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Sonja Larsen papers

Identifier: IWA0439

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Scope and Contents

The Sonja Larsen papers date from 1977 to 1982 and measure 12 linear inches. The papers are arranged in five series: Political campaigns, Political career, Post-political career, Photographs, and Artifacts.

The Political campaigns series comprises Larsen's campaigns for state representative and her campaign for mayor of Ottumwa, dating from 1977-1981. This series includes campaign analysis, brochures and literature, correspondence, campaign finance documents, the state Republican campaign handbook, newspaper clippings, documents relating to publicity efforts, speeches, and lists of campaign volunteers and potential donors.

The Political career series spans Larsen's tenure as an elected official, dating from 1977-1982. This series includes literature relating to Larsen's position on proposed legislation, particularlyon issues such as abortion, education, creationism, the ERA, and conservation of natural resources. The series also comprises constituent contact records, the text of proposed legislation for which Larsen was a sponsor, a legislative handbook, newsletters, newspaper clippings, press releases and speeches.

The Post-political career series dates from 1981-1982 and includes correspondence relating to Larsen's electoral defeat in 1980 and continued involvement in politics through her editorship of the Wapello County Republican News, as well as newspaper clippings.

The Photographs series dates from the late 1970s and consists primarily of campaign photographs and shots of Larsen at speaking engagements.

The Artifacts series includes campaign materials, nametags, and a guestbook from a 1978 fundraiser.


  • Creation: 1977-1982


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

Sonja Leistad Larsen, state representative from 1979-1980, board member of the Iowa League of Women Voters and mayoral candidate for the city of Ottumwa, was born in 1941 to Einar and Marie Leistad in Elk Horn, Iowa. Sonja Leistad graduated from Elk Horn-Kimballton Schools in 1959. In 1960, she married Richard Larsen, and the couple moved to Ottumwa in 1968. The Larsens had three children.

Larsen worked as a real estate agent from 1973-1980. She served on the Ottumwa Board of Realtors, where she became active in lobbying efforts through the Legislative Action committee. As a member of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce, Larsen served on the urban-rural development committee, chairing special projects such as Ag Day. Larsen also became the first president of the Ottumwa League of Women Voters. Other community activities include serving as first president of the Ottumwa Girls Softball League, president of the Ottumwa Newcomers Club, executive board member of the Iowa Junior Miss Development Corporation, program director for the YMCA, and volunteering with the United Way, Welcome Wagon, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Larsen was recruited to run for office by Governor Robert Ray. Her previous political experience was limited to serving as a delegate at county, district and state Republican conventions. In 1979, Larsen was elected by a small margin to represent the 89th district of Iowa, a district heavily dominated by Democrats. During her tenure as a Republican representative in the state legislature, Larsen distinguished herself as a staunch supporter of lower state taxes. Larsen sponsored bills designed to reimburse elderly Iowans for property taxes, develop veteran exemptions from property taxes, push for the adoption of a balanced budget amendment to the U. S. constitution, establish group insurance for families of public employees, reduce mobile home taxes for the elderly, and require private agencies receiving state grants or contracts to submit to an audit prior to receipt of those funds.

She also supported the 1979 "indexed" income tax adjustment that was designed to be responsive to inflation rates, a bill to increase the pay of elected officials, efforts to increase exemptions from the state inheritance tax, and a reduction in unemployment compensation. Larsen supported efforts to put the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot and was pro-choice, despite her identity as a loyal Republican. In 1981, Larsen campaigned unsuccessfully for mayor of Ottumwa. In 1984, Larsen received a grant for an extensive oral history project to be conducted for the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn entitled, "The Danish Immigrant Experience." She remained active in politics, leading Jim Leach's successful Congressional campaign in Iowa and heading his constituent office.


12.00 linear inches

One audiocassette [AC883]; Photographs in box 3. boxes

Language of Materials



Republican representative in the Iowa legislature who ran for mayor of Ottumwa in 1981.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no.645) were donated by Sonja Larsen in 1999.

Related Materials

A Political Dialogue: Iowa's Women Legislators (IWA): This collection includes the transcript of a 1989 oral history interview with Sonja Larsen.

Emily Broeckling, 2003.
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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)