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Gladys Nelson was born in 1895 in North Dakota and Graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1915. After her marriage to E. L. Nelson in 1920 she moved to Grinnell Iowa and then to Newton in 1925. In Iowa she has been a recognized leader in the cause of good government. She was founder of the Newton League of Women Voters in 1934 was its first President and is its only Life Member. She became President of the Iowa League of Women Voters in 1937 serving a two-year term. From 1939 to 1948 she served as state legislative chairperson directing League lobbying efforts. After her years in the legislature she resumed participation in the Newton League.
In the summer of 1950 Mrs. Nelson was approached by Jasper County party officials to run for the Iowa House of Representatives at a time when many thought a woman could not win such an election. She won however and served for three terms withdrawing shortly before the primary of the fourth term because of the illness of her husband.
During her years in the legislature she led the fight for colored margarine and was also a strong supporter of child welfare laws and teacher retirement benefits. She served at a time when few women were elected to public office was the only woman in the House during two of her terms and had the privilege of being selected as the legislator to open the House session her third term. Following her service in the House Mrs. Nelson and her husband were joint recipients in 1956 of the first Newton Chamber of Commerce community service award.
The family also had an active interest in national and international affairs and were world-wide travelers. Mrs. Nelson maintained this interest even into her eighties traveling twice to Africa with her daughter who was leading a student seminar on African studies. During her travels she communicated with a wide variety of people always gaining insight into their viewpoints and returning home to share these views with her many friends and colleagues. She has always liked any place in which she found herself so became something of an international ambassador of good will.
Because of her interest in people of all ages and their personal and collective needs and her belief in the political process as a means of addressing these needs the Newton League of Women Voters is honored to submit Gladys Nelson's name as an early leader and role model for women in politics.
Postscript: Gladys Nelson passed away March 1995, in Illinois. She is buried in Newton, Iowa.