About Author: Ariana Santiago

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Louise Liers, World War I nurse

This post, by Christina Jensen, appeared on the Iowa Women’s Archives Tumblr this summer, and has since been featured on NBC news.

On June 28th, 1914, Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip. One month later, war broke out across Europe between two alliance systems. Britain, France, Russia, and Italy comprised the Allied powers. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire constituted the Central powers. As war raged abroad, the U.S. wrestled with the politics of neutrality and intervention. In April of 1917, President Wilson was granted a declaration of war by Congress. The United States thus officially entered the conflict alongside Allied forces. 

To mark the occasion of the World War I centennial, we’re remembering Iowa women whose lives were shaped by the war.

One such woman was Clayton-native Louise Marie Liers (1887-1983), an obstetrics nurse who enrolled in the Red Cross and served in France as an Army nurse.

Before her deployment, however, Liers was required by the American Red Cross to submit three letters “vouching for her loyalty as an American citizen.” All nurses, regardless of nationality, were similarly required to provide three non-familial references testifying to this effect. While questions of loyalty and subversion are exacerbated in any war, America’s domestic front was rife with tension driven by geography, class, and ethnicity that raised fears and stoked national debate in the years leading up to America’s engagement in the Great War.

Louise Liers's war identification. Louise Liers Papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Louise Liers’s war identification. Louise Liers Papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Arriving in 1918, Liers was stationed in the French town of Nevers where she treated wounded soldiers.  During this time Liers wrote numerous letters home to her parents and brother describing her duties and conditions of life during the war.

In a letter to her brother, featured below, Liers described her journey to France from New York City, with stops in Liverpool and Southampton.

Louise Liers’s letter to her brother, describing her journey from Iowa to Base Hospital No. 14 in France. Louise Liers papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Louise Liers’s letter to her brother, describing her journey from Iowa to Base Hospital No. 14 in France. Louise Liers papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

When Liers arrived in 1918, Nevers was only a few hours away from the Allied offensive line of the Western Front.  She was assigned to a camp that served patients with serious injuries and those who required long-term care.  Liers noted in a 1970 interview that, by the end of the war, as fewer patients with battle wounds arrived, her camp began to see patients with the “Asian flu,” also known as the 1918 influenza outbreak that infected 500 million people across the world by the end of the war.

In letters home, and in interviews given later, Liers described pleasant memories from her time in service, including pooling sugar rations with fellow nurses to make fudge for patients.  Nurses could apply for passes to leave camp and Liers was thus able to visit both Paris and Cannes.  In an interview Liers recalled that, serendipitously, she had requested in advance a leave-pass to travel into town for the 11th of November, 1918. To her surprise, that date turned out to be Armistice Day, and she was able to celebrate the end of the war with the citizens of Nevers.

“…devised such tortures and called it warfare…”

Along with her cheerier memories, however, Liers’s papers also describe the difficulties of caregiving during war.  She described Nevers as a town “stripped of younger people” due to the great number of deaths accrued in the four years of war.  In later interviews Liers offered many accounts of the grim surroundings medical staff worked under, from cramped and poorly equipped conditions, to unhygienic supplies, such as bandages washed by locals in nearby rivers, which she remembered as “utterly ridiculous from a sanitary standpoint…they were these awful dressings. They weren’t even sterilized, there wasn’t time.”  Due to the harsh conditions and limited resources, nurses and doctors gained practical knowledge in the field. Liers recalled frustrating battles to treat maggot-infected wounds before the nurses realized that the maggots, in fact, were sometimes the best option to keep wounds clean from infection in a field hospital.

On a grimmer note, Liers wrote to her parents the following:

“As I have told you before, the boys are wonderful- very helpful. When I see their horrible wounds or worse still their mustard gas burns or the gassed patients who will never again be able to do a whole days work- I lose every spark of sympathy for the beast who devised such tortures and called it warfare- last we were in Moulins when a train of children from the devastated districts came down-burned and gassed- and that was the most pitiful sight of all.”

By the time the “final drive” was in motion, Base Hospital No. 14 was filled with patients to nearly double capacity, and doctors and nurses had to work by candlelight or single light bulb. Liers’ wartime service and reflections suggest a range of emotions and experiences had by women thrust into a brutal war, remembered for its different methods of warfare, inventive machinery, and attacks on civilian populations.

Army nurses on parade, c. 1918. Louise Liers papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Army nurses on parade, c. 1918. Louise Liers papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Liers worked in France until 1920, and her correspondence with friends and family marks the change in routine brought on by the end of the war.  With more freedom to travel, Liers and friends toured throughout France, and like countless visitors before and after, Liers describes how enchanted she became with the country, from the excitement of Paris to the rural beauty of Provence.

Following the war, Liers returned to private practice in Chicago, and later Elkader, where she was regarded as a local institution unto herself, attending over 7,000 births by 1949.  She was beloved by her local community, which gifted her a new car in 1950 as a sign of gratitude upon her retirement.

 

Want more? Visit the Iowa Women’s Archives! We’re open weekly Tuesday-Friday, 10:00am to noon and 1:00pm to 5:00pm.

A list of collections related to Iowa women and war can be found here.

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Nineteenth Century Davenport as a Hotbed of Controversial Alternative Medicine Schools

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society & the Iowa Women’s Archives invite you to:

Nineteenth Century Davenport as a Hotbed of Controversial
Alternative Medicine Schools

Featuring Greta Nettleton, University of Iowa author and historian
Thursday June 19, 2014, 5:30-6:30 PM
MERF Room 2117 (Medical Education and Research Facility across from Hardin Library)

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Mrs. Dr. Rebecca J. Keck was a controversial, self-taught eclectic physician and the owner of Mrs. Dr. Keck’s Infirmary for All Chronic Diseases in Davenport, Iowa. Although forgotten today, she served up to 15,000 patients in her itinerant circuit. She successfully defended herself in court five times in Illinois for practicing medicine without a license from 1879 to 1900. How does her career illuminate the birth of other alternative medical theories such as Chiropractic?

View the event on Facebook

If you are a person with a disability requiring an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Donna Hirst, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences (donna-hirst@uiowa.edu), 335-9154. The UI Histort of Medicine Society website is located at http://hosted.lib.uiowa.edu/histmed.

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Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence

This post was originally written by Jen Wolfe, Digital Scholarship Librarian, for the UI Libraries Digital Research & Publishing Blog. It is re-posted here with minor modifications.

University of Iowa faculty, students, and staff discussed a curriculum project that combines historic documents with digital tools and methods as part of the Irving B. Weber Days local history celebration. The one-hour presentation “Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence” took place on Wednesday, May 7 at the Iowa City Public Library.

Iowa Women’s Archives Curator Kären Mason provided background on the IWA and its mission to chronicle the history of Iowa women, their families, and their communities by collecting personal papers, organizational records, and oral histories. IWA artifacts on display at the event included a World War II correspondence scrapbook, donated by author and radio personality Evelyn Birkby, upon which the Archives Alive! project was based.

Evelyn Birkby interviewing guests on KMA radio program, Shenandoah, Iowa, March 21, 1951

Evelyn Birkby interviewing guests on KMA radio program, Shenandoah, Iowa, March 21, 1951

Matt Gilchrist and Tom Keegan, Rhetoric faculty and co-directors of the Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) initiative, spoke about using digital humanities methods to engage undergraduates through hands-on learning and technologically innovative assignments. For Archives Alive!, they developed a four-week curriculum module that required their Rhetoric students to participate in DIY History, the UI Libraries’ transcription crowdsourcing project. After transcribing, researching, and analyzing digitized correspondence from the Birkby scrapbook, students conveyed their findings in a variety of ways; this includes three-minute video screencasts uploaded to YouTube that form a collection of open-access works of original digital scholarship based on primary sources.

Panel of speakers at the "Archives Alive!" event on May 7, 2014

Archives Alive! panelists Zach Stark, Matt Gilchrist, Tom Keegan, Karen Mason, Jessica Graff, and James Burke, Iowa City Public Library, 2014. Photo by Matt Butler.

The event also featured presentations by Rhetoric students James Burke, Jessica Graff, and Zach Stark. For those who couldn’t make it in person, “Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence” will be archived at the Iowa City Public Library web site.

The Archives Alive! spring 2014 student works are available on the IDEAL website, and a letter from Evelyn Birkby to the students is included in the IWA Tumblr post about the project.

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An Evening of Irish Music & Mystery: Featuring Author Erin Hart & Musician Paddy O’Brien

Join us for an Evening of Irish Music and Mystery, featuring author Erin Hart and musician Paddy O’Brien. The evening will begin with traditional Irish music on the square between the Main Library and the Adler Journalism Building, followed by the author presentation and reception, and tours of the Conservation Lab and the Iowa Women’s Archives.

Hart will share how the discovery of the ninth century Fadden More Psalter inspired her latest novel. Hart worked with preservationists, conservationists, and scholars to include the book’s actual history in her story.

This event is sponsored by the University of Iowa Libraries, the UI Libraries Conservation Lab, and the Iowa Women’s Archives.

irishmusic

An Evening of Irish Music & Mystery
Featuring Author Erin Hart & Musician Paddy O’Brien
Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:00 PM
University of Iowa Main Library
Shambaugh Auditorium

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Women in Politics 2014: Historic & Current Perspectives

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Women in Politics 2014: Historic & Current Perspectives
Friday, April 18th, 2014, 8:15 AM to 5:00 PM
Old Capitol Museum Senate Chambers

The Louise Noun – Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women’s Archives was founded by two women who understood the critical importance of women participating in politics at all levels.

Join us for a day-long symposium that will examine why women do or do not run for political office, how they govern once elected, and documentation of the history of women in politics. The symposium will wrap up with a policy discussion and action steps.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but please register here, as space is limited.

The Women in Politics symposium is presented by the Public Policy Center in partnership with the Iowa Women’s Archives.

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Black Hawkeyes: The History of Black Students at the University of Iowa

Drawing on collections in the Iowa Women’s Archives, curator Kären Mason will discuss the history of African American women students at the University of Iowa on Tuesday, February 25th at the Iowa Memorial Union.

If you can’t make it to the talk, check out this wonderful resource: African American Women Students at the University of Iowa, 1910-1960.

black hawkeyes

Black Hawkeyes: The History of Black Students at the University of Iowa
Featuring Dr. Kären M. Mason, Curator of Iowa Women’s Archives
Tuesday, February 25, 12:30-2 PM
Penn State Room, Iowa Memorial Union
Presented by the Society of Black Graduate and Professional Students

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Women on the Chautauqua Circuit: Winsome Lasses and Ardent Advocates

This post by Kären Mason, Curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives, was originally written for Akashic Books.

Chautauqua was an eagerly anticipated event in towns across the United States in the early 20th century. Huge tents were erected and a variety of speakers, performances, and children’s activities took place over the week the Chautauqua was in town. Red Oak, Iowa even constructed a permanent Chautauqua Pavilion in 1907, which is still standing and reputed to be the largest covered pavilion west of the Mississippi.

Many women lectured or performed on the Chautauqua circuit. Some, like Marian Elliot Adams, the main character of Unmentionables, lectured on women’s reform issues. Women’s suffrage was a popular topic in the years leading up to 1920, when the 19th Amendment at long last gave women the vote. Chautauqua provided an important venue for reformers to reach audiences all across the country.

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Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) became an ardent suffragist while in high school and served as a field secretary for the National American Woman Suffrage Association after college. She advocated for suffrage and other reforms as a Chautauqua lecturer and was billed as “a fluent speaker sure to interest her audiences.” In 1916 she became the first woman elected to Congress, only possible because Montana had granted its women the right to vote in 1914.

While Jeannette Rankin and the fictional Marian Elliot Adams were very serious about promoting women’s issues on the Chautauqua stage, other women viewed Chautauqua as a lark. During the summer of 1926 Abbie McHenry (Romey) (1905-1994), a University of Iowa student, performed throughout the Midwest with five other students known as the Metropolitan Players. “Most of the audience turned its applause to Abbie Ann,” wrote a reporter in Greensburg, Indiana, charmed by the winsome lass he called “Amiable Abbie Ann.”  She recorded the summer’s travels in a diary and scrapbook, now in the Iowa Women’s Archives.

Abbie Ann McHenry’s sketch of the
platform manager in Kokomo, Indiana,
July 12, 1926.
 

Katharine La Sheck

For Katharine La Sheck (1891-1971), who had grown up in Iowa City, Iowa, Chautauqua offered a venue for showcasing her musical and theatrical talents. From 1911-1920 she performed with The College Girls and the Marigold Quartette, singing, acting, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Booked by the Redpath Chautauqua, the College Girls travelled to Panama in 1913 and 1914 to entertain Americans working on the canal, and performed on the cruise ships of the United Fruit Company Steamship Service.

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The Marigolds let their hair down

And have fun with some fellow travelers.

To learn more about Chautauqua, visit the website Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century.

 

Picture-7All photographs from the Iowa Women’s Archives and Department of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.  Do not reproduce without permission. Contact the Iowa Women’s Archives at lib-women@uiowa.edu or the Special Collections Department at lib-spec@uiowa.edu.

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LULAC Christmas party, early 1960′s

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Women’s History Wednesday:

As part of its project to document the history of Iowa Latinas and their families, the Iowa Women’s Archives preserves and makes accessible the records of the LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) Council 10 of Davenport, Iowa.

Mexicans arrived in Iowa as early as the 1880s, and by the 1920s boxcar communities had grown up near railroad yards in towns such as Fort Madison, Davenport, and Bettendorf. During the mid-20th century, second- and third-generation Mexican Americans fought for civil rights through organizations such as Davenport’s LULAC Council 10, founded in 1959 and still going strong today.

Pictured here is a LULAC Christmas party from the early 1960s, showing a blend of traditional activities such as pinata games alongside an early example of what has become an internet phenomenon — the “Scared of Santa” photo.

Iowa Digital Library: Mujeres Latinas Digital Collection

Iowa Women’s Archives: Guide to the LULAC Council 10 records

Iowa Women’s Archives: Mujeres Latinas Project

*This post is duplicated from the Iowa Women’s Archives Tumblr.

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Shirley Rich, casting director and UI alum

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I watched “The Sound of Music Live!” last night, and with musicals on the brain, I hoped we had something theatrical in the archives. And what do you know, here is Shirley Rich in her office at Rodgers & Hammerstein! She worked there as an assistant casting director from 1948 to 1951.

Rich grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa, and her parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. In 1969, she founded Shirley Rich Casting, where she worked as a freelance casting director on such films as Taps, Saturday Night Fever, and Kramer vs. Kramer.

Shirley Rich graduated from the University of Iowa in 1944 with a bachelor of fine arts degree. Casting director in theater, television, and film, Rich worked on many productions including Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, Three Days of the Condor, Ryan’s Hope, and The Happy Time with Eva Gabor.

She began donating her papers to the Iowa Women’s Archives in 1992 – the collection includes playbills, correspondence, professional files, and even her antique typewriter.

Guide to the Shirley Rich Papers

*This post is duplicated from the Iowa Women’s Archives Tumblr.

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Resourceful students skiing at the Pentacrest

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Women’s History Wednesday:

Iowa City isn’t exactly prime skiing country, but these resourceful UI students circa 1930s-1940s made do by repurposing the Pentacrest’s west hill in the heart of campus for their winter sports. (Not recommended these days, unless you don’t mind crash-landing into four lanes of traffic.)

Female students at the University of Iowa have a well-established history of physical fitness; the Department of Physical Education for Women, founded in 1924, was a pioneer in the field’s development of graduate study and professional training opportunities.

Iowa Digital Library: UI Physical Education for Women

Iowa Digital Library: Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes

*This post is duplicated from the Iowa Women’s Archives Tumblr.