Carolyn Pendray


"Carolyn Pendray was a pragmatic idealist who was able to work with the Legislative system for the enactment of laws that benefited all but especially the rights of women." - Miriam C. Diehl, 1978

Carolyn Pendray, of Maquoketa, was the first female to serve in the Iowa Legislature. Born in Mount Pleasant in 1881, she was elected from Jackson County to the House of Representatives in 1928, two years after women were first allowed to serve in the Iowa Legislature. She was re-elected in 1930. In 1932, she won a state Senate seat, unseating an incumbent to become the first woman to serve in that body. She was the only woman to have served in both chambers at the time of her death in 1958 at the age of 76. As a legislator, Pendray cosponsored a bill permitting a wife to hold certain property of her own, exempt from seizure for debt. Prior to this law, only the husband was recognized as head of a household, and only he could claim property exempt from seizure for debt. Pendray was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1978.