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Mona Kadel Martin

2019 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: Mona Kadel Martin

“I believe the ideals my mother espoused for me and my role as a woman in the world reflects how she lives life and how she strives to improve the world for women as a whole. As an educator, a community leader and an involved citizen, she sets the bar high for what a woman can do.”

-- Written by her daughter Beth Martin in a letter of support.

Photo of Mona Kadel Martin

Mona Lea Kadel Martin was born on October 22, 1934, in Taylor Ridge, Illinois, and has been a resident of Davenport, Iowa, since 1959. She received a B.S. in 1956 from Western Illinois State College in Macomb, Illinois, and did graduate work at both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

In her personal life, Mona became a feminist in 1956 when she was fired while working as a reporter for the Rock Island Argus in Rock Island, Illinois. When Mona told the newspaper editor that she was expecting a baby, he fired her saying, “The City Room is no place for a pregnant woman.” She spent the rest of her career advocating and working on behalf of women who faced similar challenges.

Throughout her life, Mona’s career has encompassed work as a newspaper reporter, biology/earth science teacher, community leader, and state legislator, serving in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001. Mona has also served as president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa and on numerous national advisory panels for the League of Women Voters U.S. Mona was named to leadership roles in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) where she chaired the 198-member Committee on Children, Families and Health, and represented NCSL at national forums and at several conclaves in Germany. From 1986 to 1990, Mona served as President of the Iowa Chapter, United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). She was appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Consumer Affairs Advisory Committee which she chaired from 1979 - 1981.

As a state legislator, Mona went against insurance companies in 1996 when she pushed the “Maternity Stay” bill through the legislature, securing the Governor’s signature. The law improved the lives of women and newborns by stopping “drive-by deliveries.” Mona was lauded by colleagues from across the nation for leadership in orchestrating this change, which became a model for the national law. Beginning in 1997, Mona pushed through reforms aimed at safeguarding Iowa’s older citizens from abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The final reform was her foresighted bill consolidating the state’s six criminal and abuse registries into a single database, an achievement which garnered the State of Iowa the Smithsonian National Museum’s prestigious Laureate Award for Technology Innovation in 2000. As a legislator, Mona also scuttled a movement to sunset the Iowa Department of Human Rights and the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women in 1997 when a male legislator disliked the Department because “there was no Commission on the Status of Men.” Mona sponsored and floor-managed the Equal Rights Amendment to Iowa’s Constitution and was instrumental in the amendment’s passage in 1998. In 2000, Mona was the chief House sponsor and floor manager of the “Pill Bill,” a measure requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for prescription contraceptive drugs, devices and services.

In all of her endeavors, Mona has touched people’s lives – motivating, inspiring, advocating and striving to make her community, the state of Iowa and the nation a better place.

To listen to an interview with Mona Kadel Martin, visit:

File2019 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honoree Mona Kadel Martin.mp4