PAPERS, 1954-1981

(bulk 1965-1978)

7 linear feet




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


ACCESS: The papers are open for research.


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




PROCESSED BY: George Mullally, 1994, and Special Collections staff.




         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.


Scope and Content Note

         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.


Related Collections

A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators Oral History transcripts, 1988-1993 [Charlene Conklin transcript]


Box no. Description

Box 1
                       Biographical material
                               Press release, 1966 [includes photograph]
                               Biographical notice from Two Thousand Women of Achievement,
                               Resume, [1973]
                       Speeches and writings
                               Speeches, 1968-1971
                               "Under the Gold Dome": newspaper column, 1969-1970
                       Subject files
                                           1969 (2 folders)
                                           1970 (2 folders)
                                                 Anti-abortion reform
Box 2
                                                       February (2 folders)
                                                 Pro-abortion reform
                                                 "Voters' lobby": program on abortion on Iowa Educational
                                                       Broadcast Network
                                     Resource file
                                           1969-1970 (folder 1)
Box 3
                                           1969-1970 (folders 2-5)
                                           1971 (2 folders)
Box 4
                                           1973 (2 folders)
                               Abortion bill from the State of Hawaii, 1970
                               Abortion laws: responses to "Zero population growth" newspaper
                                     query, 1971
                               Adoptions, 1971
                               Agriculture, 1969-1972
                                     Resource file
                               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
                                     Resource file (including S.F. 1), 1965-1971
                               Early childhood education, 1971-1972
                               Editorials (television and radio), 1971-1972
                               Educational television, 1971-1972
                                     Resource file
                               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, 1968-1969
                                     Resource file (including S.F. 175)
                               Hake, Herbert (Director of Radio-TV, University of Northern Iowa):
                                     radio scripts, 1970-1972
                               Health, education, and welfare, 1971
                               Higher education
                                     Correspondence, 1969-1972
                                     Resource file, 1971-1972
                               Historic landmarks of Black Hawk County, 1954-1971 (folder 1)
Box 7
                               Historic landmarks of Black Hawk County, 1954-1971 (folder 2)
                               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
                               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, 1971-1972
                                     Resource file
                               Medical (licensing of physicians), 1970-1972 (2 folders)
                               Merit pay for teachers and H.F. 183, 1971
                                     Resource file
                               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
                                     General correspondence
                                     Appropriations (H.F. 121), 1971
                                     Bills proposed, 1971
                                     Bus transportation, 1969
Box 10
                                     County school systems, 1972
                                           Correspondence (2 folders)
                                           Resource file
                                     Department of Public Instruction (H.F. 709), 1971
                                     Elections, 1972
                                     Litigation (Serrano case), 1971
                                     Lunch program, 1971
                                     Malcolm Price Laboratory School, University of Northern Iowa, 1971
                                     Miscellaneous, 1972
                                     Private schools, 1966-1972
Box 11
                                     Publications, 1971
                                     Reorganization, 1971-1972
                                     State Board of Education, 1972
                                     Superintendent of Schools
                                           Blackhawk and Buchanan Counties, 1972
                                           State Superintendent, 1971-1972
                                     Systems and standards (interim studies)
                                     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 (folder 1)
Box 12
                               State Capitol, 1965-1970 (folder 2)
                               State Historical Board
                                     Membership and H.F. 1491, 1977-1978
                                     Meeting agendas, Oct. 23, 1974-Nov. 17, 1977
                                     Minutes, Oct. 23, 1974-June 1, 1978
                               State Historical Museum Committee: Minutes, June 15,
                                           1977-Dec. 15, 1977
                               State Historical Society, 1973-1981
                                     Correspondence (2 folders)
                                     Resource file (2 folders)
                               Tax bill (early editions), 1971
Box 13
                               Taxation Study Committee, 1970-1971
                                     Membership, rules, and authorization
                                           July 10-July 17, 1970
                                           July 20-Aug. 7, 1970
                                           Aug. 19, 1970-Feb. 2, 1971
                                     Resource file, 1971-1972
Box 14
                                     Exempt property, 1971-1972
                                     Property tax survey responses, [1971?]
                                     Questionnaire and responses, 1971 (3 folders)
                                     Veterans' exemption, 1972
                               Terrace Hill: General correspondence, 1970-1978
                               Terrace Hill Planning Commission: Minutes, 1971-1975
                               Terrace Hill Society
                                     General, 1955-1977 (folder 1)
Box 15
                                     General, 1955-1977 (folders 2-3)
                                     Blueprints, 1962
                                     Bylaws, Annual meetings, Minutes, 1975-1977
                                     Committee reports, 1954-1975
                               Transportation, 1971
                               Unemployment compensation, 1971
                               University of Northern Iowa, 1967-1972
                                     Newspaper clippings
                               Voting records, 1965-1967
                               Ways and Means Committee, 1972
                               Women in politics, 1966-1970
                               Women's liberation, 1971-1972