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Finding Aid

PAPERS, 1951-1996
QUANTITY: 9 linear feet

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 132) were donated by Joyce Nielsen in 1996 and in subsequent years.

The papers are open for research.
Copyright: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa, except for materials pertaining to Cindy Nielsen, which are closed until 2038.

Preferred Citation:
Box #, Joyce Nielsen Papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Photographs: In Box 3.
Audiovisual: None.

Processed by: Randal Lackore, 1997; Bridgett Williams Searle, 1999; and Karissa Haugeberg, 2008.

Iowa Women's Archives Logo

Iowa Women's Archives
100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Phone: 319-335-5068
Fax: 319-335-5900
E-mail the Iowa Women's Archives


Joyce Elaine Jensen Nielsen, feminist, activist, and legislator, was born in Askov, Minnesota in 1933.  She graduated from Cloquet High School in Cloquet, Minnesota, in 1951 and continued her formal education in a variety of settings.  She took classes in child development and psychology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; investment management and insurance coursework at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and staff development seminars at Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny, Iowa, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri.  She also independently gained expertise in such varied fields as domestic violence victim advocacy, privacy investigation, and rental property management.  Joyce Jensen married Eric Nielsen in 1955.  They have one daughter, Cindy.

Nielsen coordinated neighborhood tutoring programs and worked as an Urban Center supervisor for the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Cedar Rapids from 1965 to 1976.  In 1977, she started a number of companies that offered services ranging from group therapy to driver's education for newly single adult women.  As president of Nielsen Financial Consultants, she directed a network of professional women who combined their skills to provide actuarial, insurance, legal, and financial advice to women in Iowa.

Although employed or self-employed in a variety of jobs, community service was the primary focus of her forty-year professional career.  In 1969, Nielsen was a driving force behind the Cedar Rapids League of Women Voters' study of high school dropouts.  Through the 1970s, she was an advocate for housing code reform and tenants' rights in Cedar Rapids.  Nielsen was an early supporter of liberalizing Iowa's abortion laws (1970) and was involved with the YWCA Women's Emergency Shelter in Cedar Rapids and Planned Parenthood.  Nielsen founded Women Unlimited in 1979, believing that women needed a resource to learn about financial investing.  Through her activism, she gained additional experience in public speaking, grassroots organizing, and management.  She won numerous awards for her distinguished record of community service.

In 1988, Nielsen was elected to the Iowa General Assembly as the Democratic State Representative for District Fifty in Cedar Rapids.  During her tenure as a state representative, Nielsen was particularly interested in issues of human services, education, and child welfare. She served two terms in the Iowa General Assembly.

Scope and Content Note

The Joyce Nielsen papers date from 1951 to 1996 and measure 9 linear feet.  The papers are arranged in six series: Correspondence; Personal information; Business Ventures; Community service; Campaigns; and Iowa General Assembly.  The bulk of the collection pertains to Nielsen's campaigns and work as a state representative in the Iowa General Assembly.

The Correspondence series (1953-1991) consists of letters sent and received by the Nielsen family between 1963 and 1991.  This series includes letters written by Joyce Jensen to her future husband, Eric Nielsen, during their courtship in the 1950s.  Letters between Joyce Nielsen and her former co-workers at HACAP provide an inside look at the operation of this social services agency.

The Personal information series (1951-1986) includes letters, essays, and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Nielsen family. A small folder of biographical information pertaining to Eric Nielsen includes papers chronicling his experiences at the University of Minnesota and his days as a state champion marksman.  This series includes photographs enclosed in Christmas cards received by the Nielsen family from 1966 to 1979.

The Business ventures series (1977-1994) contains papers pertaining to Joyce Nielsen’s entrepreneurial activities.  The bulk of this series refers to Nielsen’s activities as president of Nielsen Financial Consultants.  The insurance files contain investment guides, financial planning advice, newspaper and magazine articles about women and money, and programs from educational seminars organized by Nielsen.  Materials from Nielsen's driver's education business for women complete the series.

The Community service series (1959-1996) includes records of Nielsen’s work with non-profit organizations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It contains the records of the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP), which include privacy-protected interviews with aggrieved tenants and problem landlords in the Cedar Rapids area and the records of an early tenant-run co-op.   This series contains a highly detailed study of persons who dropped out of Cedar Rapids high schools in 1970 conducted by the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids. This series includes records from the YWCA of Cedar Rapids, which was a hub of feminist activism during the 1970s.  Records from the Women's Emergency Shelter contain information about domestic violence, including statistics and some aggregated case history information on clients of the Shelter as well as budgets, publicity files, and an extensive folder of public discourse on the topic of spousal abuse. It also features more general information on spousal abuse victim advocacy in Iowa, collected by Joyce Nielsen during her work as an advocate for battered women. Newspaper clippings from the Cedar Rapids Gazette and other area papers complete the series.

The Campaigns series (1988-1992) includes materials from Nielsen's campaigns to serve as representative of District 55, which includes Cedar Rapids, in the Iowa General Assembly.  Nielsen was the Democratic nominee in 1988, 1990, and 1992; she won in 1988 and 1990, but lost in 1992.  This is the largest series of the collection, at three linear feet.  It includes materials related to the nuts and bolts of running a local campaign, including fundraising records, campaign donor lists, brochures, advertisements, newspaper clippings, information about her Republican opponents, correspondence, and surveys completed by Nielsen.

The Iowa General Assembly series (1989-1992) consists primarily of issue files maintained by Nielsen during her two terms as a state representative, from 1989 until 1992.  Nielsen collected published and unpublished reports, correspondence, meeting records, and newspaper clippings on a variety of issues, including the state budget, education, child support, gender neutral insurance, economic development, teen pregnancy, the death penalty, mental health, parental consent requirements for minors to receive abortions, and sex offenders.  This series includes correspondence between legislators, correspondence between Nielsen and her constituents, Nielsen's position papers and speeches, records from the Iowa Women's Legislative Caucus, and materials related to lobbying.  It also contains House and Senate bills from the 1990 and 1992 sessions of the Iowa General Assembly.  The series is arranged chronologically by legislative session.  Folders within each series are arranged alphabetically.  

Related Serial

Lilith Speaks
The official newsletter of the Cedar Rapids Women's Caucus, later the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women. Iowa Women's Archives, Serials Collection.

Box List
Box 1
General, 1963-1990 (6 folders)
Dorothy Jensen (mother), 1968, 1970-1974
Nielsen family, 1966-1974 (2 folders)
Cindy Nielsen, 1968-1984 [CLOSED, shelved in Box 24]
Box 2
Nielsen family, 1975-1991 (2 folders)
General, 1967-1979 (4 folders)
Eric Nielsen (husband), 1953-1955 (3 folders)
High school graduation announcement, 1951
Wedding napkin, 1955
University of Minnesota coursework, 1956
Parents’ 25th wedding anniversary celebration, 1957
Membership cards, magazine subscriptions, donations, and gifts, 1976, 1980-1986
Box 3
Voter registration card, 1978
“My Thoughts,” essay, undated
Eric Nielsen, biographical information, 1952-1957
Photographs, 1966-1979 and undated
Babysitting exchange cooperative, 1977 (2 folders)
Business start up ideas and incorporation inquiries, 1977
Driving instructor, 1977
New people referral service, 1977
Private investigator, 1977-1979
Problem solving group for women, 1977
Rental property, 1979-1981 and undated (3 folders)
Insurance sales and financial planning, 1985-1987 and undated (4 folders)
Box 4
Insurance sales and financial planning, 1982-1994 (27 folders)
Box 5
"Opportunity Now!" Cedar Rapids black community self-help enabler kick-off
Coalition for Social Action, 1977-1978 (3 folders)
Community development, 1972-1974 (2 folders)
Timecheck, St. Patrick's citizen committee materials and newsletter, 1975
Housing, 1976-1979 and undated (4 folders)
Leased housing subcommittee, 1974-1976 (9 folders)
Tenants rights, 1975-1977 (2 folders)
Information and Referral Service of Linn County, 1977-1978

Box 6
League of Women Voters distinguished member profile, 1990
League of Women Voters high school drop out portfolio, 1959, 1968-1969 (9 folders)
Minnesota School Boards Association Convention, 1966
Planned Parenthood, 1977-1978
Young Women’s Christian Association board, 1976-1978 (6 folders)
Young Women's Christian Association feminist activities, 1977
Young Women's Christian Association newsletters and activities, 1977
Women’s Emergency Shelter, 1976-1979 (2 folders)

Box 7
Women's Emergency Shelter, 1977-1996 (13 folders)

1988 Campaign records (5 folders)
Box 8
1988 Campaign records (10 folders)
Box 9
1989 Campaign records (14 folders)
1990 Campaign records (4 folders)

Box 10
1990 Campaign records (28 folders)

Box 11
1992 Campaign records (21 folders)

Box 12
1992 Campaign records (14 folders)

Box 13
1992 Campaign records (16 folders)

Box 14
1992 Campaign records (18 folders)

Box 15
1992 Campaign records (4 folders)

1989 Iowa General Assembly
AIDS, 1989-1992
Americans for Economic Rights, 1989
Bills sponsored by Joyce Nielsen, undated
Bills supported by Joyce Nielsen, undated
Budget process
Calendars, 1989-1990
Constituents' letters to the editor, 1989-1990

Box 16
Correspondence with constituents, 1989-1990
Correspondence and meetings with non-constituents, 1989-1992 and undated (2 folders)
Education advisory committee, 1989
Education, 1989-1992 (4 folders)
Freshmen, 1989-1990
Gender neutral insurance, 1989 (3 folders)

Box 17
Gender neutral insurance, 1989-1990 and undated (5 folders)
Interviews, 1988-1992
Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS)
Laws, 1989-1991
Letters from politicians, 1988-1990
Letters to the editor from Nielsen, 1989-1990
Lobbyist expenditures on Nielsen, 1989-1992
Position statements, 1988-1990
Professional information, 1989-1990 and undated
Representatives, 1989-1990
Saturday legislative forums, 1989 and 1992
Secretary General information
Senators, 1989-1990
Speech material

Box 18
Speeches, 1988-1992
Stationary, 1989
Women's Legislative Caucus, 1989

1990 Iowa General Assembly
Floor managed bills, 1990
Health and human services, 1990
House bills, 1990
Interim legislative committees, 1990
Republicans, 1990
Teen Pregnancy, 1990

1991 Iowa General Assembly
Bills, 1991-1992
Child abuse
Death penalty
Democratic caucus and party
Domestic abuse, 1991
Education, 1991-1992 (2 folders)
Floor managed bills, 1991-1992

Box 19
Housing, 1991
Human services, 1991 (5 folders)
League of Women Voters
Legislative Service Bureau
Licensures, massage therapists
Lobbyist activity
Map, Medicaid
Medipass, interim, 1991
Newsletters, 1991-1992
Parental consent
Pensions, correspondence
Personal notes on legislators
Physicians' assistants
Power of attorney
Sex offenders, 1991

Box 20
Small business, 1991
Soil conservation
Tax hike, 1991-1992
Technology, 1991-1992
Telecommunications, 1991
Thorson, Larry, 1991
Voting record, 1991
Welcome Center, 1991

1992 Iowa General Assembly
Aging, 1992
Amtrak, 1992
Bill draft request forms, 1992
Budget, 1992 (2 folders)

Box 21
Budget, 1992
Correspondence, 1992
Economic initiatives, 1992
Education speech, 1992
Healthcare, 1992
Hershner, Calvin
News releases, 1992
Position statements, 1992
Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP), 1992
Summary of House and Senate, 1992
Floor managed House bills, 1992
House and Senate bills, 1992 (2 folders)

Box 22
House and Senate bills, 1992 (3 folders)

Box 23
House and Senate Bills, 1992 (2 folders)

Box 24
Cindy Nielsen, 1968-1984 [CLOSED]

For more information about this collection contact the Iowa Women's Archives.

Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City IA 52242.
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Page created March 2008