By Beth Wilson
They marched at noon, their procession announced by the blare of the Universalist Church band. Some 100 women carried their cause down the streets of Boone, protesting for the right to vote.
Iowa’s first and only suffrage march capped the 1908 annual convention of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. It would be 12 more long years before women in Iowa — and across the nation — celebrated the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Political equality remains the mission of a bipartisan initiative recently launched by two former members of the Iowa Legislature.
Maggie Tinsman (Senate, 1989-2006) and Jean Lloyd-Jones (House, 1979-1986; Senate, 1987-1994) point out that although women make up 53 percent of registered Iowa voters and turn out to vote in higher percentages than men, only 21 percent of the Iowa Legislature’s 150 seats are held by women.
The state has never elected a female governor nor sent a woman to Washington. “We need consensus builders in the legislature,” says Tinsman, pointing to today’s combative political climate. “And women are excellent at knowing how to compromise.”
The impediment to fair representation is less about reluctance to cast votes for women and more about a lack of women on the ballot.
The 50/50 in 2020 campaign — its mantra: One century is long enough to wait for equality — is recruiting, training, and mentoring women whose election can fulfill the goals of 50 women in the Iowa House of Representatives, 25 women in the Iowa Senate, one woman in the U.S. Senate, two women in the U.S. House of Representatives, and a woman in the Governor’s Mansion by 2020 — the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
50/50 in 2020 will sponsor its first training program — Blueprint for Winning Academy — in Des Moines January 20–22. Learn more online at