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Josephine Gruhn papers

Identifier: IWA0382

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Scope and Contents

The Josephine Gruhn papers consist of photocopies of scrapbooks and newsletters created between 1982 and 1992 and measure five linear inches. The collection is divided into two series: the scrapbooks and news releases. 

The Scrapbook series pertains primarily to her campaigns and public appearances, containing newspaper clippings, photographs, and campaign ephemera. Each folder consists of photocopies of one scrapbook. There are nineteen numbered scrapbook folders as well as two scrapbook folders concerning her opponents and one containing awards and ephemera. The two scrapbooks about her political opponents consist of the campaign materials produced by Curt Kuehl (1984), Bob Duncan (1986), Ruth Pelzer (1988), and Orville Berg (1990). The last folder contains one photograph, a recognition award presented by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women in 1997, and a bumper sticker none of which were attached to any scrapbook.

The News Release series consists entirely of Gruhn's weekly or biweekly updates to her constituents while the state legislature was in session from 1983 until 1990. They include a brief discussion of all issuesbeing considered by the Iowa house and by the committees of which Gruhn was a member. They provide a brief account of legislative responses to the farm crisis of the 1980s.


  • Creation: 1982-1992


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

Josephine Sanford was born April 14, 1927, in Britt, Iowa. Her father Ward and her mother Kathleen raised her and her two brothers in various communities in western Iowa where Ward Sanford taught high school physical education. Kathleen Sanford was from Ruthven, Iowa, and Josephine attended Ruthven High School, graduating in 1945. Despite her dislike for school, she followed her parents' encouragement and pursued a two-year teaching course and then enrolled at Morningside College, where she graduated in 1951.

During and after her college years, Josephine Sanford taught rural school. She reported that "it was typical for the young bachelor farmers to check out the new school marm" and that is how she met future husband, farmer Don Gruhn. After marrying, they lived in their own home at his parents' farm near Spirit Lake and she taught school for one year. After her first child was born, she was a substitute teacher for twenty-eight years.

During that time, she was an active member of a variety of civic organizations and the Democratic Party. Donald Gruhn resigned his seat on the the Democratic Central Committee in Emmet County when he was appointed to the Agricultural Conservation Board and Josephine Gruhn took that seat. In 1982, redistricting created a new seat in the Iowa House of Representatives for Emmet and Dickinson Counties. The Democratic Central Committee asked Josephine Gruhn, now a widow, to run for this seat on an education platform. With the help of her colleague, second grade teacher Stephanie Heitman, they ran an effective and innovative campaign resulting in her election in 1982.

As a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, Gruhn was vice chair of the Committee on Agriculture during the farm crisis of the 1980s. She was a moderate Democrat, responding primarily to her constituents' concerns--roads, schools, and relief for the agriculture sector. She served four consecutive terms as representative from District 12, from 1982 until retiring in 1992. Josephine Gruhn passed away in 2015.


5.00 linear inches

Language of Materials



Britt, Iowa-born member of the Iowa House of Representatives and vice-chair of the Committee on Agriculture during the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 545) were donated by Josephine Gruhn in 1998.

Doris Malkmus, 2000.
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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)