Joan Lipsky papers
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Scope and Contents
The Joan Lipsky papers date from 1880 to 2015 and measure 16 linear feet (39 boxes). The papers are arranged in ten series: Biographical information, Family History, Iowa General Assembly, Women in politics, Campaigns, Personal Correspondence, Photographs, Printed Materials, and Artifacts.
The Biographical information series (1926-2015) includes papers from local clubs and volunteer activities as well as resumes, newspaper articles that feature Lipsky, and letters of recommendation to support Lipsky's nomination to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. Additionally, it includes materials that relate to the planning and development of businesses, colleges, municipal services, and recreational opportunities in Cedar Rapids. Within this series is the subseries Education which contains materials having to do with Lipsky’s undergraduate career at Northwestern University, her graduate career at the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa), and a high school scrapbook.
The Family History series (1916-1994) has papers regarding the Smulekoff family business and documentation of births, marriages, and deaths in the family. Also included are Lipsky’s parents’ financial records and tax returns.
The Iowa General Assembly series (1960-1979) consists primarily of topical files maintained by Lipsky during her six terms as a state representative, from 1967 to 1978. This is the largest series of the collection, at six linear feet. Lipsky collected published reports, notes, memoranda, and correspondence on a variety of issues, including the Equal Rights Amendment, juvenile justice, health services, and the state budget. Of note are two binders containing bills on which she worked. This series includes materials related to Lipsky's efforts to create a state ombudsperson, which culminated in the creation of the Office of the Citizens' Aide in 1972. The series also contains the subseries Correspondence — letters to and from Lipsky's constituents while she served in the Iowa General Assembly. The letters are arranged alphabetically within each year according to the last name of the sender or recipient, reflecting her personal filing system.
The Women in politics series (1967-1985) includes newsletters, brochures, and correspondence related to state and national women's partisan and nonpartisan political groups. The newsletters include articles on the Equal Rights Amendment, profiles of women politicians, and meeting minutes. This series also includes newspaper articles about women who served as elected officials at the state and national levels. Lipsky's personal reflections on women's participation in politics complete this series.
The Campaigns series (1969-1985) consists of correspondence, pamphlets, and newsletters that pertain to Lipsky's campaigns for the Iowa General Assembly and the internal politics of the Republican Party. The pamphlets include biographical information about Lipsky and summaries of her accomplishments in the legislature. Also included are campaign scrapbooks, two of which are disbound.
The Correspondence - Personal series (1910-1996) includes letters between Joan and Abbott Lipsky during World War II as well as abundant communication from friends and family. The bulk of the correspondence is in the mid-1940’s.
The Photographs series (1880-1999) consists of over a century of images, centralized in the mid-twentieth century. The majority of the images are family and friends, though there are pictures of Lipsky at political events and with other politicians such as Governor Ray Robert and Charles Grassley.
The Printed Materials series (1926-1958) includes playbills from various theatres in Chicago in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, a Camp Fire Girls handbook, and religious books.
The Artifacts series (1926-2005) contains political buttons and campaign materials as well as Lipsky’s nameplates from the Iowa General Assembly.
- Creation: 1880-2015
- Lipsky, Joan (1919-2015) (Person)
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 https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/services/rights/
Biographical / Historical
Joan Miller was born in 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to John and Ruth Miller. Her grandfather, Henry Smulekoff, was a Russian immigrant and early settler of Cedar Rapids. Joan Miller attended Johnson, McKinley, and Old Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, and graduated from Gulf Park High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. Miller received a BS in psychology from Northwestern University in 1940 and attended graduate school at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), where she studied clinical psychology in 1940 and 1941. She married Abbott Lipsky in 1941. She was the first person to intern in psychology at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she then worked as a clinical psychologist until 1942. During World War II, Joan Lipsky worked as a consulting psychologist in a private practice while Abbott Lipsky worked as a cryptanalyst for the Signal Intelligence Service.
After the war, Joan and Abbott Lipsky moved to Cedar Rapids, where they raised three children, John, Ann, and “Tad” Abbott Jr. From 1945, Abbott Lipsky served as president of Smulekoff's Furniture, a company founded by Joan Lipsky's maternal grandfather. In a 1989 oral history interview, she commented, "When I came back here to Cedar Rapids, I had one little baby, and it never occurred to me that I would continue my career." Lipsky became active in community service and women's clubs in Cedar Rapids. She chaired the Mayor's Commission on Housing, the Mayor's Commission on Alcoholism, and the Employment Security Advisory Council. She was a member of the Cedar Rapids Women's Club, the American Association of University Women, Altrusa, Delta Kappa Gamma, Hadassah, and Sisterhood of Temple Judah. She served as a trustee and a director of the Cedar Rapids Art Association, and a trustee of Coe College and St. Luke's Hospital. She was a founding member of the Cedar Rapids Women's Caucus, which later became the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women.
As her involvement in city associations and clubs grew, Lipsky became aware of the structures that prevented women from being elected to leadership positions. During her bid to serve on the Cedar Rapids School Board, Lipsky learned that most members were grandfathered into the board. Retiring members often appointed men to replace them months before an election; the appointees were then listed as incumbents on the ballots during the next election. After she lost the election, Lipsky organized a coalition of women's groups to pressure a retiring school board member to nominate a woman to replace him before the upcoming election. He agreed reluctantly, and Lipsky's interest in politics grew.
After the Lipskys sent their youngest child to prep school, Joan Lipsky explained, "I couldn't imagine what I was about to do with my life. I was tired of club work, and my children were gone." When she was approached in 1966 by a Republican Party official to run for a seat in the state legislature, Lipsky recalled that it "sounded like a great challenge." In November 1966, Joan Lipsky became the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly.
Lipsky's background in clinical psychology shaped her interests in the state legislature, where she participated in a study on mental health and juvenile institutions, the Medical Advisory Council, and the Human Resources Committee. Lipsky led efforts to improve Iowa's institutions for intellectually disabled people and to increase funding for special education programs in public schools. She took a special interest in working for women's legal, economic, and social equality through her work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, her support of educational and occupational programs for women, and her interest in reforming women's prisons in Iowa. One of Lipsky's supporters noted, "As an already successful legislator and community pillar, [Lipsky] had nothing to gain in addressing women's issues and much to lose. Yet she never wavered, and indeed, taught the women's rights supporters here [in Iowa] exactly how people of integrity can effect positive change in America."
During her tenure as a state representative, Lipsky served as the Assistant Minority Leader of the Iowa General Assembly and a member of the Midwest Conference of State Legislators. She was recognized as an outstanding legislator by the Iowa Welfare Association and the Business and Professional Women. In 1975, she participated in the first World Conference for Women in Mexico City, Mexico. Lipsky served six terms in the General Assembly, from 1967 to 1978.
In 1976, Lipsky was awarded an honorary JD from Mount Mercy College and she was named the Cedar Rapids Woman of the Year in 1979. During Lipsky's final term in office, she began to attend law school at the University of Iowa. After graduating with a JD in 1980, Lipsky practiced law in Cedar Rapids at the law firm of Shuttleworth and Ingersoll, P.C. In 1986, she ran for lieutenant governor of Iowa on the Republican ticket with Governor Terry Branstad. Branstad was re-elected, but Lipsky lost her bid for lieutenant governor in the last election in which gubernatorial candidates and candidates for lieutenant governor ran separately in Iowa. Lipsky practiced law with Shuttleworth and Ingersoll through the 1990’s as well as continued civic work as a board member, trustee, and committee member for several Cedar Rapids businesses and organizations.
In 2013, Lipsky made the lead gift to fund the Iowa Women’s Archives’ Jewish Women in Iowa project. Joan Lipsky died in 2015.
16.00 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Iowa legislator and community activist from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Method of Acquisition
The papers (donor no. 1169) were donated by Joan Lipsky in 2008 and subsequent years. The papers were held by the Mount Mercy College Archives from 1970 to 2008, at which time Mount Mercy transferred them to the Iowa Women's Archives.
Genre / Form
- Karissa Haugeberg, 2008; Heidi Parker, 2019
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- Script of description
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