IOWA WOMEN'S ARCHIVES

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES

IOWA CITY, IOWA

 

 

 

GLADYS NELSON (1895-1995)

 

PAPERS, 1938-1995

10 linear inches

 

 

 

ACQUISITION:

The papers (donor no. 341) were donated by Phyllis Yuhas in 1999.

ACCESS:

The papers are open for research.

COPYRIGHT:

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

PHOTOGRAPHS:

In Boxes 2 and 4.

PROCESSED BY:

Emily Broeckling, 2003 [NelsonGladys.doc]

 


 

Biography

            Gladys Shand Nelson, Iowa legislator, president of the Iowa League of Women Voters, and housewife, was born in North Dakota in 1895.  She graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1915.  Shand taught high school Latin and coached girls’ basketball from 1915-1916 in Mohall, North Dakota.  From 1916 to 1920, Shand taught Latin and English and served as principal in Crary, North Dakota.  From 1918-1920, she served as principal and teacher in Bisbee, North Dakota. 

After Shand’s marriage to E.L. Nelson in 1920, the young couple moved to Grinnell, Iowa and later to Newton, Iowa, where Gladys Nelson taught handicapped children.  In Newton, Nelson became active in politics.  She founded the Newton League of Women Voters in 1934, serving as its first president and only Life Member.  She was appointed president of the Iowa League of Women Voters from 1937-1939.  From 1939-1948, Nelson served as state legislative chairperson.

During the summer of 1950, Nelson was asked to run as a Republican for Jasper County Representative in the Iowa legislature against a very popular Democratic incumbent, during a time when women legislators were rare.  Despite a close race, Nelson was elected and ultimately served three terms from 1950-1956.  Nelson was forced to withdraw from the race for her fourth term because her husband became ill.

During her tenure in the legislature, Nelson made a name for herself as one of the biggest supporters of the Oleo colored margarine lobby.  Nelson’s public support helped to pass legislation that struck down a ban on the sale of colored oleo in the state of Iowa and prohibited taxation of this product.  During two of her three terms, Nelson was the only woman in the legislature.  Despite her minority status, Nelson claims she never suffered discrimination.  Indeed, her male peers selected her for the honor of presiding over the opening ceremonies during her third term in the legislature.

The Nelsons traveled extensively in their later years.  Gladys Nelson continued to travel into her eighties, visiting Africa twice, South America twice, the Middle East, Scandinavia and Russia, and several provinces in Canada.  Newton earned considerable recognition for her years of public service.  She was included in the first edition of Who’s Who of American Women, was named one of Newton’s Ten Women of the Century, and with her husband was the first to receive the Newton Chamber of Commerce citizen award.  In 1955, Nelson received the Newton Kernel of the Iowa Tall Corn Award from the Press Columnists in appreciation for her contributions to Newton and Iowa.  In 1995, Nelson was posthumously honored with a stone in the Plaza of Heroines at the dedication of the Carrie Chapman Catt Hall at Iowa State University.Begin text here:»

 

Scope and Content Note

 

            Begin text here:The Gladys Nelson» papers date from 1938»-1995 and measure »10 linear inches.  The »papers »are arranged in »four scrapbooks dating from 1950-1955, with an additional box of materials dating from 1938-1995.  The scrapbooks are loosely arranged chronologically, and include newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, programs, brochures, and certificates dating from Nelson’s tenure in the legislature.  Most of the items in the scrapbooks document legislation Nelson sponsored and her appointments to certain committees.  The box of additional materials contains correspondence dating from 1950-1998, Nelson’s day planner, legislative handbooks and passports dating from 1938-1982, a genealogy entitled “Brain Family Tree,” a memoir written by Gladys Nelson entitled “Born under a Lucky Star,” newspaper clippings dating from 1952-1958, programs and brochures dating from 1953-1995, photocopies of the loose scrapbook, and a miscellaneous folder dating from 1953-1965, which includes photographs, certificates and notes.          

 

 

 

Box no.           Description

 

Box 1

                        Scrapbook, 1950-1951

Box 2

                        Scrapbook, 1952-1953

                        Loose Scrapbook, 1953

Box 3

                        Scrapbook, 1954-1955

Box 4

                        Correspondence, 1950-1998 and undated

                        Day planner, legislative handbooks, and passports, 1938-1982

                        Genealogy, “Brain Family Tree,” n.d.

                        Letter from Phyllis Yuhas to Suzanne Schenken [about her mother Gladys

                              Nelson’s career], 1988

                        Memoir by Gladys Nelson, “Born under a Lucky Star,” n.d.

                        Newspaper clippings, 1952-1958 and undated

                        Programs, 1953-1995

                        Scrapbook photocopies

                        Miscellaneous, 1953-1965 and undated