Jo Ann McIntosh Zimmerman, the first woman Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, was born on December 24, 1936, in a farmhouse in Van Buren Township of Van Buren County, Iowa. She was the oldest of three children born to Hazel and Russell McIntosh. The family lived on a subsistence farm, raising both produce and livestock.
As a teenager, Jo Ann McIntosh participated in 4-H activities, helped start the first Girl Scout troop in Keosauqua, played in the band, was active in drama, and worked as a soda fountain jerk in Keosauqua. She graduated in 1954 as valedictorian of her class from Keosauqua High School, as did her mother years before.
McIntosh entered the Broadlawns Hospital School of Nursing in Des Moines in 1954. She married Tom Zimmerman in 1956, and the couple had five children: Andy, Lisa, twins Don and Ron, and Beth. Despite family demands, Zimmerman completed her nursing degree in 1958 and in the same year became assistant head nurse of the maternity department at Broadlawns. By 1966, she was supervisor of the maternity department and in 1968 she became a maternity nursing instructor.
In the late 1960s she went back to school to earn a B.A. She moved through a series of jobs, teaching courses on marriage and family for the sociology department at Iowa State University, working as a health planner for the health policy corporation of Iowa, lobbying for health issues at the state legislature and serving on the Waukee Community School Board as Director, 1976-79, and as president, 1978-79. She also served on the Dallas County Democratic Central Committee.
In 1982, Zimmerman won the election to the Iowa House, where she was instrumental in securing passage of a bill to improve healthcare for indigent women, supported the clean air act , and was the lead sponsor of the living will act. In 1986, she ran for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa in an upset over Iowa City´s Art Small in the Democratic primary. She defeated Cedar Rapids Republican candidate Joan Lipsky by a margin of 436, 999 votes. She was the first woman in the state of Iowa to hold the position and only the second Democratic Lieutenant Governor in Iowa history to serve with a Republican governor.
As Lieutenant Governor, Zimmerman urged the removal of the figurehead Lieutenant Governor post, advocated alternative uses of agricultural products through research and development, government programs to assist the elderly, establishment of a statewide library system, improving the standardization of educational requirements and teacher training, increasing alternatives to healthcare for Iowans, and rights for women, including abortion rights and passage of the ERA.
Zimmerman ran for Governor of Iowa in 1989, attacking then-governor Terry Branstad for failing to meet with her even once in the four years of her tenure. Zimmerman withdrew her candidacy to avoid a floor fight at the Democratic convention, becoming the Lieutenant Governor candidate with Don Avenson, but the Avenson-Zimmerman team lost the election. During the 1980s farm crisis, the Zimmermans narrowly escaped losing their family farm to foreclosure.
Since then, Zimmerman has continued to advocate patients´, farmers´, and women´s rights, taking on many responsibilities for the 1992 ERA in Iowa campaign, serving as a public speaker and organizer, and continuing her work with the Democratic Party. She has also served on the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center Board of Directors, the Iowa Nurses Association Board, and has been involved in AFSCME, the FINE Educational Research Foundation and the nationwide Roundtable for Women Legislators. Her post-political career interests include education, healthcare, the elderly and human rights.