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Minnette Doderer papers

Identifier: IWA0008

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Scope and Contents

The Minnette Doderer papers date from 1944 to 2005 and measure 29.25 linear feet.

Most of these materials relate to Doderer's activities as a member of the Iowa legislature, her role as a woman in politics, and her involvement with women's organizations. The collection contains materials related to bills with which Doderer was involved, constituent correspondence (often with Doderer's replies attached), letters from other politicians (such as Tom Harkin, Charles Grassley, Walter Mondale, and Pat Schroeder), Doderer's speeches, campaign materials, and extensive topical files. The collection is rich in material relating to the early women's movement.

Accession 1 of the Minnette Doderer papers (Boxes 1-30) contains material dating from 1944 to 1984 and measures 11.75 linear feet. Accession 2 (boxes 31-44) dates from 1964 to 1991 and measures 5.5 linear feet. Accession 3 (Boxes 45-52) dates from 1967 to 1992 and measures 3 linear feet. Accession 4 (Boxes 53-75) dates from the 1970s to 2005 and measures 9 linear feet.


The bulk of the material in Accession 1 dates from 1964 to 1979. The files in this accession are arranged in one alphabetical sequence. The accession contains extensive material on the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights as well as on the International Women's Year.


Accession 2 dates primarily from the 1980s. It is arranged in six series: Campaign files, Correspondence, Personal material, Photographs, Speeches, and Topical files and legislation.

The Campaign files series (1966-1988) contains a variety of clippings, press releases, pamphlets, nominating petitions, and other documents relating to Doderer's election campaigns during this period.

The Correspondence files series (1972-1990) incorporates Doderer's official correspondence, including letters from constituents and fellow politicians. Copies of many of Doderer's replies are also included.

The Personal material series (1964-1990) includes biographical information, appointment books, newspaper clippings, and Doderer's personal correspondence.

The Photographs series (1964-1984) contains a selection of photographs, primarily of Doderer.

The Speeches series (undated) consists of Doderer's notes for a variety of speeches, especially on the issue of comparable worth.

The Topical files and legislation series (1967-1991) encompasses a wide range of issues. It includes both general resource files on issues such as adoption and the Democratic convention and resource files related to specific legislation on subjects such as groundwater (HF 606) and pari-mutuel racing (SF 92). This series also contains information on other aspects of Doderer's political career and includes an oral history interview by Robin Stryker.


Accession 3 contains material from the 1980s and early 1990s. It is arranged in four series: Correspondence, Legislative career, Personal material, and Topical files and legislation. The arrangement of Accession 3 varies somewhat from Accession 2 in that materials related to Doderer's career as a legislator, but not specifically connected to acts of legislation, have been organized into a separate series: Legislative career. Previously, these folders were included in the Topical files and legislation series.

The Correspondence series (1974-1992) consists primarily of letters from constituents along with some of Doderer's replies. Topics discussed include parental consent laws for abortion, taxes, education, and the drinking age. There are also a number of letters related to Doderer's speaking engagements and some congratulations and condolences regarding election results.

The Legislative career series (1967-1992) documents aspects of Doderer's political career other than her involvement with specific acts of legislation. One of the largest segments of this series involves the Equality in the Courts Task Force of which Doderer was a member. Testimony for and reports by this task force provide a rich source of information on gender and racial discrimination in the court system.

The Personal material series (1975-1992) is comprised of Doderer's appointment books, mostly from the 1980s, and a small selection of her personal correspondence.

The Topical files and legislation series (1972-1992) includes general resource files and materials related to particular acts of legislation. For this accession, the bulk of this series consists of materials on the topic of gender equity in insurance.


The bulk of the materials in accession 4 date from the mid-1980s to 2000. The papers are arranged in eight series: Biographical information, Campaigns, Correspondence, Legislative sessions, Newspaper clippings, Speeches, Speech materials, and Topical files.

Most of the papers in this accession have been retained in their original order and folders. As a result, the files overlap a good deal and include many duplicates. For example, topical files often contain correspondence, newspaper clippings, and sometimes speeches. The titles and dates Doderer wrote on the folders are necessarily consistent with the folder contents. Thus, the organization of the papers provides a rough guide only, and researchers would be well-advised to do a thorough search of Doderer's papers to unearth all documents related to a particular event, topic, or piece of legislation.

The papers in the Biographical information series (1970s-2005) consist largely of files kept by Doderer labeled "Personal," which include newspaper clippings about Doderer, invitations, thank-you notes, correspondence from friends and constituents, notices of events in which Doderer participated, and other miscellaneous items. This series also includes obituaries of Doderer and her husband, Fred. The folder on the Daum family includes "Railroad Widow," the reminiscences of an elderly pioneer woman about her life in Iowa as the wife of a section hand on the railroad during the late nineteenth century. (Daum is the maiden name of Doderer's mother-in-law.) A photograph of Doderer playing tennis against Billie Jean King for a fundraiser in the 1970s completes the series.

The Campaign series (1964-2000) includes materials related to Doderer's campaigns, mainly from 1986 to 1998. It includes brochures, strategy notes, information on fundraising events, donor lists, nomination papers, display ads from newspapers, and letters to the editor. The series is organized by election year, and many folders include information on the campaigns of other local, state, or national Democratic candidates. The series includes details on the races in which Doderer faced serious opposition, the general elections of 1992 and 1994, and the primary of 1996.

The Correspondence series (1970s-2000) includes both constituent and personal mail. The series is organized chronologically. It includes thank-you notes, letters of appreciation, and letters in which constituents share their views on everything from abortion to taxes to tort reform.

The Legislative sessions series (1993-2000), organized chronologically, includes a smattering of reports and issue briefs written by the research staff of the Democratic Party, copies of Doderer's bills, lists of Doderer's bills, pages from the House Journal, and summaries of legislative sessions.

The items in the Newspaper clippings series (1960s-2000), arranged chronologically, date mainly from the 1990s. Most include reference to something Doderer did or said in the legislature. The series includes articles praising Doderer or reporting on awards she received. Some articles do not mention Doderer, but discuss people or events in which she took an interest, especially articles about the Democratic Party and the Iowa General Assembly.

The Speeches series (1968-2000) contains notes, outlines, and handwritten comments or speeches made by Doderer. The speeches are organized chronologically, and many folders also include materials Doderer used in preparing the speech.

The Speech materials series (1990s) consists of newspaper clippings, magazine or journal articles, and reports from which Doderer drew information for her speeches. The series is organized by topic. The materials on women are especially voluminous and contain resource materials on issues such as gender equity in insurance, reproductive health, women and work, and a research paper titled 'Women in the Iowa Legislature: A 1986 Update.'

The Topical files series is the largest series in this accession, accounting for more than half of the total records in the fourth accession. The series is organized alphabetically by topic. It includes a wide range of materials such as newspaper clippings, articles from magazines or journals, bills, constituent mail, legal opinions, information from advocacy groups, editorials, reports, research materials, and notes by Doderer. Many files contain information related to other topics. For example, the folder on alimony contains information related to divorce; the folder on child support is related to both alimony and divorce; and the folder on dram shop is related to drunk driving. The most extensive materials relate to the topics of abortion, guns, health insurance, taxes, and issues related to women.

Abortion: The abortion materials include policy reports from advocacy groups, (mostly, but not exclusively, pro-choice organizations), newspaper and magazine articles, handbooks on strategies for reproductive freedom, government reports, legal opinions, law journal articles, newsletters from pro-choice and pro-life groups, correspondence, and materials from religious groups, both pro-life and pro-choice. Materials in the series relate to parental notification laws; a bill to require statistical reporting on abortions in Iowa; and the US Supreme Court decisions Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 1989 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992 (Doderer signed an amicus brief filed by state officials in Casey). Other issues addressed include late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, adolescent pregnancy, abortion for minors, RU 486, Hyde amendments, gag rules, the shooting of Dr. Gunn, safety of abortion providers, and fetal rights. Some folders contain headings that broadly describe their contents.

Adoption: Materials address issues such as adoption by gays, cross-racial adoptions, and fathers' rights.

Alimony: Debates and constituent mail about a proposed bill to limit alimony payments to a certain length of time.

Divorce: Iowa's no-fault divorce law and the economic consequences of divorce for women and children.

Drugs: Information on drug testing by employers and mandatory sentencing for use of methamphetamines.

Earth Summit: 1992 United Nations international conference on environmental issues, which Doderer attended in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Equal Rights Amendment: These material mainly relate to the successful 1998 campaign to amend the Iowa constitution by adding 'and women' to Article I in the Bill of Rights. The amendment was regarded by feminists as a partial victory, women were finally in the Iowa constitution, but no enforcement provisions were added.

Gun control study and Guns: A substantial collection of materials on the issues of gun violence and gun control in the 1990s that includes newspaper and magazine articles, reports and newsletters from organizations advocating gun control, constituent mail, and research on gun violence conducted by health care providers and the US Department of Justice. Issues addressed include waiting periods for permits, the Brady Bill, carrying concealed weapons, and banning assault weapons. The gun control study folders relate to legislative and citizen committees that Doderer served on and worked with in the wake of the 1991 shooting on the UI campus and includes information on the gun control bills Doderer introduced.

Health, Health insurance, and Insurance: Materials in these folders address how to reform health care systems, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), health insurance for children, gender equity in health insurance, Medicare, a patient's bill of rights, and unscrupulous practices by insurance companies. Also includes Doderer's testimony (circa 1994) before the Iowa Insurance Division regarding the use of gender as a rating factor for small group health insurance.

Judicial nominating commission: These materials related to debates about the composition of the commission, specifically, gender balance and parity between the political parties.

Kitty Kruse: Includes information about a contentious child custody dispute circa 1990.

Liability: These materials deal with whether or not the sellers of alcohol should be liable for actions committed by those who have purchased alcohol. (See also dram shop.) Also includes materials related to tort reform and medical malpractice.

National Conference on State Legislatures: This folder contains materials on comparable worth. (See also pay equity.)

National Women's Conference Center: These materials focus on preparations for the1995 UN conference on women in Beijing, China.

Pay Equity: This includes a report prepared in 1987 on Iowa's comparable worth plan, handwritten remarks Doderer prepared for a talk on how the Iowa legislature passed comparable worth, and a copy of the report submitted to the legislature by the comparable worth review committee, which Doderer co-chaired, in 1984. The folder also includes an academic report titled 'Comparable Worth and the Structure of Earnings: The Iowa Case' written in 1987.

Prisons: The majority of the materials relate to issues pertaining to Iowa's women prisoners. The lawsuit folder contains legal documents regarding an unsuccessful equal protection lawsuit filed on behalf of Iowa's female prisoners. Among the materials in the Mitchellville folder are letters from women prisoners about the problems they face and reports about the Mitchellville facility.

Sexual assault: Folder 1 includes a report by Carolyn Stewart Dyer and Nancy Hauserman titled 'Exemption of Sexual Assault Victims from Electronic News Coverage in Court,NULL which is undated but appears to have been written around 1985 or 1986.

Taxes: This extensive collection of materials addresses a wide range of issues including the Iowa minimum tax, tuition tax credits, sales tax, the Reagan tax cuts, tax credits for public and private schools, inheritance taxes, tax exemptions for nursing homes, and tax incentives for business such as IPSCO. Several folders relate to tax issues Doderer worked on as a member of the Ways & Means Committee such as property taxes, sales taxes, tax cuts, tax reform, and corporate taxes.

University of Iowa: This includes the decision issued by Judge Harold Vietor, US district judge for the southern district of Iowa, in the sexual harassment case of UI faculty member Jean Jew.

Voters for Choice: This contains information about Voters for Choice, an organization that ran conferences for pro-choice candidates and gave them suggestions on how to reach and turn out choice voters.

Voting records: Included are listings of how Iowa legislators voted on certain bills, compiled by ASFCME, Kids First, Iowa Aging Coalition, student organizations, women's organizations, Iowa State Educational Association, ICLU, Economic Progress for Iowa's Citizens, I-CAN, and the AFL-CIO.


  • Creation: 1944-2005


Conditions Governing Access

Users of the collection must review restrictions on use of correspondence related to abortion and sign the conditions of access form. [Located in donor file]

Biographical / Historical

Minnette Frerichs Doderer was born on May 16, 1923 near Holland, Iowa. Her parents, John and Sophie Frerichs, later moved the family to Waterloo where Minnette Frerichs graduated from East High School in 1941. She attended Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) and in 1948, received a BA in economics from the University of Iowa. In 1944, she married Fred Doderer. They raised two children, Dennis and Kay Lynn, in Iowa City.

Doderer was active in the Democratic Party beginning in the 1950s, serving as vice-chair of the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee from 1956 to 1959 and acting as chair and co-chair of many county, district, and state Democratic conventions. One of the main issues she worked on was reapportionment. She co-chaired Hubert Humphrey's Iowa presidential campaign, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and 1984.

Doderer was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1964 in a special election. She served in the House from 1964 to 1968. She served in the State Senate from 1968 to 1978. Doderer was House minority whip from 1967 to 1968 and was the first woman to act as president pro tempore of the Iowa Senate from 1975 to 1976. In 1970 and 1978, she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor. In 1981, she was again elected to the House, where she continued to serve until her retirement in 2000.

Doderer's committee work and the legislation she sponsored in the Iowa General Assembly relate to a wide variety of issues. In particular, Doderer was active in promoting legislation relating to women's issues, such as the elimination of sexist language in the Iowa Code, gender balance in state commissions and gubernatorial appointments, comparable worth, gender equitable insurance, reproductive rights, and the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also worked on issues such as public health, prison reform, benefits for the elderly, child and spouse abuse, juvenile justice, collective bargaining rights for public employees, and the treatment of alcoholics. Doderer was involved in many organizations including the League of Women Voters, the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, and the National Organization for Women. In 1977, she chaired the Iowa delegation to the International Women's Year conference in Houston. She was one of the organizers and charter members of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus.

In 1979 she was elected to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame and in 1989 (at the Hall of Fame ceremony of that year), she received the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. After her retirement, Doderer moved to Oaknoll Retirement Center in Iowa City, where she passed away in 2005.


29.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



State legislator from Iowa City who was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1964.


Alphabetical file, 1944-1984 (Boxes 1-30)

Campaign files

1966, 1968, 1977-1980 (Box 6)

Lieutenant governor campaigns, 1970, 1977-1978 (Box 22-25)

1966-1988 (Box 31)

1986-2000 (Boxes 53-55)


1944-1984 (Boxes 10-15)

1972-1990 (Boxes 31-33)

1974, 1978-1992 (Box 45)

1970s-2000 (Boxes 55-56)

Personal material

1968-1990 (Boxes 33-35)

1975, 1981-1992 (Boxes 47-48)

1970s-2000 (Box 53)


1964-1967, 1983-1984 (Box 35)


Speeches and speech material, 1966-1982 (Boxes 28-29)

Undated (Box 35)

1968-2000 (Boxes 57-58)

Topical files and legislation

1962-1991 (Boxes 36-44)

1972-1992 (Boxes 48-52)

1980-2000 (Boxes 63-75)

Method of Acquisition

The papers were donated by Minnette Doderer in three accessions, the first in 1987 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

Daum and Doderer Family papers

Catherine E. Rymph, 1992; Marnie Schroer, 1995; Sharon M. Lake, 2008; and Special Collections staff.
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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)