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Iowa History Daily: July 28 - Mary Jane Odell on the Small Screen

Iowa History Daily: On July 28, 1923, Mary Jane Odell was born in Algona. A journalist, lecturer, and politician, Odell hosted a well-loved variety show in Des Moines and served as Iowa’s Secretary of State.

After a childhood in Kossuth County, Odell graduated as Valedictorian from Algona High School before studying at the University of Iowa. Moving to Des Moines for a job in broadcasting at KCBC-Des Moines while also writing a column for the “Plaintalk” newspaper called ‘On-The-Air.’

Across the 1950s and 1960s, Odell appeared on daily television programs, Friday morning shows, two morning radio shows, and founded the Iowa Chapter of American Women in Radio and Television. Odell hosted a popular variety show on Iowa Public Broadcasting Network called “IPBN Presents Mary Jane Odell.” Odell interviewed many famous people over a long career including Elenor Roosevelt and Johnny Carson.

When a brief 1970s stint brought her to Chicago, Odell won Emmy awards in 1972 and 1975 for outstanding individual achievement. Odell returned to Iowa in 1975 to host IPBN’s program “Assignment in Iowa.” Appointed Iowa Secretary of State in 1980 by Governor Robert D. Ray, Odell won reelection to the office in 1982. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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