About our exhibition “Pathways to Iowa”


Ruth Salzmann, Germany, c. 1938.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Iowa Women’s Archives, we have mounted an exhibit in the North Exhibition Hall of the University of Iowa’s Main Library. The inspiration for this exhibit came from the many visits made to the archives by families and friends of donors. Earlier this year, Sam Becker brought his grandchildren to the archives to look at the papers of their grandmother, Ruth Salzmann Becker. As they learned of her narrow escape from Nazi Germany in 1938, Ruth Salzmann’s story became one of the migration paths featured in the exhibit.

“Pathways to Iowa: Migration Stories from the Iowa Women’s Archives” seeks to acknowledge the donors of the precious letters, photos, diaries, and memoirs that make up the collections preserved in the Iowa Women’s Archives. At the same time, it seeks to re-frame our understanding of Iowa history. Beginning with the migration path of Iowa’s first people, the Meskwaki, it integrates the familiar story of European settlement with a lesser known history of African American and Mexican migration in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

LULAC women share their stories, Davenport, 2007.

For the past seven years, through its  Mujeres Latinas Project, the archives has worked to preserve the early history of Mexican migration to Iowa. We chose to highlight these materials in this exhibit because it is a history that has been hidden for too long. The Iowa Women’s Archives wishes to thank all of those who shared their stories with the Iowa Women’s Archives. A special thanks goes to the members of the Davenport League of United Latin American Citizens – LULAC Council 10 – who have done so much to preserve and bring to light the rich history of Iowa Latinas, their families, and organizations, and donated their records to the Iowa Women’s Archives so that others could learn this important history.