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May 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 16

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Iowa Republican Women Lead the Way!


by Don Racheter, Ph.D.



The first woman to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court was Republican Linda Kinney Neuman, who was appointed in 1986 by Republican Governor Terry Branstad. She had previously been appointed by Republican Governor Robert Ray in 1982 to an opening in Iowa’s 7th District, where she served with distinction and gathered support for her subsequent elevation to Iowa’s highest bench.[1]


The first woman elected to represent Iowa in the United States Congress was Republican Joni Ernst; she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014.[2] Lt. Colonel Ernst is a combat veteran, a mother, and a former State Legislator with a master’s degree in public administration. She shoots, rides a “hog,” and knows how to castrate pigs — indeed, she used a play on that talent in campaign commercials, saying that if she was sent to Washington, D. C., she would know how to “make them squeal” when it came to dealing with pork-barrel spending.[3]


The first woman elected Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives was Republican Linda Upmeyer.[4] Upmeyer was also the first woman elected House Majority Leader in Iowa.[5] With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Upmeyer works as a cardiology nurse practitioner. She has served as National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization focused on limited government, free markets, and federalism.[6]


Republican Kim Reynolds is the first woman to serve as Governor of Iowa.[7] She became Governor on May 24, 2017 when Governor Terry Branstad resigned to become the United States Ambassador to China.[8] Unlike most Lt. Governors, Reynolds, who recently completed her Bachelor of Liberal Studies at Iowa State University, was given specific tasks and responsibilities in the Branstad administration. According to Reynolds, her duties included, “co-chairing the Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] Advisory Council, co-chairing the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress Board, co-chairing the Military Children Education Coalition, and serving as GOP Governor Terry Branstad’s representative on the Board of the Iowa State Fair.”[9] Prior to being selected as Lt. Governor in 2010, Reynolds was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008. Before that, she served four terms as the Clarke County Treasurer.[10] She had previously worked as an assistant pharmacist, as a clerk in the Motor Vehicles Department, and for the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS).[11]


The occurrence of Republican women leading the way in all three branches of government is not unique to Iowa; it has been duplicated in other states as well, causing one commentator to opine that the “Republican War on Women Must be Over.”[12] One example of a female Republican leader outside the state of Iowa is Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico:


In 2010, [Republican] Susana Martinez was elected Governor of the State of New Mexico. She became New Mexico’s first female Governor and the first Hispanic female elected Governor in the history of the United States.[13]


In South Carolina, Republican Nimrata “Nikki” Haley (née Randhawa) became the first female Governor in that state and the second Indian American to serve as a United States Governor.[14] In Utah, Republican Ludmya “Mia” Love was elected United States Representative for the 4th Congressional District, the first Haitian American and the first black female Republican in Congress. She is also the first African American elected to Congress from Utah.[15] Commentator Christine Flowers summed up:


From where I sit, what we did was elect strong, conservative women. But apparently, unless we elect Texas blondes who wear pink sneakers and crusade for abortion rights (which we didn’t, shucks), we are still the embattled prisoners of a patriarchal war. I’m not buying it.[16]


[1] “Guide to the Linda Kinney Neuman papers,” The University of Iowa Libraries, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[2] Joyce Russell, “Ernst Wins, Becomes First Iowa Woman in Congress,” Iowa Public Radio, November 5, 2014, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[3] “Joni Ernst,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[4] Brianne Pfannenstiel, “Iowa House elects Upmeyer as First Female Speaker,” The Des Moines Register, August 20, 2015, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[5] O. Kay Henderson, “Upmeyer First Woman Elected to #2 Slot in Iowa House,“ Radio Iowa, November 8, 2010,
< > accessed on January 25, 2017.
[6] “Linda Upmeyer,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[7] Erin Murphy, “Kim Reynolds: Iowa’s next - and first female - Governor,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 7, 2016, <> accessed on May 23, 2017.
[8] Jason Noble, “Branstad to resign, Reynolds to take oath Wednesday morning,” The Des Moines Register, May 23, 2017, <> accessed on May 23, 2017.
[9] Louis Jacobson, “How Successful are Lieutenant Governors Seeking the Governorship?,” Governing, April 12, 2013,
<> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[10] “Kim Reynolds,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Christine M. Flowers, “Republican War on Women Must be Over,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 2014, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[13] “Meet Governor Susana Martinez,” Office of Governor Susana Martinez, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[14] “Nikki Haley,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[15] “Mia Love,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on January 25, 2017.
[16] Flowers, op. cit. Emphasis added.


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