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Norma Dobler Papers

This week’s edition of Diverse Collections features our collection of Norma Dobler Papers.

Norma Dobler was born Norma Woodhouse on May 2, 1917 in Haines, Oregon. The family moved to a farm in southern Idaho’s Canyon County during the fall of 1917. Norma graduated from Caldwell High School in 1934 before attending Links Business in College in Boise for a year, the University of Cincinnati for two years, and graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in Business in 1939. After graduating, she worked at the University of Idaho’s Registrar’s Office for two years.

Norma Dobler National Women's Conference
Norma Dobler National Women's Conference

Norma married Clifford Dobler in 1941, the same year that Clifford joined the faculty at the University of Idaho as an associate professor of political science where he taught business law courses for the next 36 years. After getting married, Norma devoted herself to raising their three children and being involved in volunteer work.

Norma served for twelve years as the Sunday school superintendent for the Methodist Church, twelve years as a 4-H youth leader, and worked with the Campfire group for two years. She also worked as a county fair judge and election judge. Dobler spent six years on the Moscow School Board and three years as President of the Idaho League of Women Voters before her legislative stint and served nine years on the Idaho Tax Board of Appeals afterwards.

Norma restarted her career in 1971 and worked as secretary to the State Extension Forester until 1975. She was awarded life membership in the PTA, American Association of University Women, United Methodist Women, and Delta Kappa Gamma Education Honorary, and received the “Citizen of the Year” award from the National Association of Social Workers. She is listed in several “Who’s Who” books, and “Two Thousand Women of Achievement” and the “Dictionary of International Biographies.”

A staunch democrat, Norma was long active in politics through her work with the League of Women Voters. In 1973, she won a seat in the state House of Representatives. During her four years as a representative, she served on the Education, Health and Welfare and Resource and Conservation committees. In 1977, she was elected to the state senate, serving for five terms until her retirement in 1986. Her committees included Health, Education and Welfare, Resources and Environment, Judiciary and Rules, and State Affairs.

Norma was passionate about the rights of women, senior citizens, and children, along with education and the environment. Legislation that she sponsored, or was particularly involved with, concerned displaced homemakers, Idaho’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, day care licensing, reapportionment of the legislative districts, abortion, divorce, drinking age, driving under the influence of alcohol, harassment (hate crimes), higher education, liquor revenue, and the state liquor dispensary system. She was also active on the Development Disabilities Council, the State Employment and Training Advisory Council, and the Idaho Cancer Coordinating Committee. On a national level, Norma served on the Education Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the advisory board for the National Education Data Library, the American Association of Retired Persons’ legislative committee, and a national commission to prevent telemarketing fraud of senior citizens.

Norma passed away on June 1, 1998. She was survived by her husband, three children, one brother, eleven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Upon her death, Senator Marguerite McLaughlin commented, “She probably was the most fair legislator I ever knew. She listened to both sides and tried to make decisions based on that.”1

The collection

The Norma Dobler Papers is a collection of materials spanning the years 1962-1995, with the bulk of materials covering the years 1976-1987. Materials include correspondence, notes, transcripts of speeches, newspaper clippings, photocopies of legislation, publications related to her political career, records related to her involvement with the League of Women Voters, and records related to her time as a delegate at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston.


MG 402, folder 94

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