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Janet Adams papers

Identifier: IWA1306

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Scope and Contents

The Janet Adams papers date from 1980 to 2010 and measure 5.7 linear feet in 14 boxes. The papers are arranged in five series: Biographical, Correspondence, Professional, League of Women Voters, and Topical Files.

The Biographical series (1984) consists of newspaper clippings, awards, diary excerpts, and biographical forms from Adams’ life as a politician, teacher, and volunteer.

The Correspondence series (1983-2006) comprises primarily correspondence related to her legislative service, including a significant set of letters from constituents. Many of the constituent correspondence files contain call notes briefly documenting Adams' telephone conversations with constituents and others. General personal and professional letters as well as correspondence from her time as president of Iowa League of Women Voters complete this series.

The Professional series (1984-2010) contains materials from Adams’ political campaigns and legislative service. Campaign materials include flyers and letters mailed to voters and ephemera such as campaign-branded calendars. Legislative service records include bill copies, speech and debate notes, documentation of legislative events, press releases and newsletters, and a constituent opinion survey from 1992. The sub-series Mental Health compiles Adams’ work on mental healthcare reform as an Iowa House representative. Resource files for alternative forms of care, such as community-based services, information from the Mental Health Task Force, and Adams’ role in the legislature to amend the Iowa Bill of Rights language towards people with mental illness or developmental disabilities are included in the sub-series. The photographs in this series appear to mainly document Adams' time as a legislator and/or were created for use in campaign materials.

The League of Women Voters series (1980-2006) consists of board meeting agendas and minutes, various league projects including voter registration drives and support work for the Iowa caucus, as well as political debates. The Debates sub-series encompasses the 1982 gubernatorial debate between Terry E. Branstad and Roxanne Barton Conlin, the 1984 senatorial debate between republican Robert Jepsen and democrat Tom Harkin (including photographs), and league critiques of the debate forum format.

The Topical Files series (1980-1996) involves a variety of documents from Adams’ role as both an Iowa state representative and president of the Iowa League of Women Voters. Topics include health care, environmental issues, education, and energy.


  • Creation: 1980 - 2010


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

Born on a farm just outside of Webster City, Iowa, on August 30, 1937, Janet Louise Jeanblanc Adams attended school in a one room country schoolhouse until the age of thirteen. Her life centered around family, church, 4-H, and the farm. As a 4-H member she won prizes in public speaking and held leadership offices. At the age of ten, her father took her to Fort Dodge airport to see John F Kennedy on his presidential campaign trail. Later in life, she would recall that this experience inspired her to pursue political office.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, in 1954. Adams would teach elementary school for seventeen years and go on to earn her master’s degree in Educational Technology. In 1957, she married Ronald Adams. Adams would care for their seven children while volunteering with the League of Women Voters, the local Democratic Party, as well as the Catholic Church, Iowa Reading Association, Regional Libraries, and Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

In 1983, Adams was elected Iowa League of Women Voters President. The next year, the league would assist in Iowa’s dramatic 1984 Democratic caucus between former Vice President Walter Mondale, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, and astronaut John Glenn. Adams rubbed elbows with national media and political figureheads like Tom Brokaw, Jimmy Carter, and Hillary Clinton in her League of Women Voters role.

In 1987, Adams was elected as Iowa state representative for the Iowa House District 14 in the Iowa House of Representatives. She used her new platform to advocate for people with mental illness, the environment, public education, and energy and human resources. She was the first woman to hold the seat and served for six years. During her time in the legislature, Adams was elected Assistant Majority Leader.

Balancing her roles as wife, mother, teacher, politician, volunteer, and grandmother, Janet Adams continued to hold public office after leaving the state legislature. She served on the city council and as mayor of Webster City, Iowa where she promoted the creation of parks and recreation areas for her hometown.


5.7 Linear Feet (13 Audiocassettes housed in digital collections. Oversized held in Map Case.)

Language of Materials



Teacher, League of Women Voters Iowa President from 1983 to 1985, and Democratic state representative from 1987 to 1993.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1515) were donated by Janet Adams in 2017.

Janet Adams papers
Heather Cooper and Emma Barton-Norris.
Language of description
Script of description

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)