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Joan Lipsky papers

Identifier: IWA0071
The Joan Lipsky papers date from 1941 to 2008 and measure 9.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: Biographical information, Iowa General Assembly, Correspondence, Women in politics, Campaigns, and Cedar Rapids. The Biographical information series (1941-2008) includes resumes, newspaper articles that feature Lipsky, and letters of recommendation to support Lipsky's nomination to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. The Iowa General Assembly series (1960-1979) consists primarily of topical files maintained by Lipsky during her six terms as a state representative, from 1967 to 1978. This is the largest series of the collection, at five and a half linear feet. Lipsky collected published reports, notes, memoranda, and correspondence on a variety of issues, including the Equal Rights Amendment, juvenile justice, health services, and the state budget. This series includes materials related to Lipsky's efforts to create a state ombudsperson, which culminated in the creation of the Office of the Citizens' Aide in 1972. The Correspondence series (1966-1978) contains letters written to and from Lipsky's constituents while she served in the Iowa General Assembly. The letters are arranged alphabetically within each year according to the last name of the sender or recipient of correspondence with Lipsky, reflecting her personal filing system. The Women in politics series (1967-1985) includes newsletters, brochures, and correspondence related to state and national women's partisan and nonpartisan political groups. The newsletters include articles on the Equal Rights Amendment, profiles of women politicians, and meeting minutes. This series also includes newspaper articles about women who served as elected officials at the state and national levels. Lipsky's personal reflections on women's participation in politics complete this series. The Campaigns series (1969-1985) consists of correspondence, brochures, and newsletters that pertain to Lipsky's campaigns for the Iowa General Assembly and the internal politics of the Republican Party. The brochures include biographical information about Lipsky and summaries of her accomplishments in the legislature. The Cedar Rapids series (1968-1994) includes materials that relate to the planning and development of businesses, municipal services, and recreational opportunities in Cedar Rapids. Records related to Lipsky's work with Mount Mercy College, particularly with the College of Nursing, complete the series.


  • 1941-2008


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.


9.50 linear feet


Iowa legislator and community acitvisit from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Biographical / Historical

Joan Miller was born in 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to John and Ruth Miller. Her grandfather, Henry Smulekoff, was an early settler of Cedar Rapids. Joan Miller attended Johnson, McKinley, and Old Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, and graduated from Gulf Park High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. Miller received a BS in psychology from Northwestern University in 1940 and attended graduate school at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), where she studied clinical psychology in 1940 and 1941. She was the first person to intern in psychology at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she then worked as a clinical psychologist until 1942. She married Abbott Lipsky in 1941. During World War II, Joan Lipsky worked as a consulting psychologist in a private practice while Abbott Lipsky worked as a cryptanalyst for the Signal Intelligence Service. After the war, Joan and Abbott Lipsky moved to Cedar Rapids, where they raised three children, John, Ann, and Abbott, Jr. From 1945 until 2008, Abbott Lipsky served as president of Smulekoff's Furniture, a company founded by Joan Lipsky's maternal grandfather. Lipsky became active in community service and women's clubs. In a 1989 oral history interview, she explained, "When I came back here to Cedar Rapids, I had one little baby, and it never occurred to me that I would continue my career." Lipsky was involved in a number of city commissions and women's clubs in Cedar Rapids. She chaired the Mayor's Commission on Housing, the Mayor's Commission on Alcoholism, and the Employment Security Advisory Council. She was a member of the Cedar Rapids Women's Club, the American Association of University Women, Altrusa, Delta Kappa Gamma, Hadassah, and Sisterhood of Temple Judah. She served as a trustee and a director of the Cedar Rapids Art Association, and a trustee of Coe College and St. Luke's Hospital. She was a founding member of the Cedar Rapids Women's Caucus, which later became the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women. As her involvement in city associations and clubs grew, Lipsky became aware of the structures that prevented women from being elected to leadership positions. During her bid to serve on the Cedar Rapids School Board, Lipsky learned that most members were grandfathered into the board. Retiring members often appointed men to replace them months before an election; the appointees were then listed as incumbents on the ballots during the next election. After she lost the election, Lipsky organized a coalition of women's groups to pressure a retiring school board member to nominate a woman to replace him before the upcoming election. He agreed reluctantly, and Lipsky's interest in politics grew. After the Lipskys sent their youngest child to prep school, Joan Lipsky explained, "I couldn't imagine what I was about to do with my life. I was tired of club work, and my children were gone." When she was approached in 1966 by a Republican Party official to run for a seat in the state legislature, Lipsky recalled that it "sounded like a great challenge." In November 1966, Joan Lipsky was the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly. Lipsky's background in clinical psychology shaped her interests in the state legislature, where she participated in a study on mental health and juvenile institutions, the Medical Advisory Council, and the Human Resources Committee. Lipsky led efforts to improve Iowa's institutions for mentally retarded people and increase funding for special education programs in public schools. She took a special interest in working for women's legal, economic, and social equality through her work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, her support of educational and occupational programs for women, and her interest in reforming women's prisons in Iowa. One of Lipsky's supporters noted, "As an already successful legislator and community pillar, [Lipsky] had nothing to gain in addressing women's issues and much to lose. Yet she never wavered, and indeed, taught the women's rights supporters here [in Iowa] exactly how people of integrity can effect positive change in America." During her tenure as a state representative, Lipsky served as the Assistant Minority Leader of the Iowa General Assembly and a member of the Midwest Conference of State Legislators. She was recognized as an outstanding legislator by the Iowa Welfare Association and the Business and Professional Women. In 1975, she participated in the first World Conference for Women in Mexico City, Mexico. Lipsky served six terms in the General Assembly, from 1967 to 1978. During Lipsky's final term in office, she began to attend law school at the University of Iowa. After graduating with a JD in 1980, Lipsky practiced law in Cedar Rapids, at the law firm of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.C. In 1986, she ran for lieutenant governor of Iowa on the Republican ticket with Governor Terry Branstad. Branstad was re-elected, but Lipsky lost her bid to serve as lieutenant governor. This was the last election when gubernatorial candidates and candidates for lieutenant governor ran separately in Iowa. In 1976, Lipsky was awarded an honorary JD from Mount Mercy College and she was named the Cedar Rapids Woman of the Year in 1979. Abbott Lipsky died in 2008. Joan Lipsky died in 2015.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1169) were donated by Joan Lipsky in 2008 and subsequent years. The papers were held by the Mount Mercy College Archives from 1970 to 2008, at which time Mount Mercy transferred them to the Iowa Women's Archives.

Related Publications

Suzanne O'Dea Schenken, Legislators and Politicians: Iowa's Women Lawmakers. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1995. A copy is held by the University of Iowa Libraries, Main Library, HQ1236.5.U6 S35 1992   Lilith Speaks. The official newsletter of the Cedar Rapids Women's Caucus, later the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women. Iowa Women's Archives, Serials Collection.
Related Materials A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators (IWA): A transcript of Suzanne Schenken's 1989 interview with Joan Lipsky is included in this collection. Carolyn "Kay" Bucksbaum papers (IWA): This collection includes Lipsky's resumes and letters to support her nomination into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. Mary Louise Smith papers (IWA): This collection includes a photograph of Lipsky. This photograph has been digitized by Iowa Digital Libraries, and is accessible through the Iowa Women's Archives Founders Digital Collection. Jo Ann Zimmerman papers (IWA): Zimmerman, a Democrat, ran against Lipsky for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa in 1986. This collection includes an audiocassette tape and notes from their debate. Herstory Committee Women at Iowa, UI Council on the Status of Women records (IWA): A DVD of Karissa Haugeberg's 2010 interview with Joan Lipski is included in this collection.

Other Descriptive Information
Karissa Haugeberg, 2008.
Language of description

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)