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Margaret McDonald papers

Identifier: IWA0033

Scope and Contents

The Margaret McDonald papers date from 1964 to 2004. Margaret McDonald was active in Iowa Republican politics from 1973 to 1980. Her papers contain letters, memoranda, notes, photographs, some biographical materials, press releases, speeches, and position papers relevant to both Iowa politics and national presidential primary campaigns during those years.

Correspondence includes letters from the Republican National Committee, particularly from Mary Dent Crisp and Mary Louise Smith, relating to efforts of the Republican party during the 1970s to encourage women to join and become more active in the party. During her years as Republican Party Co-Chair, McDonald received correspondence from national political figures such as Gerald Ford, Robert Dole, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockfeller, and Ronald Reagan.

The Republican Party State Central Committee and state elections material includes notes, memoranda, and studies regarding campaign strategy. There are also newspaper clippings both of Republican party activities, editorials, and letters to the editor.

An autographed photograph of Ronald Reagan from the mid-1940s is included in the photographs.


  • 1964-2004


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

Margaret McDonald was born in Indianola, Iowa in 1925. She graduated from Capitol City Commercial College and attended the University of Iowa. During World War II she served as secretary to future president Ronald W. Reagan who was a captain in the United States Air Force stationed in California. In 1952 McDonald became actively involved in politics during her husband James L. McDonald's successful campaign for Cherokee County, Iowa Attorney (a post he held until 1985 when he was appointed district judge).

From 1952 to 1964 McDonald was active in the Republican Women's Organization of Cherokee County and served in many offices. In 1966 she managed Wiley Mayne's successful campaign for United States Congress and was elected County Republican Party co-chair, a post she kept until 1970. In 1970 McDonald was elected co-chair of the 6th District of the state Republican party and became a member of the state Central Committee of the Republican Party. From 1973 to 1980 McDonald served as co-chair of the State Republican party; during most of those years the party chair was John McDonald (no relation).

In 1980 she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Detroit and chaired the 1980 State Convention in Cedar Rapids. From 1981 to 1987 she served on the Iowa Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Development Disabilities Commission and was chair during part of her tenure. McDonald was field representative for Robert Dole's presidential campaign in 1987-1988 and a Dole delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention. In 1990 she was a field representative for Tom Tauke's senate campaign and in 1992 served as a member of the party finance committee of Cherokee County.


Photographs in box 4. boxes

Language of Materials



Active in Republican Party and vice-chairman of the Iowa Republican Central Committee in 1970.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 33) were donated by Margaret McDonald in 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1992, and 2002.

Bridget Butler, 1992. Samantha Barth, 2017.
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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)