members study a single issue. She also places a high value on the League’s nonpartisan stance and its lack of a requirement for a member to adhere to any specific doctrine or dogma.

Sally looks back on her eighteen years as a county supervisor Sally credits the League with instilling in women, herself with the satisfaction of having been a part of a governing body included, the belief that “we can do it!” that “got things done.” She resigned from the county board of Susan Enzle supervisors in 2013 when she joined the 85th Iowa General Assembly in Des Moines as the state legislator for House District 77. She was taken aback at how highly partisan the legislature was, in sharp contrast to her experience as a county supervisor. During her two terms in office, one party controlled both the Iowa House and the governorship; the other party held on to a slim majority in the Iowa Senate. Legislation pushed through the House over the protests of the minority party, including Sally, was blocked in the Senate. Discouraged by the lack of compromise, Sally chose not to run for reelection after two terms and is relieved that she did.

"Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege."

Once elected to public office, Sally remained a member of the League but refrained from taking an active part. Although she had planned to become more active with the League once she retired from public office (the LWVJC book club and study groups were particularly tempting), that has not yet happened. Instead, alternative pursuits—such as a recent Hills Bank tour to Ireland—have captured her attention.

Lucretia Mott

Sally notes that the League struggles whenever membership is low because its operation falls on the same sets of shoulders time and again. Low membership can imperil future operation and even the continued existence of the League if it cannot bring in new members. In the future, persuading younger women with twenty-first-century expertise to join will be challenging, given that many have scant time left over for a civic December 2018

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National and Local League of Women Voters History The Beginning

The Present:

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n February 14, 1920, six months before the final state ratified he LWVJC currently has more than 150 members, both women the 19th Amendment, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the and men, and is one of the largest local in Iowa. We National American Woman Suffrage Association, founded the are active in the community and advocate for issues important League of Women Voters of the U.S. Her purpose was to make to our members. sure that, once women gained the right to vote, they would be Now, there are state Leagues in all 50 states, hundreds of local educated voters. Ms. Catt graduated in 1880 from what is now Iowa Leagues across the county, a number of inter-League organizations in State University. In 1920, women who shared her vision established major metropolitan areas, as well as in the District of Columbia, the League of Women Voters of Iowa City. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. The League of Women The League of Women Voters of Iowa (LWVIA) started Oct. 2, 1919, in Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Boone, Iowa, and the first local Leagues in Iowa were founded in Des Education Fund operate at the national level with grassroots support Moines and Iowa City in early 1920 and were named for their cities of from state and local Leagues. origin. It followed by one month, the convention in Chicago at which The LWV neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any the national women’s suffrage association disbanded and the infant level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly National League of Women Voters launched. political and works to influence policy through advocacy. It is the Prime mover in organizing the League in Iowa City was Dr. Zella White original grassroots citizen network directed by the consensus of its Stewart, a prominent physician and wife of a distinguished members nationwide. physicist. She was attending hospital clinics in Chicago in February 1920 when she met some friends who were attending the Suffrage League convention. Urged by her friends, Dr. Stewart attended a session and became so absorbed that she stayed on; and she came back to Iowa City with the ambition to organize a League. Dr. Stewart found willing cooperation in a group, which already had organized a citizenship school here, and soon a local League was formed. The women continued the citizenship schools and extended them to various communities in the county for the purpose of showing women how to use their new voting rights and to give them courage to use them. The League of Women Voters of Johnson County (formerly the League of Women Voters of Iowa City) is one of the oldest local Leagues in the state of Iowa. The name changed occurred more than 40 years ago. Men joined LWVJC in the 1970s. LWVJC has contributed to our community by supporting and advocating for many of the services that make it great.

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League of Women Voters of Johnson County www.lwvjc.org P. O. Box 5452 Coralville, IA 52241 24

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Collective Memories: on Being in League  

Profiles of longtime League of Women Voters members.

Collective Memories: on Being in League  

Profiles of longtime League of Women Voters members.

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