Women Win: Jean Lloyd-Jones, former Iowa State Senator

For the first time in Iowa’s history, two women — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Patty Judge — will occupy the top of the Democratic ticket this November. And in many districts across the Hawkeye State, Iowans will have the opportunity to vote for women Democratic candidates for several offices at the top of the ticket. That’s why we’re launching Women Win, a campaign to help empower women across the state to talk about the historic nature of this election — and to recognize the amazing women of Iowa’s past, present, and future. Keep your eyes on our Twitter, Facebook, and Medium to learn their stories, then join in on our efforts.

Jean Lloyd-Jones, former Iowa State Senator, member of the Iowa House of Representatives, and president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa

“I was born in Washington, D.C., but I grew up in New Mexico. I didn’t become politically active until my thirties. I met my husband, who was from Iowa, at the University of New Mexico. He came back to Iowa to get his PhD in English, and we got married.

I thought we’d be here just long enough for him to finish his degree, then go someplace like New Mexico. But my husband decided to stay on the faculty and became chair of the department and there was no leaving!

We had four children, and I was a stay-at-home mom, but I belonged to the League of Women Voters. I served as local president of the league for four years, the state president for four years — and I was with the League for a total of twenty-seven years. I began to realize the connection between issues that we cared a lot about and what went on in the state legislature. Our State Senator from Iowa City, Minnette Doderer, encouraged me to run for the legislature, and I said what 99 percent of women say: ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that, I’m not qualified.’

But she talked me into filing.

I didn’t win the race, but I did well enough that, two years later, when Minnette ran for lieutenant governor and won, the incumbent of my future seat in the State House called me to tell me I should run for his seat. Everyone said it was my turn — it was night and day!

In 1992, I ran for the U.S. Senate, against Charles Grassley — the Clinton-Gore presidential year. The Clintons were going on a bus tour through Iowa, and they invited me to join them on the bus on their way up the Mississippi River. At one of the events, I was standing there on the steps of the bus, and Hillary was there beside me, waving and so on, and I said, ‘There’s my daughter in the crowd, with my granddaughter.’ I thought that Hillary would simply wave.

Instead she said, ‘Where? Where? Where?’ She wanted to know exactly which person out there was my daughter. We got on the bus, ate our fried chicken suppers, and Bill asked me questions about my opponent, Charles Grassley.

Pretty soon, he had to call Chelsea. In the middle of their nice conversation on the phone, he said, ‘Just a minute, I’ll ask your mother.’ So he says to Hillary, ‘Chelsea wants to know if she can go to a movie.’ And Hillary said, ‘Has she done her homework? Chelsea, have you done your homework?’ ‘No.’ And Hillary said, ‘Well, then she can’t go to the movie.’ I thought, what good parents they are!

Hillary Clinton should be president because she is by far the most prepared and qualified candidate for the job. Her experience, her passion, her dedication to families and children and the little guy, has just been amazing. And of course, the historic step of finally — 96 years after women got the right to vote — electing a woman president! The message that sends to all little girls, and adolescent girls, and women is, we are good enough for the top job.”

For fourteen years, Jean Lloyd-Jones served as first a member of the Iowa House of Representatives (1979–1986) and then an Iowa State Senator (1987–1994). During her time in government and as president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, she was known for her passionate advocacy of the Iowa railroad. In 2003, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.