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Iowa History Daily: January 24 - Ola Babock Miller

Iowa History Daily: On January 24, 1937, Iowa's first female Secretary of State and founder of the Iowa State Highway Patrol Eunice Viola (Ola) Babock Miller passed away. An influential Iowa politician, Babock Miller helped make Iowa’s highways safer while shattering glass ceilings.

Ola attended public school in Washington before completing her education at Iowa Wesleyan College. Married to newspaperman Alex Miller, Ola Babock Miller supported her husband's political ambitions including an unsuccessful run for governor in 1926. After Alex passed away, Ola decided to get involved in politics herself. She started traveling around the state promoting social reform causes and encouraging women to take advantage of the 19th Amendment and exercise their voting rights.

When asked, Ola Babock Miller decided to run for Secretary of State in 1928. Her son-in-law, George Gallup, got his start in political polling by correctly predicting her election victory. Miller, who learned of a close friend's young son killed in a traffic accident just before she took office, immediately set out to improve motor vehicle safety. Without legislative authorization or support, she reassigned the duties of her 15 Motor Vehicle Department employees and assigned the men to patrol several counties for unsafe vehicles and reckless drivers.

The program proved a quick success, allowing Babcock Miller to convince the legislature to pass a bill in 1935 establishing the Iowa State Highway Patrol. Easily reelected in 1934 and 1936, she received more votes than any previous candidate in Iowa history. Meanwhile, polls showed the State Highway Patrol stood second only to God in Iowa's public esteem. After her death, more than 3,000 people attended her funeral in Washington where all 55 Highway Patrol officers served as pallbearers. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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