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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Pendray, Carolyn Campbell
(December 9, 1881–November 23, 1958)

–teacher, county school superintendent, and first woman to serve in the Iowa General Assembly—was the daughter of Harriet Emily (Dutton) Campbell and Thomas Franklin Campbell. Born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Carolyn Pendray attended her hometown's public schools. Her father's term in the Iowa Senate (1899-1903) and his involvement in the Democratic Party gave Carolyn her early political education. She explained, "For my part, I grew up in a political environment and I knew as much about that as teaching school and keeping house."

    She started teaching school around 1900, holding positions in Henry County rural schools as well as in Mount Pleasant and Des Moines. She first ran for public office in 1910, when she ran for Henry County Superintendent of Schools, but did not campaign for the office and lost. In 1912 she ran again, campaigned, and won. She held the office until 1920, the year she married William Pendray of Oskaloosa. The couple lived in Ottumwa until 1923, when they moved to Maquoketa, where William was a retail merchant.

    Active in the Democratic Party throughout her life, Carolyn Pendray served on the party's State Central Committee in 1928 and chaired the party's organization in the Second Congressional District and in Jackson County. When the party could not recruit male candidates for either the Iowa House or Senate seats in 1928, Pendray stepped forward and ran for the House seat. The passage of a state constitutional amendment in 1926 eliminated the word "man" from the requirements to serve in the Iowa House of Representatives and, by implication, the Iowa Senate.

    Breaking into the traditionally male domain raised at least one significant question for men serving in the Iowa House: they wanted to know if she cared if they smoked. After telling them that she was "reared on smoke," she made another point: "And besides, I want to be one of the 108 and I'm making no bids for favors on the grounds of femininity."Her priorities included organizing the minority caucus, the first time Democrats had organized since her father had served. With less than 10 percent of the Iowa House membership (15 of 158 members), Democrats had little hope of influencing legislation, but Pendray hoped to build public identification with Democrats' proposals. With L. B. Forsling (R-Woodbury County), Pendray cosponsored and passed legislation granting women new property rights. The measure protected certain items from debt collection.

    After winning reelection to the Iowa House in 1930, Pendray began a crusade against lobbyists' tactics, particularly their practice of sitting next to legislators and coaching them on how to vote. When she served in the Iowa Senate, she persuaded that body to rope off a section of the Senate floor, behind which lobbyists were required to stay.

    Pendray won a seat in the Iowa Senate in 1932, the year Democrats gained control in the wake of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election as president. In the majority party, Pendray worked for the proposed child labor amendment to the U.S. Constitution, working with Ada Garner (D-Butler County), who had been elected to the House in 1932. Under their leadership the legislature ratified the amendment, an achievement lauded nationally.

    Pendray considered running for governor, but rejected the idea. She continued to be active in the Democratic Party for the rest of her life, regularly speaking to local and regional Democratic women's groups. She returned to Mount Pleasant later in life and ran unopposed in the primary for the Iowa House in 1952, losing in the general election. She was posthumously inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1978.
Sources Pendray's nomination papers to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame are in the Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. See also David W. Jordan, "Those Formidable Feminists: Iowa's Early Women Vote-Getters," Iowan 31 (Winter 1982), 46–52; and Suzanne O'Dea Schenken, Legislators and Politicians: Iowa's Women Lawmakers (1995).
Contributor: Suzanne O"™dea

Cite as: O'dea, Suzanne. "Pendray, Carolyn Campbell" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 17 November 2018