From the collections Category

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Ivory Winston, Iowa’s Own First Lady of Song

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This post was written by Christina Jensen, Student Assistant in the Iowa Women’s Archives and graduate student in the UI School of Library and Information Science.

Known as ‘Iowa’s own first lady of song’, Ivory Winston was born in 1911 in Ottumwa, Iowa. The daughter of a Baptist pastor, she grew up in a strict religious household and remembered church as the place that awoke her interest in music and fostered her developing talent. As a teenager, she dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, though she confessed to The Ottumwa Courier that she had little interest in vocal work.

 

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Winston made her professional debut in 1946 to great acclaim, having waited until her mid-thirties to begin her musical career, a decade into her marriage and well after the birth of her two children, Berta Lou and Byron. A 1947 article in The Ottumwa Courier addressed this balance of family and career, describing Winston as a ‘busy singer’ and ‘a busy housewife and mother’, and asking, “Can marriage and a career mix?” Winston raised musical children who often joined her on stage during performances close to home.

 

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In 1950 she performed for President Truman on his birthday during a stop in Iowa and led the crowd of 20,000 in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. Despite her professional success, the Winston family faced racial prejudice in Ottumwa, including a neighbor’s unsuccessful petition to bar the Winston family from moving into a new neighborhood. Winston’s son Byron later recalled the petition going unsigned, and the family moving into the neighborhood without incident.

 

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Winston’s voice was widely praised throughout her life, yet no known recordings of her singing survived.  The Des Moines Sunday Register put out a call in 2006 to its readers to keep an eye out for these missing performance recordings. If you have a recording of Ivory Winston, please notify the Iowa Women’s Archives!

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 African American women in Iowa can be found here

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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.