Skip to main content

Mary C. Neuhauser papers

 Collection
Identifier: IWA0455
The Mary C. Neuhauser papers date from 1968 to 1999 and measure 13.8 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Biographical/Personal, Civic activities, Campaigns, Local government, and State government.   The Biographical/Personal series includes an oral history recorded with Neuhauser in 1991 and a hand-written letter to her children, undated, but apparently written soon after their move to Iowa. It would seem to be a letter she never shared with them, and is one of the few truly personal items in the collection. It also contains records relating to Neuhauser's years in law school and the course she took at the JFK School of Government.   The Civic Activities series documents Neuhauser's work with various organizations including the Architecture Heritage Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, Johnson County Democrats, Trinity Church, the Iowa Division of the United Nations Association, and the First Capitol Development Fund. Note the biography of Indira Ghandi in the Iowa UN folder--although the author is not specifically listed, it is most likely that this was written by Neuhauser. Neuhauser's interests ranged from local to international, from domestic to aesthetic to administrative. Neuhauser believed in progress--in the ability of good people to act for the good of all to build a better world. The seeds of Neuhauser's political career were sown in the work she did in these organizations.   The Campaigns series contains records from Neuhauser's many campaigns for City Council, County Board of Supervisors, State Representative, and State Senate, as well as a few campaigns she worked on for other candidates. These records are a marvelously-detailed look at the workings of grassroots politics: the fundraising, door-knocking, canvassing, leafleting, and phone-calling that must be done, as well as the amount of bureaucracy that must be endured by candidates for political office--even in local elections. Neuhauser accepted only personal contributions, so fundraising was especially time-consuming. Her campaign records show a broad-based, grassroots organization that was very loyal and committed. The correspondence in these series shows the warmth with which so many constituents regarded Neuhauser. See notes from Linda Kerber, Bev Hannon, Dick Myers, and Dottie Ray.   The Local Government series contains records of Neuhauser's work on the Riverfront Commission and her years as a member of the City Council and Mayor of Iowa City. The records demonstrate that Neuhauser's goal as a leader was to seek consensus and action, and that her style was non-confrontational, but firm and steady. The transcripts of her speeches are of special interest as evidence of her beliefs about democracy and government, and her use of literature as a source of inspiration. Neuhauser wrote a description of her trip to Israel in 1977 (in the International conferences folder) which gives a rare glimpse into her personal viewpoint; it reads like a short story, lingering on interesting details that official reports on conferences would not usually include. Neuhauser's leadership in both the League of Iowa Municipalities and the National League of Cities is also documented in these records.   The State Government series is the most extensive part of the collection. It covers Neuhauser's twelve years of service in the Iowa state legislature--eight in the House and four in the Senate, as well as her service on several state commissions. There is a rich and interesting collection of her correspondence with constituents; Neuhauser took the time to help people with problems and respond to their requests. She was much admired and respected for the personal attention and great sense of stewardship she demonstrated in carrying out her responsibilities. There are detailed files on the committees she served on as well as the bills she sponsored and supported.   The correspondence addresses many topics including gun control (following shootings in Physics Building), education, taxes, human services, especially funding for various programs, abortion, the environment. They demonstrate the wide range of issues a legislator must handle. Letters on 1993 Jessica DeBoer case and franchise law. Many on death penalty over the years as legislature considered this several times in the 90s.   There are detailed files on the committees she served on as well as the bills she sponsored and supported. Neuhauser's records indicate her belief in the value of education--she sought information to educate herself on the issues that she grappled with as a legislator. Her records teem with reports, articles, and information on the issues relevant to the bills before the legislature, or that she drafted.   Issues of particular interest were children, education, and ethics. Files show the complex bill-making process; how inter-related many social issues are (poverty, education, crime, welfare, work); the ever-present overlap of public and private and how to negotiate it (this was especially an issue in the development of the Iowa Communications Network); and the wide range of issues a legislator must educate herself about and be prepared to handle.   Neuhauser's records indicate her belief in the value of education--she sought information to educate herself on the issues that she grappled with as a legislator. Her records teem with reports, articles, and information on the issues relevant to the bills before the legislature, or that she drafted.   Issues of particular interest were children, education, and ethics. Files show the complex bill-making process; how inter-related many social issues are (poverty, education, crime, welfare, work); the ever-present overlap of public and private and how to negotiate it (this was especially an issue in the development of the Iowa Communications Network); and the wide range of issues a legislator must educate herself about and be prepared to handle.   Letter of congratulations to Vilsak in Legislative Career, handwritten notes.

Dates

  • 1968-1999

Creator

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.

Extent

13.80 linear feet

Artifacts in box 5<br>1 audiocassette [AC 834]<br>1 videocassette [V290]<br>Photographs in boxes 1-6, 10, 13, 27 other_unmapped

Abstract

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

Biographical / Historical

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.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 669) were donated by Mary C. Neuhauser in 1999 and 2000.

Related Materials

A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators (IWA): includes an oral history interview conducted with Neuhauser by Suzanne O'Dea Schenken.

Other Descriptive Information

http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/findingaids/html/NeuhauserMary.htm#content
Author
Sharon Lake, 2002.
Language of description
eng

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

Contact:
100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5068
319-335-5900 (Fax)