From the collections Category

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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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Remembering Emma’s early days

This post was written by Jessica Lawson, Graduate Research Assistant in the Iowa Women’s Archives.

(Clockwise from left) Sondra Smith, Barb Yates, Dale McCormick, Gayle Sand, and Francie Hornstein.

(Clockwise from left) Sondra Smith, Barb Yates, Dale McCormick, Gayle Sand, and Francie Hornstein.

  The Iowa Women’s Archives had an exciting visit at the end of July! Five women who were active in the feminist community in Iowa City in the 1970s and were early supporters of the Emma Goldman Clinic for Women visited the archives.  Dale McCormick, Sondra Smith, Gayle Sand, Barb Yates, and Francie Hornstein reunited to look through this feminist health clinic’s records and share memories of its early days. The Emma Goldman Clinic (fondly known as “Emma”) is a not-for-profit healthcare and family planning provider whose records are housed at the Archives.  Barb Yates was a “founding mother” of Emma, along with Ginny Blair, Robin Christensen, Melissa Farley, Diane Greene, Darca Nicholson, Deb Nye, Patty Pressley, Carmen Salas, and Roxie Tullis.

Barb Yates, Francie Hornstein, and Dale McCormick looking at Ain't I a Woman, published by the Women's Liberation Front in Iowa City in the early 1970s.

Barb Yates, Francie Hornstein, and Dale McCormick looking at Ain’t I a Woman, published by the Women’s Liberation Front in Iowa City in the early 1970s.

The collections we brought out for our visitors and the stories they shared reflect the rich interconnections among women’s organizations and social justice movements in Iowa City in the 1970s. In addition to the material in the Emma Goldman Clinic Records themselves, the history of the clinic is woven through the personal papers of two of the visitors (Dale McCormick and Sondra Smith), as well as other local activists like Jill Jack and Linda Yanney and organizations such as the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC). The women laughed as they told stories about staging a feminist revision of Taming of the Shrew, proudly compared their work on Ain’t I a Woman (the newsletter of the Iowa City Women’s Liberation Front) to the work of women’s groups in New York City in the 1970s, and paused to celebrate the memory of Iowa Women’s Archives co-founder Louise Noun. They even found time to help us identify some of the faces in the old photographs.

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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.

 

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LULAC News, JFK Memorial Edition

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This JFK Memorial Edition of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Newsletter is preserved in the records of LULAC Council 10 in the Iowa Women’s Archives. It commemorates President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy’s attendance at the LULAC banquet in Houston on November 21, 1963. Jacqueline Kennedy addressed the audience in Spanish on this first visit of any U.S. president to a national Latino organization.

LULAC Council 10 was one of several councils to pay tribute to the late president in this newsletter. Members of LULAC from across the country expressed their condolences in this letter:

Sorry, Mrs. Kennedy

TO: Mrs. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy FROM: Members of Lulac

December, 1963

Dear Mrs. Kennedy:

Add to the millions of words of sorrow that have been written to you in every language on earth our humble expression of sympathy at the loss of your husband.

We will never forget John F. Kennedy, who conquered the hearts of the world and did more during his lifetime to preserve peace than any man in history.

We offer this edition of the Lulac News, official publication of the League of United Latin American Citizens, in memory of your husband, the first U.S. President ever to become an honorary member of our organization.

He was our president, our friend, and we loved him. As we shared happiness with you in Houston, Texas on November 21, 1963, so now we share your grief.

Guide to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 10 (Davenport, Iowa) Records

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

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Iowa’s Mesquakie tribe

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“Soon, moreover, I was told, ‘This is your little ax,’ when a little ax was brought. I was glad. ‘This is your wood-strap,’ I was told. My mother and I would go out to cut wood; and I carried the little wood that I had cut on my back. She would strap them for me. She instructed me how to tie them up. Soon I began to go a little ways off by myself to cut wood.

“And when I was eleven years old I likewise continually watched her as she would make bags. ‘Well you try to make one,’ she said to me. She braided up one little bag for me. She instructed me how to make it. Sure enough, I nearly learned how to make it, but I made it very badly. I was again told ‘You make another.’ It was somewhat larger. And soon I knew how to make it very well… She would be very proud after I had learned to make anything. ‘There, you will make things for yourself after you care for yourself. That is why I constrain you to make anything, not to treat you meanly. I let you do things so that you may make something. If you happen to know how to make everything when you no longer see me, you will not have a hard time in any way.’”

Autobiography of a Fox Woman (1925)

Today we’re combining Women’s History Wednesday with Native American Heritage Month to feature these images of Iowa’s Mesquakie tribe, from the Iowa Women’s Archives Noble Collection, along with a published autobiography excerpt held by the State Historical Society of Iowa.

From their home in the Great Lakes region, the Mesquakie (formerly known as the Fox tribe) relocated to Iowa during the 18th and early 19th century following warfare against French fur traders and other Native American tribes. In 1845, the U.S. Government forced them out of Iowa to a reservation in Kansas, but many tribe members remained in secret, and others returned after a few years. The Iowa legislature enacted a law in 1856 allowing them to stay, and sold them back some of their land. Today the Mesquakie own 3,000 acres. [source]

Iowa Digital Library: Mesquakie photographic postcards

Iowa Digital Library: Excerpts from Autobiography of a Fox Woman

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

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Iowa women’s suffrage

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Women’s History Wednesday!

Around this date in 1910, Iowa women were tying on their driving scarves, preparing to motor off to the women’s suffrage state convention in Corydon. While their efforts to pass statewide legislation ultimately failed, Iowa women kept rallying, and eventually received the right to vote in 1920 through the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Iowa Digital Library: Suffrage documents, 1910s

IWA online exhibit: Iowa Suffrage Scrapbook

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

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Myrtle Aydelotte in the Army Nurse Corps

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Myrtle Kitchell Aydelotte entered the Army Nurse Corps as an assistant chief nurse at the 26th General Hospital in North Africa in 1942, and in 1945 became chief nurse at the 52nd Station Hospital in Italy. At the University of Iowa, she held many positions from 1949 through 1976, including professor of nursing, Director and Dean of the College of Nursing, and director of nursing for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

In 2008, Kathleen Krebs interviewed Aydelotte about her WWII experiences. Here are some excerpts from her summary of the interview:

“North Africa was a completely different and tremendous learning experience for Kitch and all of her unit. They landed to warmth, sunny skies, exotic aromas, ragged beggars, chaos, and the welcome availability of fresh fruit that, while it was most welcome, also made many nurses sick because it was so long since they had had any. Their bodies had become overly sensitive to citrus.”

“At Bizot, they were forced to set up their hospital in tents, some 400 of them, first housing 1000, then later 2000 beds.”

“Keeping things sterile was the number one priority and amid blowing dirt and sand, operating almost continuously with insufficient supplies, and with many infected wounds, this was a major priority and vigilance was at a maximum to prevent cross-contamination of patients. Flies were the bane of their existence and they discovered that their helmets were all-purpose vessels: they could bathe, shampoo, and launder in them.”

Myrtle K. Aydelotte donated her papers, including her memoirs, to the Iowa Women’s Archives in 1996.

Guide to the Myrtle Kitchell Aydelotte Papers

Iowa Digital Library

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