Iowa History Daily: August 18 - Linda Eaton

Iowa History Daily: On August 17, 1977, the City of Iowa City hired Linda Eaton as the city’s first female firefighter. After the birth of Eaton’s son Ian, a legal battle ensued when the department refused her request to breastfeed during her personal break-time at the firehouse.

A graduate of West Liberty High School, Eaton stood out as a popular student and star basketball player during her teenage years. Following high school, Eaton looked for well-paying jobs and became the first woman hired as a forklift operator at the local Heinz Distribution Center.

Looking for a change of pace led her to apply work as a firefighter with Iowa City in 1977, Eaton excelled to outperform other candidates on civil service testing measuring intelligence, personability, and personal ability. The 104th paid firefighter hired in Iowa City’s history, the 26 year-old went to work proving to her new coworkers she belonged.

Things went well enough until she asked to feed her newborn in the women’s locker room during break time. Denied on the grounds of ‘special treatment,’ the department subsequently suspended Eaton for insubordination when she fed her son at work.

A lengthy and multifaceted legal battle ensued which first saw the Iowa Civil Rights Commission ruling unanimously in her favor during March of 1980. A second suit in Johnson County District Court ultimately didn’t go in Eaton’s favor as a jury of five men and four women ruled against her. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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