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Orr, Joann, 1923-2017



  • Existence: 1923-2017


Joann Yessler Orr, a dairy farmer, housewife, and Iowa State Senator, was born in 1923 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was the only child of Joseph Urvin and Gail Gauby Yessler. Yessler attended McKinley High School in Cedar Rapids and studied music education and voice at Oberlin College, graduating in 1946. In 1947, Joann Yessler married Carl Orr. The couple lived in Chicago from 1948-1949 before returning to Cedar Rapids in 1950. In 1951, Orr taught at Johnson School in Cedar Rapids. In 1952, the Orr family moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where they bought a Grade A dairy processing plant and operated Lang's All-Star Dairy until 1966. Subsequently, Joann Orr was a housewife and Carl Orr operated the Ford-Mercury Agency in Grinnell.   In 1968, Joann Orr, a Democrat, ran and won the 36th District senate seat, representing Poweshiek County. After losing the 1970 election, she ran again in 1972 and won; she served as a state senator for from 1972-1980. As a state senator, Orr sponsored bills on the repeal of sales tax on food and prescriptions, mandatory immunization, solar energy, and school breakfast and supported the Iowa Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1977.   While in the Iowa Legislature, she remained active in People's Unitarian Church, the United Nations Association, Common Cause, the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, the Iowa Women's Political Caucus, the Farm Bureau, Poweshiek County Democratic Women's Club, and the Iowa Commission on Aging. She was also active in the League of Women Voters in Grinnell and served as its president. Joann Orr retired from the legislature in 1980 and subsequently split her time between Florida and Iowa. Orr died in 2017.

Author: Julie Zimmerman

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators oral histories

Identifier: IWA0089

Interviews with Iowa women legislators conducted by Suzanne O'Dea Schenken.

Dates: 1988-1993

Joann Orr papers

Identifier: IWA0807

State senator from 1972 to 1980 from Grinnell, Iowa.

Dates: 1969-2017

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1981-1990 1
1991-2000 1
20th century 1
African American women -- Iowa 1
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