Emma J. Harvat


Emma J. Harvat

"She opened horizons for women in political and business life."–Roxanne Barton Conlin, 2003

Emma J. Harvat was an important historical figure in United States and Iowa history, for in 1922, she became the first woman in the nation to be mayor of a city larger than 10,000. “I believe my experience and training in business won the election for me,” she said. Bringing the female perspective to problems in city government, she immediately separated female and male offenders in the city jail and established a juvenile home. Born in Iowa City in 1870, she was the ninth of ten children of Czechoslovakian immigrants Joseph and Mary Harvat. She started her professional life as a store clerk but quickly advanced to owning her own business, a ready-made dress shop. Later she became involved in real estate, home building, and as a landlord. Her home in Iowa City was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Iowa City’s Civic Center was designated as “Emma J. Harvat Hall” in 2000. Harvat was an Iowa woman of remarkable vision, professional achievement, and originality who was a pathfinder for civic leaders in our state. She died in 1949. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2007.