Mayor Helen Boosalis

Mayor Helen Boosalis

My Mother's Life in Politics

Beth Boosalis Davis

552 pages
54 photographs, 1 illustration, 2 appendixes


September 2013


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

August 2008


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

As a 1950s housewife and League of Women Voters volunteer who spearheaded the city of Lincoln’s switch to a “strong mayor” form of government, Helen Boosalis (1919–2009) never anticipated that she herself would one day be that strong mayor and chief executive of Nebraska’s capital city.

Helen Boosalis’s story, told by her daughter, Beth Boosalis Davis, is that of a true pioneer of women in politics. The daughter of Greek immigrants, Boosalis achieved national prominence as the first woman president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and as an outspoken advocate for economically distressed cities facing President Reagan’s “new federalism.” Winning the Democratic nomination for governor of Nebraska in 1986, Helen Boosalis ran against Kay Orr in the first gubernatorial contest between two women in U.S. history. The interwoven tales of conflict and challenge, from the mayor’s office to the campaign trail, combine personal insight into one woman’s trailblazing political history with a compelling memoir of a half century of public service and private devotion shared by two remarkable women, mother and daughter.

Listen to an interview with Helen Boosalis and Beth Boosalis Davis on AARP's Radio Prime Time show.

Author Bio

Beth Boosalis Davis is the daughter of former Lincoln mayor and gubernatorial candidate Helen Boosalis. She has practiced law in both the private and the public sectors, was executive director of the National Lekotek Center for children with disabilities, and serves on the boards of Carleton College, Steppenwolf Theatre, the Illinois Arts Council, and First Bank & Trust. Davis lives in Evanston, Illinois, where she was elected and served ten years on the city council.


“A true pioneer in American politics, Helen Boosalis moved from being a housewife and volunteer to being elected the first female mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1975—then she became a nationally prominent advocate for troubled U.S. cities. Her inspiring story is told through the eyes of her daughter.”—AARP The Magazine

"An informed and loving tribute of a daughter to her mother."—Mike Steinman, Lincoln Journal Star

"While the book will be of greatest interest to people who have lived in Lincoln, who have known [Helen Boosalis] personally or by her reputation over the decades, it is so well-done that even those who have not known her should find her story compelling. Her daughter, Beth, who lives in Evanston, Illinois, and who was a member of the Evanston City Council, has written a loving and careful tribute to her—I guess you have to say—amazing mother."—Charles Stephen, All About Books

"For readers interested in Nebraska’s local politics and how it may have changed between then and now, the book offers a wealth of information to contemplate. . . . This book is well worth reading for its insights into the national and local political scene in the second half of the 20th century, for its insights into local political interactions, and for its descriptions of the interaction between political activity and family."—Chris Beutler, Prairie Fire

"Beth Boosalis Davis has drawn on personal memory, thirty-five interviews, and voluminous scrapbooks collected by her father, Mike Boosalis, to chronicle her mother's career. The result is an intimate look at one of Nebraska's best known and most effective politicians during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s."—James E. Potter, Nebraska History

“Doubtlessly, for Helen Boosalis, life and politics were inextricably interconnected; to tell the story of Boosalis, the mayor, is to tell the story of Boosalis, the person. Davis does her mother proud.”—Jan P. Vermeer, Great Plains Quarterly

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations  

Note on Sources and Structure



Flash Forward: Calling Me Home     

1. Call to Action

Flash Forward: Down to Two   

2. Madame Mayor  

Flash Forward: May the Best Woman . . .  

3. This Is Not Your Father's City Hall   

Flash Forward: Money Talks   

4. Roll Up Her Sleeves 

Flash Backward: Roots--All Greek to Me   

5. Expect the Unexpected     

Flash Forward: Getting to Know You 

6. Everything Old Is New Again     

Flash Forward: One False Move and . . .  

7. Mayors' Mayor 

Flash Forward: Issues, Debates, Polls, and Other Irrelevancies   

8. Another Time Around 

Flash Forward: Trails End    

9. Life (After) Is Politics    


Photo Acknowledgments  

Appendixes: Biography Timeline, City Councils  





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