Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 333


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


The title of Beth Davis's final chapter in this biography of her mother encapsulates the book's main message: "Life After Is Politics" for Helen Boosalis, a former mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska. Boosalis's life story is ostensibly the story of her political life. Davis, a past local government official herself, strives to describe not just the mayor's personal side or her political work but to demonstrate the intertwining of the two.

Underpinning the story is extensive research into newspaper files from the period, buttressed by scrapbooks, clippings, and memorabilia that her family, chiefly her father, collected over the years. Interviews with numerous local and national political figures conducted in the course of Davis's research provide telling quotations and insights as well.

A unique feature of the book is the alternating narratives of the mayor's political career and the historic 1986 gubernatorial election in Nebraska, the first in the nation where each major party nominated a woman, drawing national attention to this Plains state. This approach gives Davis a subtle way to make an important point, especially to readers who chiefly remember Boosalis from her loss to Kay Orr. Here is the story of that campaign, but to understand it, Davis implies, you need to know about my mother's political career as a whole.