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Arlene Jens papers

Identifier: IWA0499

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Scope and Contents

The Arlene Jens papers date from 1962 to 2006 and measure 12.25 linear inches. The papers are arranged in three series: Biographical Information, Reproductive Rights, and Nursing Home In-services and Education.

The Biographical Information series (2002-2006) includes autobiographical writings and one photograph of Jens.

The Reproductive Rights (1966-1992) series contains topical files concerning Jens' activism for women's and reproductive rights, including materials from both sides of the abortion debate. The items in the series include newspaper clippings, pamphlets, booklets, flyers, and form letters from the following groups: the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, the Iowa Association for Medical Control of Abortion, the Iowa Abortion Rights Action League, National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws (later the National Abortion Rights Action League), the Association for the Study of Abortion, the Christian Action Foundation, the Patriotic Women's Club of Iowa, Iowans for L.I.F.E., Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the National Right to Life Committee and Right to Life of Scott County.

The Nursing Home In-service and Education series (1966-1985) includes materials related to Jens' career. The topical files are in Jens' original order, and include her notes, outlines, handouts and related publications for the in-service sessions she conducted in nursing homes across eastern Iowa. Most of her in-services addressed the care of the elderly, nursing home policies, laws, and professional issues for nurses and aides. The series concludes with materials from a course Jens took in the late 1970s on nursing home administration that started her career as an educator in the field.


  • Creation: 1962-2006


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

Arlene Johnson Jens, nurse, activist and educator, was born in 1926 to Elmer and Edith Edmund Johnson on a farm near Fairfield, Iowa. Johnson had two brothers and the family enjoyed discussing religion and politics. Some of Arlene Johnson's female relatives participated in the women's suffrage movement before she was born. As a child she enjoyed reading, writing, politics and taking care of animals. Johnson graduated from Fairfield High School in 1943 and attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Desiring to participate in the war effort, she transferred to the nursing cadet program at Moline Lutheran Hospital in 1944 and graduated in 1947.

In 1947 Johnson married Wayne Jens and the couple moved to Davenport. She briefly worked as a general duty nurse at St. Luke's hospital in Davenport before having two sons. In the 1950s and 1960s, Arlene Jens did not work full-time as a nurse, but she became active in her church and the Parent Teacher Association, taught First Aid for the American Red Cross and volunteered at a cerebral palsy school. In the summers of 1966 through 1969 she worked as a Campfire Girls summer camp nurse. In her spare time she wrote poetry.

Jens ran unsuccessfully for state legislator three times, in 1968, 1970 and 1976, and worked as a legislative assistant during 1970-1971. In the early 1970s (prior to Roe v. Wade) she lobbied the state legislature on behalf of the Iowa Association for Medical Control of Abortion to repeal the state codes forbidding birth control and abortion. She became involved in the statewide debate concerning the plans of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to implement sex education programs in public schools in every state. In this time period, Jens was active in organizations such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood, where she was an advocate for birth control, sex education and abortion rights.

In 1972 Jens became the director for nursing at the Davenport Lutheran Home for the Aged, and later held several positions in nursing homes in eastern Iowa. Jens enrolled in the Nursing Home Administrator class at the Des Moines Area Community College in 1977 after a new law made this a required course for nursing administrators. She became an in-service and workshop provider in the area of nursing home policies and procedures for Eastern Iowa Community College. Jens retired in 1998. Arlene Jens passed away in 2019.


12.25 linear inches

Photographs in Box 1. boxes

Language of Materials



Nurse, abortion rights activist and educator from Fairfield, Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 866) were donated by Arlene Jens in 2002.

Related Materials

Edith Edmund Johnson papers (IWA): Mother of Arlene Jens.

NARAL of Iowa records (IWA): Jens was active in this organization originally called the Iowa Abortion Rights Action League.

Kate Stewart, 2006.
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Script of description
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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)