Skip to main content

Iowa ERA Coalition records

Identifier: IWA0011

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The Iowa ERA Coalition records measure 5.5 linear feet and date from 1916 to 1981. They are arranged into seven series: Administrative, Campaign Files, Fundraising, Publicity, Strategies and Planning, Topical Files, and Audio Tapes. The bulk of this collection concerns Iowa's first ERA campaign in the years 1978 to 1980; however, there is some background material dating as far back as 1972. While this collection primarily chronicles one state's efforts to pass an equal rights amendment, it does provide some clues as to how an initiative, albeit controversial, that is generally favored by a majority of the populace can be undermined by opponents who are allowed to frame the debate concerning the initiative.

The Administrative series includes budget, minutes, and general correspondence. It also contains biographical information on Peg Anderson. The governing board minutes provide a good sense of the day-to-day logistics.

The bulk of material in the Campaign Files series concerns the caravan for era. Mainly use as a promotional tour, this motorcade was envisaged as a means to garner support for the state ERA and create a "band wagon" effect. The caravan traversed across Iowa, and made stops in all of its counties. It began on October 2, 1980 and ended on November 2, 1980. The caravan had four objectives: to disseminate information about the Iowa ERA, to gain local news coverage, and to bring out supportive local community leaders. The county folders contain correspondence and other material relating to caravan visits and speakers scheduling.

The Fundraising series includes information about some of the events used to raise money and voter awareness. One highlight event was the two-day, three-city visit that Erma Bombeck and Liz Carpenter made in June 1980 as an ERA campaign fundraiser. They appeared in Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Waterloo. There is additional information about their visit in the news clippings folder (box 11), and the press release folder (box 7).

The Publicity series is divided into four subseries: General, Speakers, Media, and Printed Material. The Speakers subseries includes resource packets intended to help speakers with speech preparation. The Media subseries contains Iowa Coalition press releases from 1979-1980. Newsletters and other printed material produced by the coalition and other groups can be found in the Printed Material subseries.

The Strategies and Planning series is divided into four subseries: General, Candidates, Political parties, Polling information. The Candidates subseries includes completed endorsement forms by Iowa state representatives and senators, many of which contain statements by the legislators in support of the ERA. Peg Anderson's testimony before the Democratic State Platform on May 10, 1980. The Polling information subseries contain results of Iowa state polls from 1975-1980 as well as national poll results and sample questions used during ERA telephone surveys. The Topical files series is composed of sixty-four folders arranged alphabetically by folder title. The folder contents cover a variety of topics that related to the work of the Iowa ERA Coalition. There are two Anti-ERA folders which contains printed literature used by a number of organizations opposed to the ERA. Included also are organizational folders such as the Iowa Association of Libertarian Feminists and the Iowa Home Economics Association.

The Audio tapes series consists of three audiocassettes and two reel-to-reel recordings, including a speech given by Peg Anderson on February 14, 1980 (AC117), pro-ERA spots by Erma Bombeck and by the Iowa ERA Coalition (AC116), and four anti-ERA radio spots produced by the Right to Be a Woman Committee (AC115).


  • Creation: 1974-1981


Conditions Governing Access

The records 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

The Iowa ERA Coalition was formed in November 1978 to seek voter approval of the state ERA. The Iowa ERA Coalition was comprised of approximately fifty member organizations. It disbanded in November 1980 when Iowa voters defeated the ERA initiative by a 56 to 44 percent margin.

The Iowa General Assembly ratified the national Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) within twenty-four hours of its passage by the United States Congress in 1972. In 1977, Iowa legislators considered the first state ERA initiative. Iowa's ERA bill was a bipartisan effort and passed both the 1978 and 1979 general assemblies. To amend the state constitution, this measure had to go through a two-step process. First, state law required bicameral passage in two consecutive legislatures. Second, state law required approval by a majority of Iowa voters.

The ERA became a ballot initiative in the 1980 Iowa general elections. Iowa was the only state in the nation to vote on an equal rights amendment in the 1980 elections. Just three states short of the thirty-eight required by Congress to ratify the national ERA amendment, the vote in Iowa was pivotal. A victory in Iowa, ERA proponents hoped, would precipitate the same outcome in bordering states Illinois and Missouri. All possible influence by Iowa became moot, however, when Iowa voters rejected the state equal rights amendment. The election results shocked many ERA faithful, for poll results had consistently shown that a majority of Iowa voters favored the ERA. Ultimately, Illinois and Missouri ERA initiatives met the same fate. Iowa ERA supporters attributed their defeat to an effective, last minute and "last-ditch" negative campaign blitz orchestrated by ERA opponents.

From beginning to end, the ERA Coalition was castigated as supporters of homosexual marriage and the passage of Iowa's ERA amendment was portrayed as tantamount to legalizing homosexual marriage in Iowa. Despite continuous denials by ERA proponents, they were unable to erase the fear and doubts in the minds of Iowa voters that their vote for the ERA would be a vote for "alternative" life styles. Margaret "Peg" Anderson was the state chairperson and main spokesperson of the Iowa ERA Coalition. Her efforts were perhaps best summed up in a March 27, 1980 news article. The headline simply read: "This Woman Works." Anderson was a long-time Iowa resident who had had a varied political career.


5.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Organization to promote passage of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Iowa and United States constitutions.

Method of Acquisition

The records were donated by the Iowa ERA Coalition (donor no. 12) in 1980 and 1987, and by Victoria Herring (donor no. 20) in 2002.

Related Materials

Margaret "Peg" Anderson papers (IWA)

ERA Iowa 1992 records (IWA)

Iowa Women Against the ERA records (IWA)

Derryn E. Moten, 1993; Jessica Miller, 1997 and 1998; Sharon M. Lake, 2004.
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)