PAPERS, 1977-1982

1 linear foot plus audiovisual materials and artifacts











The papers» (donor no.645) were donated by Sonja Larsen in 1999.


The »papers are open for research.


One audiocassette located in audiocassette collection [AC883].


»Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa. 


In Box 3.


Emily Broeckling, 2003 [LarsenSonja.doc]Your name, year».




            Sonja Leistad Larsen, state representative from 1979-1980, board member of the Iowa League of Women Voters and mayoral candidate for the city of Ottumwa, was born in 1941 to Einar and Marie Leistad in Elk Horn, Iowa.  Sonja Leistad graduated from Elk Horn-Kimballton Schools in 1959.  In 1960, she married Richard Larsen, and the couple moved to Ottumwa in 1968.  The Larsens had three children. 


            Larsen worked as a real estate agent from 1973-1980.  She served on the Ottumwa Board of Realtors, where she became active in lobbying efforts through the Legislative Action committee.  As a member of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce, Larsen served on the urban-rural development committee, chairing special projects such as Ag Day.  Larsen also became the first president of the Ottumwa League of Women Voters.  Other community activities include serving as first president of the Ottumwa Girls Softball League, president of the Ottumwa Newcomers Club, executive board member of the Iowa Junior Miss Development Corporation, program director for the YMCA, and volunteering with the United Way, Welcome Wagon, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.


            Larsen was recruited to run for office by Governor Robert Ray.  Her previous political experience was limited to serving as a delegate at county, district and state Republican conventions.  In 1979, Larsen was elected by a small margin to represent the 89th district of Iowa, a district heavily dominated by Democrats.  During her tenure as a Republican representative in the state legislature, Larsen distinguished herself as a staunch supporter of lower state taxes.  Larsen sponsored bills designed to reimburse elderly Iowans for property taxes, develop veteran exemptions from property taxes, push for the adoption of a balanced budget amendment to the U. S. constitution, establish group insurance for families of public employees, reduce mobile home taxes for the elderly, and require private agencies receiving state grants or contracts to submit to an audit prior to receipt of those funds.  She also supported the 1979 “indexed” income tax adjustment that was designed to be responsive to inflation rates, a bill to increase the pay of elected officials, efforts to increase exemptions from the state inheritance tax, and a reduction in unemployment compensation.  Larsen supported efforts to put the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot and was pro-choice, despite her identity as a loyal Republican.


            In 1981, Larsen campaigned unsuccessfully for mayor of Ottumwa.  In 1984, Larsen received a grant for an extensive oral history project to be conducted for the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn entitled, “The Danish Immigrant Experience.”  She remained active in politics, leading Jim Leach’s successful Congressional campaign in Iowa and heading his constituent office.


Scope and Content Note


            Begin text here:The Sonja Larsen» papers date from 1977» to 1982 and measure 1» linear foot.  The »papers »are arranged in five» series: Political campaigns, Political career, Post-political career, Photographs, and Artifacts.


The Political campaigns series comprises Larsen’s campaigns for state representative and her campaign for mayor of Ottumwa, dating from 1977-1981.  This series includes campaign analysis, brochures and literature, correspondence, campaign finance documents, the state Republican campaign handbook, newspaper clippings, documents relating to publicity efforts, speeches, and lists of campaign volunteers and potential donors.


The Political career series spans Larsen’s tenure as an elected official, dating from 1977-1982.  This series includes literature relating to Larsen’s position on proposed legislation, particularly on issues such as abortion, education, creationism, the ERA, and conservation of natural resources.  The series also comprises constituent contact records, the text of proposed legislation for which Larsen was a sponsor, a legislative handbook, newsletters, newspaper clippings, press releases and speeches.


            The Post-political career series dates from 1981-1982 and includes correspondence relating to Larsen’s electoral defeat in 1980 and continued involvement in politics through her editorship of the Wapello County Republican News, as well as newspaper clippings.


            The Photographs series dates from the late 1970s and consists primarily of campaign photographs and shots of Larsen at speaking engagements.


            The Artifacts series includes campaign materials, nametags, and a guest book from a 1978 fundraiser.



Related Collections


            A Political Dialogue: Iowa’s Women Legislators is an oral history collection that includes the transcript of a 1989 interview with Sonja Larsen.»


Begin text here:»


Box no.           Description


Box 1

                        Political campaigns

                              Analysis, 1980

                              Brochures, undated

                              Campaign plan, 1980



                                    1980 and undated

                              Finances, 1978 and 1980-1981

                              Handbook, 1979-1980

                              Newspaper clippings, 1981

                              Official campaign documents, 1977-1981

                              Publicity, 1977-1978 and undated

                              Speeches, undated

                              Supporters, 1978 and 1980


                        Political career

                              Abortion, 1978-1979 and undated

                              Bike paths, 1979

                              Constituents, 1979-1980

Box 2



                                    1980 and undated

                              Creationism, 1977-1979

                              Education, 1978-1979

                              Equal Rights Amendment, 1976 and 1979-1980

                              House joint subcommittee on forestry, 1974 and 1978-1980

                              House Republican news, 1981

                              Iowa coal utilization advisory committee, 1979-1981

                              League of Women Voters



                              Legislation, 1979-1980

                              Legislative handbook, 1972 and 1979

                              Miscellaneous, undated

                              Newsletters, 1980-1981

                              Newspaper clippings




Box 3


                              Pilot project, 1979-1980

                              Pre-audit bill, 1979

                              Press releases, 1980

                              Speeches, 1980 and undated

                              Union, 1976 and 1980


                        Post-political career

                              Correspondence, 1981

                              Newspaper clippings, 1981-1982



                              Circa late 1970s



                              Bumper stickers


                                    Iowa coal equals good jobs”

                                    “Elect Sonja Larsen”

                              Campaign pin and nametags

Box 4

                              Child’s campaign t-shirt

                              Felt campaign flag

                              Guest book, 1978-1980