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Jens, Arlene (1926-2014)



  • Existence: 1926 - 2014


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 2014.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Arlene Jens papers

Identifier: IWA0499

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

Dates: 1962-2006