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Serving as a mentor and a role model, Mary Louise Smith's devotion to helping others has led her to a life of public service, serving as an advocate for women's issues and involvement in American politics for nearly 40 years. Mrs. Smith has had a long career of public service in community, state, and national affairs. She is best known for her service/involvement with the Republican Party. She began as a volunteer worker in the early 1950s in Eagle Grove, Iowa where the family resided until they moved to Des Moines in 1963. From precinct committeewoman to national chair, she worked her way up the ladder of politics. Since her years of tenure as national chair followed the Watergate crisis in national politics, her strong leadership and character helped rebuild the Party and demonstrated her numerous talents. She served as the Republican National Committeewoman for Iowa from 1964-1984. She has been a delegate to every Republican National Convention since 1964 and has served as a member of the following national committees at least once: convention arrangements; platform committee; and permanent organization. In 1984, she served as National Co-chair of the Republican Mainstream Committee.
A founding member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus and a member of the Advisory Board of the National Women's Political Caucus, Mrs. Smith has become a speaker of national prominence on women's rights and politics. In 1991, she co-founded the Iowa Women's Archives at the University of Iowa.
Mrs. Smith's leadership talents have led to numerous appointments over the years. She has served as a delegate to the 15th session of the Population Commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland; the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations; the third Extraordinary Session of the General Conferences of UNESCO Paris; the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year; and the bipartisan delegation of the American Political Foundation to study European political parties in Lisbon, Madrid, and Paris. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa and the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and is a trustee of the Robert A. Taft Institute of Government. From 1986-1990, she was a Founder and Member of the Board of Directors of the Iowa Peace Institute.
Mrs. Smith has received honorary degrees from Grinnell College and Drake University. A 1935 graduate of the University of Iowa, she was named a Distinguished Alumni Award winner in 1984. In 1977, Mrs. Smith was inducted into the Iowa Women's hall of Fame and in 1984 received the Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women. In 1979, she was named a Fellow to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. In 1988, she was recognized by the YWCA of Des Moines by their creation and naming of the Mary Louise Smith Award to honor individuals for outstanding efforts to eliminate racism. She was designated as the first recipient.
Mrs. Smith is listed in several books of the "Who's Who" nature for numerous recognitions. She has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Her husband, Dr. Elmer M. Smith, is deceased.
Sandy & Rick Hoenig
Mary Jean Paschen
Marcin & Rose Pomerantz
Sue & Dick Tempero
Submitted on 3/22/95