Iowa Women's Archives
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa



PAPERS, 1974-2001
4.2 linear feet


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

Please cite materials from this collection as follows:
Elaine Szymoniak Papers, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.


Collection Overview

The papers (donor no. 241) were donated by Elaine Szymoniak in 1994 and 1999.
The papers are open for research.

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

In Boxes 1 and 3.
Processed by:

Randel W. Lackore, 1995 and Britt Nelson 2004. [SzymoniakElaine.doc]



Elaine Szymoniak, an Iowa state senator, former Des Moines City Council member and retired hearing and speech consultant, was born on May 24, 1920 to Hugo and Pauline Eisfelder in Boscobel, Wisconsin. In 1941, Szymoniak earned a bachelor's degree in education and speech pathology from the University of Wisconsin. She married Casimir (Chuck) D. Szymoniak in 1943: they reared five children together.

Szymoniak's degree and the deafness of both her parents led her to a career in speech therapy and later in rehabilitation. In the 1950s, after Chuck Szymoniak's discharge from the armed forces, the family moved to Des Moines, Iowa. In 1977 Szymoniak earned a master's degree in family environment, commuting to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She worked both part and full time as a hearing and speech consultant at the Iowa Department of Public Instruction for twenty-one years before her first campaign for public office.

Szymoniak won the election in 1977 for first ward city council member in Des Moines on her first attempt by defeating twelve-year incumbent Wallace Buss. At the time of her election, Szymoniak was the only female member of the city council. She unsuccessfully campaigned to become the mayor of Des Moines in 1979 and again in 1987. Following eleven consecutive years on the Des Moines City Council, Szymoniak set her goals on a different political office.

In the Iowa State Senate, Szymoniak has represented both the forty-second and thirty-sixth districts. Szymoniak's main areas of concern while serving in public office have been in health, education and human resources. This is reflected in the committees she has served on in the senate: Appropriations Committee on Human Services (vice-chair), Education, Human Resources (chair), Judiciary, Local Government and the Ways and Means Committee.

While acknowledging anguish on the issue, Szymoniak, a devout Roman Catholic, believes that abortion is a matter that should be left up to the conscience of the individual woman. A parental notification bill on abortion passed in the House of Representatives in 1994 and Szymoniak kept the bill in committee once it reached the Senate. A few lauded her for political savvy but most criticized the move as an attempt of three committee members to forestall legislation by denying the Senate an opportunity to vote for or against the bill. A 1992 Des Moines Register editorial endorsing her re-election summed up Szymoniak's political service: "Szymoniak has been an extremely hardworking, dedicated and conscientious lawmaker who is regarded at the Statehouse as one of the more effective legislators." (Box 3, Political campaigns, State senate, Publicity, Newspaper clippings, 1992)

Scope and Content Note

The Elaine Szymoniak papers date from 1974 to 2001 and measure 4.2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in four series: Audiology and speech pathology, Des Moines City Council, Political campaigns and Iowa State Senate. The papers document Szymoniak's professional and public life. The bulk of the collection is correspondence between Szymoniak and her constituents while in the Iowa State Senate.

Elaine Szymoniak's professional work as a hearing and speech consultant is represented in the Audiology and speech pathology series (1954-1986). In this series are reports produced by Szymoniak on the need for environmental noise control and two works written as part of her master's degree about hearing children growing up with deaf parents. Also of interest in this series are the legal briefs and materials regarding the issues of Title XIX Medicaid coverage of hearing aid costs and who should have the licensed ability to diagnose hearing loss.

Szymoniak has served as an elected official since 1977. The Des Moines City Council series (1977-1988 and undated) contains the papers from her tenure as the first ward city council member for Des Moines. The series includes topical files on local and national subjects that show her interest in various contemporary issues. However the majority of this series is made up of newspaper clippings chronicling Szymoniak's work on the city council. Also included are a copy of the minutes of Szymoniak's first city council meeting and letters from constituents with her response attached.

Szymoniak ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Des Moines twice but won election and re-election as a state senator. The Political campaigns series (1979-1992) is divided by the two offices for which she campaigned. The Mayor of Des Moines subseries contains newspaper clippings, political mailings and Szymoniak's candidacy speech announcing her first campaign for mayor. In a letter in the Woman's campaign fund folder Szymoniak provides her own analysis of why she lost the election in 1979. The State senate subseries provides insight into Szymoniak's campaign financing and her integrity in dealing with a minor infraction of the disclosure law concerning the source of funding for political advertising. A report, "A Survey of Voter's Attitudes in Iowa's 36th District," commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party, provides statistical data on voter's views on various topics of importance to the 1992 campaign. The series also contains various campaign buttons.

The Iowa State Senate series (1989-2001) comprises the bulk of the collection. This series consists primarily of correspondence between Szymoniak and her constituents. The letters are organized chronologically, with the originating letter and response together. Most of the letters from the public to Szymoniak are from 1994 when her subcommittee controlled an abortion parental notification bill in the senate. A 1991 statement Szymoniak made to the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources exhibits her concern for families and children.

The collection concludes with the Personal series (1986-2000) comprising Szymoniak’s certificates and awards and the professional organizations to which she belonged.


Box List

Box 1                          
  Audiology and speech pathology              
    Audiologist licensing, 1974-1983
Audiology magazine articles, 1954, 1986
Certificates of license, 1977
Environmental noise control and hearing loss reports, 1971-1979
Photographs of noise abatement display, undated
Title XIX Medicaid entitlement: hearing aid
      Background information, 1977-1985
Legal briefs, 1978-1980 (2 folders)
    Written works      
      Attitudes Toward Deafness: Children of Deaf Parents (master's thesis), 1977
"Deaf Parents and Hearing Children" (report), 1975
  Des Moines City Council              
    Certificate of election, 1977
City of Des Moines annual reports, 1983, 1988
Constituent correspondence, 1978-1988 (2 folders)
Minutes of Szymoniak's first city council meeting, January 2, 1978
Box 2                    
    Newspaper clippings              
1977, 1981-1985
    Questionnaire of city council members for the Des Moines Register, 1981
Speeches, 1974, 1979-1984 and undated
Topical files
      Coalition against drug abuse, 1988
Iowa Equal Rights Amendment, 1977-1980
Mid-city library closing, 1985
Nuclear arms race, 1983-1987
Police, 1977-1981
Rape, 1975-1985 and undated
Self sufficiency, 1986-1988
Women and work seminar, 1981
Women in politics, 1979-1984
    Woman of achievement award (YWCA of Greater Des Moines), 1983  
  Political campaigns              
    Campaign buttons, undated
Mayor of Des Moines, 1979 campaign
      Candidacy speech [1979]
Condolence letters, 1979
Flyers, undated
Newspaper clippings, 1979
Women's campaign fund, 1980
    Mayor of Des Moines, 1987 campaign      
      Elementary school thank you cards, 1987
Newspaper clippings, 1987
    State senate, finance      
      Campaign contributions, 1991-1992
Campaign finance disclosure commission, 1992
    State senate, publicity
      Candidate questionnaires, 1992
Political flyers
        Challengers (Kathryn S. Freilinger and Kathy Keely), 1992
Incumbent, 1992
Newspaper clippings, 1992
Box 3        
      Photographs [1992]
Press releases, 1991
    Public opinion  
      Election results, 1992"A Survey of Voters' Attitudes in Iowa's 36th District" (report), 1992  
  Iowa State Senate              
    Constituent correspondence
      1989 (2 folders)
1992 (3 folders)
        General (2 folders)
Inmate correspondence
Box 4                          
        General (2 folders)
Abortion parental notification bill (3 folders)
Thank you notes, 1992, 1995
      1995 (3 folders)    
Box 5                          
      1996 (5 folders)
1997 (2 folders)
Box 6                          
1999 (2 folders)
“Weird Letters,” 1989-1997
    Hearing statement (United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources), 1991
Event Invites and Programs, 1986-2001
Iowa Ethics Commission, 1998-2001
Box 7          
    Iowa Healthcare Summit 1993
Newsletters with Elaine, 1990-2000
Newspaper clippings
      Elaine related, 1989-2000
Issue related, 1989-2000
Urbandale News, From the Statehouse, 1989-1992
Speeches, 1989-1994
Syzmoniak Actions, 1998
Syzomoniak Bills, 1997-1998
76 th General Assembly Highlights, 1997-1998
Topical files
        Abortion, 1989-2000 (2 folders)
Al Gore, 1999
Box 8                          
        Acupuncture, 2000
Alumni merit award nomination, 1993
Audiology and Speech Pathology
          General, 1993-2000
Board of Examiners, 2000
Occupational Hearing Loss, 1996-1998
        Baker, Nathaniel Burial Plot, 1996
Board of Regents nominee rejection, [1994]
Child abuse, 1993-1995
Child welfare, 1996-1998
Death penalty
          Correspondence, 1993-1995 (2 folders)
Box 9                          
          Correspondence, 1993-1995
        Domestic Abuse, 1995-1997 (2 folders)
Education funding, 1992
Gambling laws, 1993
Gay and lesbian issues, 1989-1998
Healthcare, 1993-2000 (2 folders)
Healthcare reform, 1992-1995
Helmet law, 1992-1999
Human investment plan, 1992
Box 10                          
        Human investment plan, 1991
Infant mortality task force, 1992
Iowa communications network (ICN), 1993
Iowa Family Support Act, 1994
Parental notification bill
          Correspondence, 1994-1995
Draft statement, 1994
General, 1995-1996 (2 folders)
Newspaper clippings, 1994-1995
        State employee job reclassification freeze, 1993
Task force for responsible fatherhood, 2001
Teenage pregnancy, 1995
Welfare reform, 1993-1995
Women’s issues, 1989-1995
Voting records, 1989-1992
Box 11                          
    General, undated
Certificates and awards, 1986-2000
Professional Organizations
      Chrysallis Foundation, 1996-2000
Iowa Council for International Understanding, 1996-1998


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