Joan Growe

Joan Growe.
Joan Growe.

“Yes, I’m going back to work — like a lot of other people. . . . And I’m going to work for you in state government.”

Joan Growe’s response to voters surprised to meet a female candidate for state legislature, 1972

When Joan Growe launched her first campaign in 1972 for an open seat in the state legislature, few people knew her name. Critics mocked her “Housewives Campaign.” But Growe embraced the network of women she’d met through the League of Women Voters.

She garnered broad community support through coffee parties, book clubs, and PTA meetings. Throughout her career, she maintained that personal dedication to the people of Minnesota, who elected her to be secretary of state for six terms.

As secretary of state, Growe oversaw statewide elections. She understood the power of the ballot and found ways to expand access to voting. She championed legislation allowing Minnesotans to register to vote while applying for a driver’s license or state ID. A version of this pioneering law was enacted nationwide as the 1993 Motor Voter Act.

Over the course of her career, Growe found creative ways to get out the vote. She encouraged friendly contests among cities and sponsored voter education campaigns. Her efforts paid off. In 1976, Minnesota earned the honor of being the “Votingest State” in the nation. Minnesota still has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country.