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Neuhauser, Mary C., 1934-



  • Existence: 1934-


Mary C. Neuhauser was born in New York City in 1934 to John and Eleanor Cameron. Neuhauser's mother graduated from Wellesley College and began, but did not complete, a Ph.D. in English at Yale; her father graduated from Williams College and worked as an actuary. The family moved to rural Connecticut, near Stamford, when Neuhauser was two years old. Neuhauser spent her childhood there, and attended high school at a private girls' boarding school which, she recalls, she "hated."

Neuhauser graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in English Literature in 1956. She worked briefly as a secretary before marrying attorney Paul Neuhauser and starting a family. After three years in New York, the Neuhausers moved to Cambridge where Paul Neuhauser received an M.A. in law. When he was offered a faculty position at the University of Iowa Law School in 1963, the family moved to Iowa City.

The Neuhausers had three children by then -William, James, and Alice- and most of Neuhauser's time was devoted to their care. She had, however, been involved with the League of Womens' Voters in New York, and became involved in a number of civic organizations in Iowa City, including the Iowa division of the United Nations Association and the Architectural Heritage Commission.

Neuhauser's political career began with her 1973 appointment to the Riverfront Commission, a city-chartered committee. As she worked with city government, Neuhauser became increasingly frustrated by the City Council's inability to complete the urban renewal project begun in the mid-1960s. The resignation of a council member in 1974 required the council to appoint a member to fill out the term; Neuhauser applied for the position and won the appointment. She served until 1983 on the City Council and spearheaded the successful completion of the urban renewal project. During that time, Neuhauser was selected twice to serve as mayor-- from 1976-77 and again from 1982-83, becoming the third woman to serve as mayor of Iowa City. She also completed her J.D. at the University of Iowa Law School in these years, graduating in 1982.

After serving on the City Council, Neuhauser was urged to run for a seat on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, which she did in 1984, but lost. Following the retirement of popular Democratic state representative Jean Lloyd-Jones, Neuhauser ran for her seat in 1986; she was elected and held the seat until 1994, when she ran for the Senate, where she served one term from 1994-1998. Neuhauser retired from the Iowa legislature in 1998 after twelve years of service. Two years later, when her husband retired, the Neuhausers purchased a second home in Florida, and they currently divide their time between Iowa and Florida.

Neuhauser focused on several issues in the legislature, but key among them was education. She advocated improvements to Iowa's school system, and championed a variety of issues related to children and early childhood education. She also was instrumental in re-writing laws related to ethics for legislatures, and spearheaded efforts to revamp the state's administrative code. Another focus was economic development; Neuhauser was nothing if not pragmatic, and she saw economic development as key to the health and vitality of a community. Neuhauser also served on the newly-formed governmental oversight committees in the late 1990s.

Although Neuhauser had always considered herself a Republican, she switched to the Democratic Party following the 1974 Watergate scandal. Her approach to government reflected strengths of both traditions: Democratic inclusiveness and concern for the less powerful, and Republican emphasis on strengthening the private sector and focusing on the common good. Neuhauser worked at the intersection of government, business, and education, and her records illuminate the ways in which these realms are connected. She believed that education prepared citizens to be valuable community members. She encouraged business and government to work as partners in developing the private and public sectors that depend upon each other to flourish. She understood the interdependence of these interlocking systems, and worked to bring them into harmonious and supportive partnerships. Neuhauser believed in progress?in the ability of good people to act for the good of all, and build a better world. Neuhauser devoted herself to that effort, and she rendered tireless and faithful public service to the citizens of Iowa for nearly thirty-five years.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators oral histories

Identifier: IWA0089

Interviews with Iowa women legislators conducted by Suzanne O'Dea Schenken.

Dates: 1988-1993

Mary C. Neuhauser papers

Identifier: IWA0455

Democrat who served four terms in the Iowa House and one four-year term in the Senate (1986-1998).

Dates: 1968-1999

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African American women -- Iowa 1
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