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Jewish Life & History in Iowa: UI Archival Collections: Politicians & Community Leaders

Politicians & Community Leaders: An Overview

Politicians and Community Leaders


All the women whose papers are part of the Jewish Women in Iowa project made important contributions to their families and communities in different ways.  Those who are featured on this page have substantial material in their collections that reflects their efforts to improve the lives of others and the world around them.  Many of these women were active in politics, whether they ran for office, served in the Iowa legislature, or spent decades as members and leaders of the League of Women Voters or National Organization for Women.  Taken together, the individuals represented here contributed to a wide array of causes, including disability rights, women’s rights, health, and education.  The records provide insight into women’s work with many different organizations, such as the Des Moines Women’s Club, UNICEF, Hancher Guild, United Way, Association for Retarded Citizens, and the Iowa Civil Liberties Union.


Check out the individual collection descriptions below to learn more!  The title of each collection links directly to the full finding aid for more complete details on biography/history, scope and contents, and collection material.

From the Louise Goldman papers

Louise Goldman's press pass for the 1977 National Women's Conference.

From the Shloss & Mannheimer Families papers

Newspaper clipping re: Irma Mannheimer's election as the first Jewish woman to serve as president of the Des Moines Women's Club, April 1938.

From the Gertrude Cohen papers

Advertisement for Gertrude Cohen's 1964 campaign for Iowa State Senator.



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1858-2012. 4.75 linear feet. 

Nurse and community activist in Iowa City who, as a young Jewish woman, fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to the United States. In addition to extensive material documenting Jewish life in twentieth century Germany, the papers also shed light on Becker’s life, career, and activism from the 1940s to the early 2000s. After her youngest child, Anne, was born with Downs syndrome, Becker advocated on behalf of disabled persons and became active in various organizations such as the Johnson County Association for Retarded Children (now ARC, the Association for Retarded Citizens), Iowa City Hospice, and Goodwill Industries of Southeast Iowa. Becker also served groups such as United Way and the Johnson County Democratic Women’s Club. Newspaper clippings, annual reports, meeting minutes, newsletters, and other organizational material document the activities of a diverse body of social, civic, and community organizations, as well as Becker’s specific contributions and the repeated recognition she received for her service.   


BRODKEY, LILLIAN (1917-2017) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1935-2015. 5 linear inches. 

Local Jewish and community activist who, in the 1940s, worked as a national educator for the American Zionist Youth Commission and as the Assistant Director and Field Secretary of the Brandeis Camp Institute. After her move to Sioux City, Iowa in 1946, Brodkey continued to be involved with Brandeis, as well as community organizations such as the Parent Teachers Association, Sioux City Lioness Club, and the Sioux City Jewish Federation. Papers include material related to her professional work and community service. 



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1949-1998. 2 linear feet. 

Civic activist involved in the Jewish community and countless civic organizations. Bucksbaum served as president of the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Scott County, Iowa and vice-president of the LWV of Iowa; president and board member for the Des Moines Symphony Association; chairman and trustee on the Grinnell College Board of Trustees; and vice-president of the Jewish Welfare Federation. The bulk of the collection concerns her activism with the Des Moines Symphony, the LWV, and the Proteus Club. Materials relate to fundraising, program planning, legislative studies, correspondence, and speeches. The collection also includes a paper describing three generations of women in Bucksbaum’s family and an autobiographical essay about her childhood in Iowa.  


CANTER, MIRIAM R. (1922- ) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1903-2016. 1.25 linear feet. 

A Jewish woman who produced cookbooks in Iowa City and supported local arts, along with her husband, Arthur Canter. In addition to editing over 50 cookbooks, Canter contributed thousands of volunteer hours to university and community organizations such as the Old Capitol Museum, Iowa City Public Library, Hancher Guild, and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Canter received the Governor’s Volunteer Award in multiple years and was recognized for forty years of service in 2016. Papers include clippings, awards, and letters of recognition related to her service. 



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1964-1991. 1 linear inch. 

Member of the Iowa House of Representatives, 1965-1966, and the first Jewish woman elected to the Iowa Legislature. Cohen served on the House Committees of Education, Industrial and Human Relations, and Public Health. The papers consist almost exclusively of material documenting her term in the Iowa General Assembly, including the campaign and her service. A few letters from constituents are included in the correspondence. Researchers should take note that an oral history with Cohen is also part of the IWA collection, A Political Dialogue: Iowa Women Legislators Oral Histories


GOLDMAN, LOUISE (1924-1998) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1933-1997. 12.25 linear inches. 

Public servant, feminist activist, and writer from Davenport, Iowa who graduated from the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) with a degree in journalism in 1946. Goldman contributed her time, leadership, and voice to a range of causes, including mental health and women’s health, civil rights, and women’s liberation. The papers document the breadth of her engagement with many different causes and organizations, including Community Health Care in Davenport, the Women’s Community Leadership Project, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Relevant materials primarily consist of newspaper clippings and articles (many of them authored by Goldman), speeches, and a small amount of organizational material such as annual reports. The collection also includes material related to Goldman's youth, her time at university, and her turn to poetry in later years.  



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1869-2018. 7.5 linear feet. 

The collection is centered on Norman and Hannah Scheer Berg and their children, followed by materials related to Scheer Berg’s extended family, who emigrated from Russia to Iowa in the nineteenth century. The couple married in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1941 and lived in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and California during their 40+ years of marriage. Both were active in the cause of cystic fibrosis after two of their children were diagnosed in the 1950s. Hannah Berg worked to establish a central Illinois clinic for children with cystic fibrosis and was elected president of the Peoria Chapter of the National Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation. The papers include records, correspondence, photographs, and artifacts documenting the Berg’s family and community life, including their volunteer work. 


LIPSKY, JOAN (1919-2015) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1880-2015. 16 linear feet. 

Joan Lipsky was an Iowa legislator and community activist from Cedar Rapids, Iowa who, in 1966, became the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly. Collection includes significant material about Lipsky’s political career, including her campaigns for office and letters to and from constituents. Also included are extensive topical files that Lipsky maintained during her six terms (1966-1978), with reports, notes, and correspondence on a variety of topics such as adoption laws, education, the ERA, health, juvenile justice, the Department of Social Services, and various women’s issues. Lipsky’s papers include other material related to women in politics more generally, as well as her work with organizations like the Iowa Women’s Political Caucus and the Iowa and National Republican Women’s Task Force. The collection provides more limited insight into Lipsky’s work with community service and women’s clubs in Cedar Rapids. 



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1926-2002. 13 linear feet. 

Feminist and civil liberties activist from Des Moines, Iowa, who was also an art collector, author, and co-founder of the Louise Noun-Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women's Archives. Noun was a leader in organizations like the League of Women Voters, Iowa Civil Liberties Union, and the National Organization for Women and was instrumental in establishing organizations that supported the needs of women and young girls. Noun researched and wrote several books about Iowa women’s history, including Strong-Minded Women: The Emergence of the Woman-Suffrage Movement in Iowa. The collection contains significant material related to Noun’s research and writing, as well as her civic and community activism. Researchers will also find family history, autobiographical writing, and several interviews conducted with Noun on different topics. 



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Oral histories, 1988-1993. 1.70 linear feet. 

This set of interviews with Iowa women legislators conducted by Suzanne O'Dea Schenken includes interviews with two Jewish women legislators: Gertrude Cohen and Joan Lipsky. Cohen was a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, 1965-1966, and the first Jewish woman elected to the Iowa Legislature. Lipsky was the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly and served six terms between 1966 and 1978. The transcript of each interview includes a subject index. Researchers should take note that the Iowa Women’s Archives also holds the personal papers of both Cohen and Lipsky



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1896-1986. 2 linear feet. 

Prominent Des Moines families including Irma Mannheimer, her husband Rabbi Eugene Mannheimer of Temple B'nai Jeshurun, and her parents, Rose and Max Shloss—the owners of Lederer and Strauss and Company.  Irma Mannheimer was a community leader, active in women’s, civic, and Jewish organizations, including the Iowa Maternal Health League, Jewish Welfare Federation, and Iowa Jewish Home. In 1938 she became the first Jewish woman elected president of the Des Moines Women’s Club. Some of Irma Mannheimer’s community work is documented in scrapbooks, as well as in copies of public speeches she delivered from 1923 to 1967.  


SIPPY, MARILYN (1935-2007) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1955-2004. 10 linear inches. 

Peace activist and volunteer from Marion, Iowa, who was active in the Peace Inquiry and Action Group and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Sippy was the acting UNICEF Marion Area Chairman from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s and helped organize annual anniversary celebrations which celebrated different cultures and fundraising events such as the UNICEF Halloween Trick or Treat Collection. The papers include newspaper clippings, correspondence, printed material, letters to the editor, and personal reflections related to Sippy’s volunteer work, UNICEF’s mission, and the group’s activities in Marion.