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Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer papers

Identifier: IWA0160

Scope and Contents

The Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer papers date from 1931 to 2007 and measure 29.75 linear feet. The papers were acquired and processed in three separate accessions in 1997 and 2007 and 2008. 1997 ACCESSION The 1997 accession is arranged in seven series: American Association of University Women, Equality for women, International Women's Year, Girl Scouts, Politics, Photographs and Artifacts. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) series (1976-1996) chronicles Spencer's work as chair of the legislative program committee nationally and at the state level. Spencer was instrumental in changing the national legislative newsletter to the Action Alert format. She also conducted workshops on the ERA and worked to make women's voices heard in the political realm. The Equality for women series (1965-1996) covers Spencer's pursuit of equality for women in printed publications and the financial arena. It chronicles her work in three main areas: to end the discrimination against women in trust funds and in newspaper publications, and to promote dual telephone directory listings for women. The series includes extensive documentation of a project spearheaded by Spencer for the Iowa Division of the AAUW to influence Iowa telephone companies to include married women's first names in telephone directories. The International Women's Year series (1977-1978, 1996) documents Spencer's work at the Iowa Women's Meeting, including her election as a delegate and attendance at the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, in 1977. The synopsis folder provides brief reflections on her activities and comments about the infighting between pro- and anti-ERA delegates from different states. The Girl Scouts series (1964-1996) contains a scrapbook chronicling Spencer's journey as a representative to the International Conference of Girl Scouts/Guides in Acapulco, Mexico. It also includes newspaper articles covering Spencer's activities with the Girl Scouts of Central Iowa and awards given to Spencer for her service. In addition the series includes memorabilia concerning the Moingona Council Pow-Wow of 1973, held at Camp Sacajawea in Boone, Iowa. The Politics series (1976-1996) contains papers related to Spencer's campaign for the Iowa Senate in 1976 and Mary Grefe's campaign for the Iowa House of Representatives in 1984. The series includes one folder of materials from Spencer's involvement with the Republican women's task force, and papers concerning her appointment to the Iowa 2000 State Commonwealth Conference. The Photographs series (1973-1984) contains photographs from two girls' summer camps that Spencer directed, campaign snapshots and proof prints, and her photo ID from the International Women's Year National Conference. The Artifacts series (1963-1984) contains Girl Scout pins and badges, a campaign t-shirt and pins, and a tote bag Kaplan made for the National Women's conference. 2007 ACCESSION The 2007 accession is organized to mirror some of the series used in the 1997 accession and to include five new series. The ten series in the 2007 accession are Personal, Equal Rights Amendment, Hog odor efforts, Grinnell College, Public writings, American Association of University Women, Equality for Women, International Women's Year, Photographs and Artifacts. Many items in the 2007 accession remain in Spencer's folders with her labels in the original order. The Personal series (1992-2003) includes an extensive history and genealogy of the Kaplan family of Minnesota written by one of Spencer's relatives, and biographical information on Spencer from her ,em>Who's Who in America


  • 1931-2007
  • 1975-2000


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.

Biographical / Historical

Lonabelle "Kappie" Kaplan Spencer, political activist and women's rights advocate, was born in 1925 in Owatonna, Minnesota, to Reuben and Florence Kaplan. Kaplan became involved in the Girl Scouts of America in 1932 at the age of seven. She attended Grinnell College, graduating in 1947 with a degree in physical education. Kaplan married Grinnell graduate Mark Spencer and the couple moved to Des Moines where they had four children: Greg, Gary, Carol, and Dane. Kappie Spencer served in leadership roles in Girl Scouts for more than thirty years. In 1965 she was selected as a participant to the International Conference of Girl Scouts/Guides held in Acapulco, Mexico. She also served as a board member and in several leadership positions in the Moingona Council of Central Iowa Girl Scouts. In 1974, when Spencer learned that a hog lot was to be built near a Girl Scout camp, she supported efforts to regulate livestock odors and air quality. Through this activism and lobbying, she became more interested in state politics. Although Spencer lost a bid for the Iowa Senate in 1976, she became a successful lobbyist. A prominent member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Spencer served as chairwoman of the legislative program committee at the state and national levels. Through the AAUW, Spencer worked for many women's causes including the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the late 1970s and the Iowa ERA in both 1980 and 1992. Spencer gave speeches across the state and wrote many letters to the editor in support of the ERA. Spencer worked for several years to promote dual listings for married women in Iowa telephone directories. She also influenced Iowa newspapers to include the first names of husbands and wives in obituaries, anniversary announcements, and wedding announcements. She founded an organization called the National Gender Balance Project to encourage states to appoint equal numbers of men and women to boards and committees. When Spencer's mother died in 1965, she and her sister were not allowed to access their inheritance as it was put into a trust, while her brothers received their inheritance outright. For thirty years Spencer publicized this form of sex discrimination and eventually lobbied for an amendment to the federal banking services bill that banned discrimination against women by financial planners, which passed in 1999. In 1985, Spencer bought a second home in Sarasota, Florida, and continued her activism for women's rights in both Florida and Iowa. In 1990 Spencer won the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice, an award given by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women.


29.75 linear feet

Artifacts: In Boxes 9, 10, 11, and 39. other_unmapped


American Association of University Women member and advocate for women's issues including dual listings for married women in Iowa telephone directories.


1997 ACCESSION Boxes 1-11

2007 ACCESSION Boxes 12-41

2008 ACCESSION Boxes 42-65

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 233) were donated by Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer in 1994 and subsequent years.

Other Descriptive Information
Jennifer Holden, 1995; Randel W. Lackore, 1997; Kate Stewart, 2007; June Silliman, 2010.
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)