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Elaine Szymoniak papers

Identifier: IWA0166

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Scope and Contents

The Elaine Szymoniak papers date from 1974 to 2004 and measure 4.62 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Audiology and speech pathology, Des Moines City Council, Political campaigns, Iowa State Senate and Personal. The papers document Szymoniak's professional and public life. The bulk of the collection is correspondence between Szymoniak and her constituents while in the Iowa State Senate.

Elaine Szymoniak's professional work as a hearing and speech consultant is represented in the Audiology and speech pathology series (1954-1986). In this series are reports produced by Szymoniak on the need for environmental noise control and two works written as part of her master's degree about hearing children growing up with deaf parents. Also of interest in this series are the legal briefs and materials regarding the issues of Title XIX Medicaid coverage of hearing aid costs and who should have the licensed ability to diagnose hearing loss.

Szymoniak has served as an elected official since 1977. The Des Moines City Council series (1977-1988 and undated) contains the papers from her tenure as the first ward city council member for Des Moines. The series includes topical files on local and national subjects that show her interest in various contemporary issues. However the majority of this series is made up of newspaper clippings chronicling Szymoniak's work on the city council. Also included are a copy of the minutes of Szymoniak's first city council meeting and letters from constituents with her response attached.

Szymoniak ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Des Moines twice but won election and re-election as a state senator. The Political campaigns series (1979-1992) is divided by the two offices for which she campaigned. The Mayor of Des Moines subseries contains newspaper clippings, political mailings and Szymoniak's candidacy speech announcing her first campaign for mayor. In a letter in the Woman's campaign fund folder Szymoniak provides her own analysis of why she lost the election in 1979. The State senate subseries provides insight into Szymoniak's campaign financing and her integrity in dealing with a minor infraction of the disclosure law concerning the source of funding for political advertising. A report, "A Survey of Voter's Attitudes in Iowa's 36th District," commissioned by the Iowa Democratic Party, provides statistical data on voter's views on various topics of importance to the 1992 campaign. The series also contains various campaign buttons.

The Iowa State Senate series (1989-2001) comprises the bulk of the collection. This series consists primarily of correspondence between Szymoniak and her constituents. The letters are organized chronologically, with the originating letter and response together. Most of the letters from the public to Szymoniak are from 1994 when her subcommittee controlled an abortion parental notification bill in the senate. A 1991 statement Szymoniak made to the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources exhibits her concern for families and children.

The collection concludes with the Personal series (1986-2000), including Szymoniak's certificates and awards, the professional organizations to which she belonged, and photographs and other memorabilia from her travels.


  • Creation: 1974-2004


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

Elaine Szymoniak, an Iowa state senator, former Des Moines City Council member and retired hearing and speech consultant, was born on May 24, 1920 to Hugo and Pauline Eisfelder in Boscobel, Wisconsin. In 1941, Szymoniak earned a bachelor's degree in education and speech pathology from the University of Wisconsin. She married Casimir (Chuck) D. Szymoniak in 1943: they reared five children together. Szymoniak's degree and the deafness of both her parents led her to a career in speech therapy and later in rehabilitation. In the 1950s, after Chuck Szymoniak's discharge from the armed forces, the family moved to Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1977 Szymoniak earned a master's degree in family environment, commuting to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She worked both part and full time as a hearing and speech consultant at the Iowa Department of Public Instruction for twenty-one years before her first campaign for public office. Szymoniak won the election in 1977 for first ward city council member in Des Moines on her first attempt by defeating twelve-year incumbent Wallace Buss. At the time of her election, Szymoniak was the only female member of the city council. She unsuccessfully campaigned to become the mayor of Des Moines in 1979 and again in 1987.

Following eleven consecutive years on the Des Moines City Council, Szymoniak set her goals on a different political office. In the Iowa State Senate, Szymoniak represented both the forty-second and thirty-sixth districts. Szymoniak's main areas of concern while serving in public office were health, education and human resources. This is reflected in the committees she served on in the senate: Appropriations Committee on Human Services (vice-chair), Education, Human Resources (chair), Judiciary, Local Government and the Ways and Means Committee.

While acknowledging anguish on the issue, Szymoniak, a devout Roman Catholic, believed abortion to be a matter that should be left up to the conscience of the individual woman. A parental notification bill on abortion passed in the House of Representatives in 1994 and Szymoniak kept the bill in committee once it reached the Senate. A few lauded her for political savvy but most criticized the move as an attempt of three committee members to forestall legislation by denying the Senate an opportunity to vote for or against the bill.

A 1992 Des Moines Register editorial endorsing her re-election summed up Szymoniak's political service: "Szymoniak has been an extremely hardworking, dedicated and conscientious lawmaker who is regarded at the Statehouse as one of the more effective legislators." (Box 3, Political campaigns, State senate, Publicity, Newspaper clippings, 1992). Elaine Szymoniak passed away in 2009.


4.62 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Iowa State senator, Des Moines City Council member, and hearing and speech consultant.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 241) were donated by Elaine Szymoniak in 1994 and 1999.

Randel W. Lackore, 1995; Britt Nelson, 2004.
Language of description
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)