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Betty Jean Clark papers

Identifier: IWA0153

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Scope and Contents

The Betty Jean Clark papers date from 1935 to 1994 and measure 12.8 linear inches. The papers are arranged in four series: Biographical Information, Writing, Presentations and Legislature. The collection documents a woman's role in the legislature and the importance of the church in Clark's life.

The Biographical information (1989?-1994) series contains essays written about Clark, one of which includes a concise, detailed list of her family, education, activities, awards and employment history. She is also highlighted in a compilation of "non-traditional careers" entitled Dare to Be Different. In addition there are newspaper articles about Clark's retirement from the Iowa House of Representatives in 1990 and her paralyzing car accident that year. Finally, there are newspaper articles about Clark's political activities since her retirement.

The Writing (1935-1991) series consists of publications, essays and church newsletters written and edited by Clark, most of which is from 1935 to 1976, before her legislative career. In this series is a copy of the book Nearer to Thee and a number of essays written for school and church, emphasizing religion, education and the "Status of Women." In addition there are two of Clark's bound journals with handwritten drafts of her news columns from 1947 to 1961.

The Presentations (1948-1993) series is divided into two categories, Radio and Speeches. The Radio subseries includes scripts from broadcasts which discussed a range of topics from politics and democracy to love. The Speeches included were given both publicly, such as at a Lions Club meeting or high school graduation, and in the House of Representatives concerning debates on bills such as the lottery and abortion. On a lighter note, poems and cartoons which were passed around the office are also included. Much of this section includes handwritten accounts by Clark. Audiocassettes are also included from a Governor's Day program, a speech given to a high school class, and radio programs.

The Iowa Legislature series (1976-1994) consists of a number of subseries, mostly involving newspapers (with campaign ads and other articles), but also includes awards and recognition, inmate correspondence, and details from her retirement. Articles on the "natural death" bill (1978, similar to the 1983 "right to die" bill), a state-run lottery, the Door Opener Program for women, and self-generated press which detail the weekly issues in the house, are some of the items found here. In addition, articles and letters about the Teen-Tern program along with photographs of some of the participants are included.


  • Creation: 1935-1994


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Betty Jean (BeJe) Clark was born on April 18, 1920 to the Reverend Raymond and Mary Walker in Kansas City, Kansas. After graduating from high school in Fort Hays, Kansas she began her undergraduate studies at Fort Hays State College and continued through the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where she received her degree in religious education. Her graduate work was done at the Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

With her strong religious background Clark spent much of her early career working with the Methodist Church as the Director of Student Programs at the Wesley Foundation in Ames, Iowa from 1948 to 1951, and as the Director of Christian Education and financial secretary at the United Methodist Church in Mason City, Iowa, from 1963 to 1975. Clark is also a published writer, beginning in 1935 in the Hays Daily News, and continuing with the column "Beje's Barrel," in the Ames Daily Tribune from 1947 to 1948 and the Old Trails Echo (in Centerville, Indiana) in 1953. She also compiled the book Nearer to Thee, a compilation of scriptures for daily meditation, with her sister Harriet Ann Daffron in 1956 and again in 1971. In addition, Beje edited Christian periodicals such as the Periodical Key for the Busy Methodist, which she began as an index of all Methodist publication and is now produced by the Methodist Publishing House and called the Periodical Index.

Clark spent fourteen years as a Republican in the Iowa House of Representatives after she was elected in 1976. While a representative she served on numerous committees, including fourteen years on the Judiciary Committee and the Human Resources Committee, which she chaired for four years. She wrote much of the legislation establishing the Prisoner Employment Program in 1978 and pioneered the Living Will legislation. In addition, from 1978 to 1989 Clark hosted high school students with the "Teen-Tern" program where students spent a week in Des Moines learning about how Iowa government works. Some of her other programs involved finding funding for services for abused children and establishing special employment training for women in prison.

In 1990 Clark retired from the House. On November first of that year she was injured in a car accident, and has been in a wheelchair since then. Clark resides in Rockwell, Iowa with her husband and has continued her public service with activities such as the radio show "Citizen Power," attending conferences on criminal justice and remaining active in organizations such as CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants), Justice Fellowship and the Advisory Council on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning (as one of two public citizens).


12.80 linear inches

3 audiocassettes [AC216-AC218], Photographs in boxes 4 and 5 boxes

Language of Materials



Iowa legislator from 1976 to 1990.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 225) were donated by Betty Jean Clark in 1994.

Melissa Burger, 1994.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)