Joan Miller Lipsky, 96, of Cedar Rapids, died Tuesday August 18, 2015. Services: 2:00 p.m. Friday at Temple Judah by Rabbi Todd Thalblum. Burial: Eben Israel. A visitation will be on Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at Temple Judah.
Joan was born April 9, 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to John and Ruth Miller. Joan attended Johnson, McKinley, and old Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, and graduated from Gulf Park Academy for Women in Gulfport, Mississippi. She received a BS in psychology from Northwestern University in 1940 and attended graduate school at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), where she studied child psychology in 1940 and 1941. She was the first person to intern in psychology at the University of Chicago hospitals, where she then worked as a clinical psychologist until 1942. She married Abbott Lipsky in 1941. During World War II, Joan Lipsky worked as a consulting psychologist in a private practice. After the war, Joan and Abbott moved to Cedar Rapids, where they raised three children. Joan became active in community service and women’s clubs.
She was involved in a number of city commissions and clubs in Cedar Rapids. She chaired the Mayor’s Commission on Housing, the Mayor’s Commission on Alcoholism, and the Employment Security Advisory Council. She was a member of the Cedar Rapids Women’s Club, the American Association of University Women, Altrusa, Delta Kappa Gamma, Hadassah, and Sisterhood of Temple Judah. She served as a trustee and a director of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women. As her involvement in city associations and clubs grew, Joan became aware of the practices that prevented women from being elected to leadership positions. During her bid to serve on the Cedar Rapids School Board, Joan learned that most members were grandfathered on to the board. Retiring members often appointed men to replace them months before an election; the appointees were then listed as incumbents on the ballots during the next election. After she lost the election, Joan organized a coalition of women’s groups to pressure a retiring board member to nominate a woman to replace him before the upcoming elections. He agreed reluctantly, and Joan’s interest in politics grew.
When she was approached in 1966 by a Republican Party official to run for a seat in the state legislature, Joan recalled that it “sounded like a great challenge.” In November 1966, Joan Lipsky was the first woman elected to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly. Her background in psychology shaped her interests in the state legislature, where she participated in a study on mental health and juvenile institutions, the Medical Advisory Council, and Human Resources Committee. Joan led efforts to improve Iowa’s institutions for the mentally handicapped and increase funding for special education programs in public schools. She took a special interest in working for women’s legal, economic, and social equality through her work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, her support of educational and occupational programs for women, and her interest in reforming women’s prisons in Iowa. One of her supporters noted, “As an already successful legislator and community pillar, she had nothing to gain in addressing women’s issues and much to lose.”
During her tenure as a state representative, Joan served as the Assistant Minority Leader of the Iowa General Assembly and a member of the Midwest Conference of State Legislators. She was recognized as an outstanding legislator by the Iowa Welfare Association and the Business and Professional Women. In 1975, she participated in the first World Conference for Women in Mexico City, Mexico. She served six terms in the General Assembly, from 1967 to 1978. In 1976, Joan was awarded an honorary JD from Mount Mercy College and she was named the Cedar Rapids Woman of the Year in 1979.
During her final term in office, she began to attend law school at the Universtiy of Iowa. After graduation with a JD in 1980, she practiced law in Cedar Rapids, at the law firm of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.C. In 1986, she ran for lieutenant governor of Iowa on the Republican ticket with Governor Terry Branstad. Branstad was re-elected, but she lost her bid to serve as lieutenant governor. This was the last election when gubernatorial candidates and candidates for lieutenant governor ran separately in Iowa.
Survivors include her children, Ann Lipsky of Cedar Rapids, John (Zsuzsanna Karasz) Lipsky of Brooklyn, NY, Tad (Susan) Lipsky; grandchildren, Leah (Michael Shaheen) of Arlington, VA, John (Bria) Mertens of Salt Lake City, UT, Elisa (Ian Mohr) Lipsky-Karasz of Brooklyn, NY, Alexandra (Zachary Smith) Mertens of Seattle, WA, Daniel (Julia Zangwill) Lipsky-Karasz of Brooklyn, NY, Alyson (Daryn Cambridge) Lipsky of Falls Church, VA, Andrea Lipsky-Karasz of Brooklyn, NY; great-grandchildren, Bennie, Ben, Kaiya, Ruby, Sienna, Arthur; sister-in-law, Belle Lipsky of Cedar Rapids; and niece Susan Lipsky Snyder of Franklin, TN.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Abbott Lipsky, and parents, John and Ruth Miller.
Memorials may be directed to Coe College, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, or Selby Gardens in Sarasota, FL in Joan’s memory.