eras of emma: the emma goldman clinic through four decades
eras of emma: the emma goldman clinic through four decades
Laura & Earle Smith were barely out of college in 1913 when they left Moravia, Iowa, to try their hand at homesteading near Chugwater, Wyoming. Laura recounted their adventures years later in her memoir Almost Pioneers.
Historian John Fry (UI PhD, 2002) came across Almost Pioneers while doing dissertation research in the Iowa Women’s Archives and later edited it for publication. The trail to getting the book published was almost as bumpy as the Wyoming roads of 1913–but not quite. John Fry will be in town on September 19-20, 2013, to speak about the book.
A PIONEER EVENING WITH JOHN FRY
Thursday, September 19, 7:00 p.m.
Coralville Public Library
WHAT I LEARNED FROM PUBLISHING AN EDITED MANUSCRIPT
Friday, September 20, 10:00 a.m.
Iowa Women’s Archives
(3rd floor, Main Library, The University of Iowa)
Please join us!
For information, call 335-5068.
Viola Nesfield Owen papers
by Audrey Altman
Preserving the history of poor and rural women is a mission of the Iowa Women’s Archives, but it can be challenging because these women rarely leave detailed records of their lives. That’s why we were so excited to receive the papers of Viola Nesfield Owen, donated by Gary Whitehead. The collection contains dozens of letters between his grandmother, Viola Nesfield Owen, and her family, written from 1921 to 1963.
Viola was a high-spirited woman who saw her family through many hardships, and her letters give insight into how Midwestern women dealt with family, work, and financial hardships.
Viola Nesfield was born in 1896. She grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, with her father, step-mother and two younger half-sisters. In 1921, Viola planned to marry Vern Owen. Since Vern was divorced, their engagement was somewhat scandalous for Viola’s family. Yet Viola and Vern were not to be deterred. They eloped and moved to Wisconsin. This is when the collection of letters between Viola Nesfield Owen and her family begins. The first few years of letters from the Nesfields to Viola are filled with appeals to return home and anxious parental advice.
In 1924, Viola’s father wrote: “When I am at work I lots of times get worried about you. I wish you would begin to look forward for you are sure to get some rainy days. You know life is not all sunshine. Try to save all you can.” (June 20, 1924)
But Viola did not move home. Instead, she and Vern started a family. Her children are by far the most common topic of her letters. My favorite of Viola’s letters is dated August 14, 1928. It was written from her hospital bed, shortly after she delivered her first child, Robert Harrison. In big, messy letters that practically fall off the lines of the page, she wrote, “How I wish you could see him. He is so cute and ‘fat as butter.’”
It’s hard not to admire Viola, who was sometimes called “Ha! Ha!” for her unquenchable good spirits. Her daughter, Betty, nearly died of kidney disease when she was two years old. Viola made a pact with God that if He spared Betty’s life, she would never complain about her hardships. It is evident in her letters that Viola tried hard to keep this promise, even though her family experienced dire poverty through the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1927, the Owens moved into a tar paper shack in Janesville, Wisconsin, with no electricity or running water. Yet Viola’s letter bearing the news to her family reflected no bitterness. She mused, “We ought to save money here. No place to spend it.” (October 9, 1927).
During the Depression, Viola’s husband Vern struggled to hold a job. Viola worked as a pianist, piano and accordion teacher, and as a transcriber for the WPA Braille Project. Despite Viola’s contribution to the family income, they often struggled financially, and Viola’s optimistic resolve was tested. On January 13, 1933, she wrote: “I would be so glad if Vern could make a dollar a week. Now I don’t mean to complain and I always said I never would if Betty love could only get better and the rest of us keep our good health, but if I don’t write very soon you will know Vern is still jobless… Soliders and Sailors Relief are getting me a pair of shoes today. Isn’t it awful to have to depend on somebody like that but what can you do? I was walking on the ground.”
But the next month, Viola had found something to celebrate again: “I was so extravagant I ate a whole orange all by myself. Ha! Ha!” (February 2, 1933) During the 1940s, Viola found new independence. She started working for Parker Pen in Janesville, WI, and wrote excitedly about her various administrative duties at the factory. She also divorced her husband, but continued to care for him, especially after he suffered a stroke in 1948. Viola and her family continued to write each other, and the collection of letters extends to 1963.
Audrey Altman, a graduate student in the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science, processed the Viola Nesfield Owen papers while working in the Iowa Women’s Archives in 2011/2012.
By Christine Vivian, SLIS student and IWA student assistant
One of the lovely surprises of The Iowa Women’s Archives is the number of collections which contain holiday cards, such as the Shirley Briggs Papers. Briggs, an artist and naturalist, created a new hand-drawn card every year for over 50 years. Receving one of these works of art year after year must have been a wonderful tradition for her friends and family. To carry on this tradition, we share some of those cards with you here, with our hopes for a happy holiday season.
To see an exhibit about Shirley Briggs’ work and her friendship with Rachel Carson, please stop by the University of Iowa Sciences Library before January 7th.
In 1950, Joyce Horton was a junior at the University of Iowa studying speech pathology. She was active in the Foreign Students Association, a group she really enjoyed. A few weeks before Thanksgiving she wrote a letter to the newspaper in her hometown of Osage, Iowa, suggesting that residents invite these students to spend Thanksgiving weekend in their homes, some 160 miles from Iowa City.
As Joyce later recalled, “The letter was printed. Some Osage folks liked the idea–and so did the foreign students. Twelve of them came with me to Osage that year and 44 came my senior year.”
With the support of the local Rotary International group, Osage International Weekend became a tradition.At the time of Joyce Horton Beisswenger’s death in 2002, the program was still actively inviting international members of the university community to experience the holiday in the homes of local families.
After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1952, Joyce Horton attended Yale Divinity School, where she met her future husband Don Beisswenger. They were active in the civil rights movement in Chicago in the 1960s before moving to Tennessee, where she earned a degree in social work.
A scrapbook documenting Osage International Weekend is among the papers of Joyce Horton Beisswenger (1930-2002) in the Iowa Women’s Archives.
The symposium begins at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, in Phillips Hall Auditorium (100 PH), followed by an opening reception in the UI Sciences Library, where an exhibit of Briggs’ photos, writings, art work and memorabilia will be on display through Jan. 7.
“A Sense of Wonder,” a short film about the last days of Rachel Carson as she struggled with cancer, will be shown from noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Iowa City Public Library.
Speaking at the symposium will be Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability, who will read from “Silent Spring” and tell about Carson’s legacy to the environmental movement. Kären Mason, curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives, will talk about Briggs and her connection to Carson’s work. Brief clips from “A Sense of Wonder” will also be shown.
As part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Iowa Women’s Archives, Suzanne O’Dea will read from her new biography of Archives co-founder Mary Louise Smith and take questions about her research for the book.
Join us for coffee and pastries at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 10th, in the North Exhibition Hall of the University of Iowa Main Library. After the program, enjoy the exhibition Pathways to Iowa: Migration Stories from the Iowa Women’s Archives, or join Curator Karen Mason for a tour of the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Parking is available in the cashiered lot west of the library. The library opens at 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays.
Madam Chairman: Mary Louise Smith and Revival of the Republican Party After Watergate, published in October by the University of Missouri Press, is based on extensive interviews O’Dea recorded with Smith and her staff at the Republican National Committee in the early 1990s, and on archival research in the Mary Louise Smith Papers at the Iowa Women’s Archives and the Gerald Ford Papers at the Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Madam Chairman explores the career of Mary Louise Smith, a woman in a world of politics run by men, to recount Smith’s and the GOP’s changing fortunes but also the challenges Republican women faced as they worked to gain a larger party presence. Like many women, Smith started out making coffee, stuffing envelopes, and knocking on doors at the precinct level, and honed her political skills in Republican women’s organizations at the state and national level before being elected Republican National Commiteewoman from Iowa in 1964.
Smith became the first woman to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee when President Ford appointed her to the position in 1974. During her twenty-eight months as chairman, Smith worked to rebuild the party following the devastation of Watergate, developing innovative fundraising strategies still used today. A supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive rights, and gay rights, Smith grew increasingly alienated from the Republican Party as its leadership shifted from the moderate views espoused by Ford to the more conservative leadership still seen today, yet she remained loyal to the party.
Suzanne O’Dea is the author of three books, including Legislators and Politicians: Iowa’s Women Lawmakers. She lives in McKinleyville, California.
From the symposium website:
Vicki L. Ruiz is Professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine and the former Dean of the School of Humanities. Over the course of three decades, she has published over fifty essays and one dozen books. An award-winning scholar, she is the author of Cannery Women, Cannery Lives and From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth- Century America. Her edited or co-edited anthologies include Unequal Sisters: An Inclusive Reader in U.S. Women’s History. She and Virginia Sánchez Korrol co-edited the three-volume Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, which received a 2007 “Best in Reference” Award from the New York Public Library. She is past president of the Organization of American Historians, the Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians, and the American Studies Association. Since 2007 she has served on the advisory board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. An elected fellow of the Society of American Historians, she was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the first Latina historian so honored.
About Luisa Moreno
An immigrant from Guatemala, Luisa Moreno was one of the most prominent women labor leaders in the United States. From 1930 to 1947, she mobilized seamstresses in New York’s Spanish Harlem, cigar rollers in Florida, and cannery women in California. The first Latina to hold a national union office, she served as vice-president of the CIO cannery union (UCAPAWA). She was also the driving force behind the 1939 El Congreso de Pueblos de Hablan Española, first national U.S. Latino civil rights conference. Moreover, as a Latina flapper during the 1920s, she published poetry and consorted with the likes of Diego Rivera in Mexico City before journeying to the United States. Relying on oral interviews with Moreno, her daughter, and many friends and associates as well as on Moreno’s own writings and moving beyond a traditional panegyric narrative, this presentation traces how Moreno embodied a quintessential transnational subject given her movement across discordant spaces, physical and intellectual, where she invented and reinvented herself. This presentation will also explore the politics of memory and biography given the bonds that developed between the historian, Moreno, and her daughter Mytyl Glomboske.
Poster for Vicki Ruiz events.
Vicki Ruiz will also present a lecture earlier in the day on Thursday:
“Big Dreams, Rural Schools: Mexican Americans and Public Education, 1870-1950″
Thursday October 11, 2012
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. 2520D University Capitol Centre
On a sunny day 20 years ago, the Iowa Women’s Archives celebrated its opening with a symposium on Iowa women in political life featuring IWA founders Louise Noun and Mary Louise Smith. En route to the symposium, Smith stopped on the Pentacrest to speak at a rally in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was on the ballot in Iowa the following week. The ERA went down to defeat that year, but the Iowa Women’s Archives was off to a great start.
Twenty years later, the archives holds rich collections representing diverse Iowa women. Our current exhibition, Pathways to Iowa: Migration Stories from the Iowa Women’s Archives provides a window into some of the lives represented in the collections, with an emphasis on our Mujeres Latinas collections. I hope you’ll have a chance to stop in and see the exhibition.
Kären Mason, Curator
Our friend Linda Kerber, May Brodbeck Professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, retired in June. A symposium celebrating her career, A World of Citizens: Women, History, and the Vision of Linda K. Kerber, will be held October 5-6, 2012.
You can honor Dr. Kerber and support the IWA by contributing to the Linda and Richard Kerber Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives.
A symposium at the University of Iowa, October 11-13, 2012.
Please join us in Shambaugh Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7:00 p.m. for a keynote address by University of California-Irvine professor of history Vicki Ruiz, “Of Poetics and Politics: The Border Journeys of Luisa Moreno.”
Following the lecture, there will be a reception in the adjoining North Exhibition Hall of the Main Library, where you’ll have a chance to see the Pathways to Iowa exhibition.
Thurs., Oct. 25, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Judith Houck, “The Medicalization of Menopause Over the Past 100 Years.” Room 401, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa.
Saturday, Nov. 10, 10:30-noon
Suzanne O’Dea reading from her new book Madame Chairman: Mary Louise Smith and the Republican Revival after Watergate. North Exhibition Hall, UI Main Library.
Silent Spring at 50:
Watch for the date of an exhibit and program exploring the environmental activism of Rachel Carson and her friend Shirley Briggs, an Iowa City native whose papers are in the IWA. Phillips Hall Auditorium & Sciences Library.
North Exhibition Hall, Main Library, University of Iowa.
This exhibition explores a theme common to many of the collections in the Iowa Women’s Archives: migration. Documents, photos, and text illuminate the varied ways in which women from Mexico, Germany, Vietnam, and elsewhere experienced migration to Iowa between the mid-19th century and the present. The exhibition also examines the lives and work of Louise Noun and Mary Louise Smith, founders of the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Join Iowa Women’s Archives Curator Kären Mason, Assistant Curator Janet Weaver, and faculty members Omar Valerio-Jiménez and Claire Fox for a brown-bag discussion of Latina history in Iowa at the opening of the newest exhibit at the UI Main Library.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 12:00- 1:00 p.m.
University of Iowa Main Library, North Exhibition Hall
“Pathways to Iowa: Migration Stories from the Iowa Women’s Archives” explores a theme common to many of the collections: migration. Since its founding, the Iowa Women’s Archives has gathered documents, photos, and oral histories that illuminate the lives of diverse Iowa women. Through the day-to-day work of the Archives and projects to preserve Latina, African-American, and rural women’s history, the Archives has opened up new avenues of research and laid the foundation for a more complete history of Iowa, the Midwest, and the nation.
Bring your lunch. Cookies and iced tea will be served.
The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular Main Library hours through November 30, 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: The South entrance to the UI Main Library is closed; you will need to use the North entrance.