Mary T. O'Halloran Papers, 1954-1978 

Collection Overview

Title: Mary T. O'Halloran Papers, 1954-1978 

Record Series: MsC-85

Record Group:


Creator: O'Halloran, Mary T.

Date: 1954-1978

Extent: 14 boxes (17.5 linear feet)

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Northern Iowa

Language: Materials entirely in English.

Information for Users

Accessing the Collection:

No restrictions. Materials are open for research.

Technical Access: Some material was recorded with obsolete technology. These have not been digitalized or transcribed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Mary O’Halloran donated her papers to Special Collections and University Archives around 1979.

Sensitive Materials Statement: Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy or similar laws, and the Iowa Open Records Law (see Iowa Code § 22.7). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Northern Iowa assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], in the [Series Title] #[series number], [folder number or title when applicable], [Collection Name], Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

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Historical Note

Mary Therese O’Halloran was born on May 1, 1943, in Norfolk, Nebraska, the youngest child of James “Leo” O’Halloran (1903-1960) and Leone Eby O’Halloran (1906-2001). 

She had four siblings, James Patrick (1926-1982), Joan Pettibone (b. 1928), Peggy Huntzinger (b. 1931), and Maureen McCormick (b. 1941).

Ms. O’Halloran graduated from Ord Public High School in Ord, Nebraska, in 1961.  That year the American Legion honored her with its Outstanding Young Woman Award. In the fall of 1961, she began her college career under a competitive honors scholarship at Creighton University in Omaha. 

A year later she transferred to Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, from which she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1966.  She also did graduate work at Loras College and the University of Northern Iowa.

From 1962-1970 she was a nun in the order of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, she left the order before taking her final religious vows.

After college Ms. O’Halloran became a teacher in parochial schools in Dubuque, Mason City, and Waukon, where she taught government, economics, and history.  In 1970 she moved to a public school, Logan Junior High in Waterloo, Iowa.  In 1971 she was transferred to Hoover Junior High in Waterloo, where she was named chair of the English Department.

At the same time she was an advisor at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Northern Iowa. She also taught a class there, “Theology of Women of the Church.”

She was a member of the National Education Association, the Iowa State Education Association, the Waterloo Education Association, and the League of Women Voters.  She organized the Black Hawk County Women’s Political Caucus and was its first co-chairperson.

In 1972 she took a leave of absence from the Waterloo School District to run for the Iowa General Assembly. A Democrat, Ms. O’Halloran was elected State Representative for District 36, the first woman to be elected from that district. She was subsequently re-elected in 1974 and 1976.

While in the General Assembly, she served on the Iowa House’s standing committee on Education, Natural Resources, and County Government.  She was on the Interim Land Use Study Committee in 1973, chaired the Democratic Caucus Task Force Committee on Education, and was assistant Democratic minority whip.  She was elected to represent Iowa at the National Women’s Political Caucus steering committee.

She championed women’s rights, working on laws concerning credit discrimination, tax inequities, and rape, as well as discrimination in educational institutions, athletic programs, and curricula.

Ms. O’Halloran was also an advocate for the environment and a leader in land use and energy legislation. She was instrumental in getting Iowa’s “bottle bill” passed, which established a deposit on bottles and cans.

In 1978 she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to head the Midwest region of the Department of Energy, a position she held until Mr. Carter left office in 1981.

Ms. O’Halloran currently resides in Kansas City, where she is a media and political consultant.

Scope and Content

Mary O’Halloran was a state legislator in Iowa from 1973 through 1978.  Most of those papers are from her time in the General Assembly.  Aside from high school yearbooks belonging to Ms. O’Halloran and her sister Maureen from 1954-1960, and some schoolwork, there is little material before 1970, and nothing after 1978.

Her papers do not contain a great deal of information about Ms. O’Halloran’s personal life. What can be gleaned from them is discussed below.


BOX 1 – Personal, Biographical

There is little personal material about Mary O’Halloran in this collection.  Most of what is available here is in the form of class notes from when she was a student; teaching materials from when she was a teacher; high school yearbooks; miscellaneous handwritten notes; and a few personal artifacts. The files are in alphabetical order, but within the files, no attempt has been made to organize the contents into any particular order.  The exception are the high school yearbooks from Ord, Nebraska, which are arranged chronologically.  The yearbooks are sometimes titled Chant and other times Chants.

Personal and Biographical

Folder 1: Bills sponsored in the Iowa legislature by Mary O’Halloran

Folder 2: Biographical information

Folder 3: Campaign material for Ms. O’Halloran

Folder 4: Christianity

Folders 5-13: Classwork

Folders 14-15: Creative teaching materials

Folder 16: Expense requests to the legislature

Folder 17: Governor Robert Ray inauguration brochure

Folders 18-21: Handwritten notes

Folder 22: High school booklets

Folder 23: High school yearbook, 1954

Folder 24: High school yearbook, 1955

Folder 25: High school yearbook, 1956

Folder 26: High school yearbook, 1957

Folder 27: High school yearbook, 1958 (2 copies; one owned by Ms. O’Halloran, the other by her older sister Maureen)

BOX 2 – Personal, Biographical, Correspondence

Personal and Biographical

Folder 1: High school yearbook, 1959

Folder 2: High school yearbook, 1960

Folder 3: “How-to” manuals for people running for public office

Folder 4: Newspaper articles written by Ms. O’Halloran

Folder 5: Newspaper clippings written about Ms. O’Halloran

Folder 6: Poster made by school children

Folder 7: Folder H: Published articles by Ms. O’Halloran

Folder 8: School papers written by Wartburg College students

Folder 9: Speech by Mary O'Halloran

Folders 10-11: Teaching materials

Folder 12: Viet Nam


Ms. O’Halloran received hundreds of letters during her years in the legislature, most of them business-related material from constituents, colleagues, and lobbying interests. She also retained copies of her responses to some of her incoming mail. Save for a few letters from 1970-1972, all of the correspondence here was written in the years 1973-1978. There is some correspondence that was neither written to or by her.  Most of these are letters between fellow legislators. All correspondence is arranged in chronological order by date, without regard to correspondent or topic, and filed in folders labeled by year and month.  Letters for which a date could not be determined were placed in undated folders, which are filed before the dated folders. No envelopes have been retained. 

Folder 13: Undated cards

Folder 14: Undated cards and notes

Folder 15: Undated letters

Folder 16: 1970-1972

Folder 17: 1973, January 1-February 14,

Folder 18: 1973, February 15-March 31

Folder 19: 1973, April-June

Folder 20: 1973, July-December

Folder 21: 1974, January 1-February 14

Folder 22: 1974, February 15-March 31

Folder 23: 1974 April-December

BOX 3 - Correspondence

Folder 1: 1975, January-March

Folder 2: 1975, April-May

Folder 3: 1975, June-September

Folder 4: 1975, October-December

Folder 5: 1976, January-February

Folder 6: 1976, March-May

Folder 7: 1976, June-August

Folder 8: 1976, September-October

Folder 9: 1976, November-December

Folder 10: 1977 January-March

Folder 11: 1977 April-June

Folder 12: 1977, July

Folder 13: 1977, August

Folder 14: 1977, September-October

BOX 4Correspondence, Editorials, Energy


Folder 1: 1977, November-December

Folder 2: 1978, January

Folder 3: 1978, February

Folder 4: 1978, March 1-20

Folder 5: 1978, March 21-31

Folder 6: 1978, April

Folder 7: 1978, May

Folder 8: 1978, June-July

Folder 9: 1978 August-September


These are primarily transcriptions of editorials broadcast on local television news stations between 1973 and 1978. However, there are a few newspaper editorials as well.

Folder 10: Editorials, 1973-1977

Folder 11: Editorials, 1978


Energy was a major interest of Ms. O’Halloran. The material in this collection concerns energy from a legislative point of view.  Files arranged by the kinds of energy are listed in alphabetical order, but no attempt was made to organize the contents of individual files.  

Additional material about energy can be found in Box 14.

Folders 12-15: Energy, Coal

Folder 16: Energy, Conservation

BOX 5 – Energy

Folders 1-3: Conservation

Folders 4-5: Electric

Folder 6: Natural gas

Folders 7-10: Nuclear

Folder 11: Petroleum, oil, and gasoline

Folders 12-15: Policies and reports

BOX 6 – Energy

Folders 1-10 Policies and reports

Folders 11-14: Solar

Folder 15: Energy transportation system maps

Folder 16: Winter emergency planning guide

BOX 7 - Women's Rights

Attention to women’s rights and issues were of growing concern during Ms. O'Halloran's time in the Iowa General Assembly.  She was active in this area of concern in many ways. Additional material about women's rights can be found in Box 14.

Folder 1: Black Hawk County Women’s Caucus

Folders 2-3: Discrimination in education, credit, etc.

Folder 4: Domestic abuse

Folder 5: Equal Rights Amendment

Folder 6: Iowa Connections, reports

Folders 7-9 Iowa Women’s Political Caucus

Folder 10: Mary O’Halloran audio cassette concerning women’s political movement

Folder 11: National and International Women’s Year

Folders 12-14: National Women’s Political Caucus

Folder 15: Rape laws

Folder 16: Theology

BOX 8 – Environment

Ms. O’Halloran was instrumental in the passage of Iowa’s “bottle bill,” which required deposits on bottles and cans of soda and beer. Additional material about the environment can be found in Box 14.

Folder 1: Aerosol sprays

Folder 2: Automobile emissions

Folder 3: Bottle bill, Iowa (general)

Folder 4: Bottle bill, Iowa, statements pro and con

Folders 5-6: Bottle bill, Oregon

Folders 7: Bottle bill, other states

Folder 8: Chemicals

Folder 9: Clean air

Folder 10: Conservation

Folder 11: Electricity

Folder 12: Land use

BOX 9 – Environment, Fiscal

Folders 1-8: Environment, Land use

Folder 9: Environment, Mining

Folder 10: Environment, Nature conservancy and preserves

Folders 11-12: Environment, Nuclear waste

Folder 13: Environment, Oil and Petroleum

Folders 14-15: Environment, Solid waste management

Folder 16: Environment, Water quality and resources

Folders 17-25: Fiscal

BOX 10 – Other Legislative and Political Matters

Folder 1: Agriculture

Folder 2: Alcohol

Folder 3: Annual reports

Folder 4: Bicentennial

Folder 5: Carter-Mondale campaign

Folder 6: Child care

Folder 7: China-U.S. relations

Folder 8: Civil rights

Folder 9: Collective bargaining

Folder 10: Commonwealth Conference

Folders 11-12: Contracts

Folder 13: Credit

Folder 14: Crime

Folder 15: Democratic Caucus, 1975

Folder 16: Democratic Committee

Folder 17: Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

Folder 18: Economy

Folders 19-21: Education

BOX 11 – Other Legislative and Political Matters

Folders 1-2: Education

Folder 3: Employee handbook for the Iowa House of Representatives

Folder 4: Governor’s address, June 21, 1977

Folder 5: Governor’s Condition of the State report, January 13, 1976

Folder 6: Governor’s veto power (Iowa Supreme Court ruling)

Folders 7-8: Health

Folder 9: House of Representatives expense reports

Folder 10: Insurance

  • And housing discrimination
  • No fault
  • Unemployment

Folder 11: Jesse Jackson speech, July 6, 1978

Folder 12: Labor and unions

Folder 13: Majority rights bill (drinking age)

Folder 14: Minutes of meetings

  • 1974-1975
  • 1976-1978

Folders 15-19: Miscellaneous

BOX 12 – Other Legislative and Political Matters

Folder 1: Miscellaneous

Folder 2: Model Committee Staff Project

Folders 3-7: Nation Conference of State Legislatures

8H: Noise control

Folder 9: Optometry

Folder 10: Public affairs

Folder 11: Questionnaires for Iowa House secretaries

Folder 12: Substance abuse

Folder 13: Taxes

  • Corporate
  • Freight
  • General
  • Property

Folder 14-16:: Transportation

Folder 17: Urban development building codes

BOX 13 – Miscellaneous Personal Items

Folder 1: Candle holders (2)

Folder 2: Mary O’Halloran campaign pencil

Folder 3: Metal cross

Folder 4: Necklace: peace sign made of barbed wire

Folder 5: 1974 “Win with Women” campaign button

Folder 6: Old-style metal iron, miniature collectible

Folder 7: Rocks

  • Flat and smooth with a striated pattern
  • Round with the etched words “The Lord be with You”

Folder 8: Small brass stamp with a peace sign on the bottom

Folder 9: Small jars containing coal (2)

Folder 10: Small wood block from Mexico with the words “Bread of life” in Spanish

Folder 11: Small wood panel with the words, "Help me to be more authentically a woman - Loving gentle strong and fearless"

Folder 12: Small wood panel with the words “There are two suns that brighten my day – the one in the sky and you.”

Folder 13: Trophy to aluminum industry for "best polluter," facetious, using Pepsi can

Folder 14: Trophy for world’s best teacher

Folder 15:Votive candles (3)

Box 14 – Books, pamphlets, and magazines

Folder 1: Black Man in America, The

Folder 2: Budget Highlights

Folder 3: Christian Involvement

Folder 4: Clipboard of Energy-Saving Ideas in Home-Building

Folder 5: Concern (2 issues, #12 and 15)

Folder 6: Context

Folder 7: Corporal Works of Mercy

  • Celebrating Life
  • Light on Life
  • Posters

Folder 8: Critical Choice, A: New Energy Horizons … or Horizontal Disintegration

Folder 9: Decide for Women

Folder 10: Decision, July 1978

Folder 11: Economic Analysis of Solar Water and Space Heating

Folder 12: Energy Impact Assistance

Folder 13: Energy: 1977

Folder 14: Family

Folder 15: Family Planning/Population Reporter, v.7 #3

Folder 16: Governor’s Conference on Iowa in the Year 2000

Folder 17: Iowa Public School Education, A Search of Equity and Equality

Folder 18: Legal Status of Homemakers in Iowa, The

Folder 19: Myth of Race, The

Folder 20: Negro Americans

Folder 21: Peace, War, and the Christian Conscience

Folder 22: Save Energy, Save Money

Folder 23: Selected Results from the National Assessment of Science: Energy Questions

Folder 24: State Planning for Winter Energy Emergencies

Folder 25: State Policies for Geothermal Development

Folder 26: Study of the Underemployment and Underutilization of Women in Iowa, A

Folder 27: Supergirl comic book

Folder 28: “To Form a More Perfect Union,” Justice for American Women

Folder 29: Transitional Storm, The

Folder 30: Unfolding of Afro-American History, The

Folder 31: U.S. Energy Prospects, An Engineering Viewpoint

Folder 32: Worldwatch Paper #11, Energy: The Solar Project

Processing Information

Collection processed by Library Associate David Hoing, July-September 2015; updated, September 8, 2015 (GP); last update, September 27, 2017 (dh). Linear feet count updated on August 7, 2017.