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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.

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Code for Coeds

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The “Code for Coeds” is a guide to campus life that was given to incoming women students at the University of Iowa from 1937 to 1968. This 1944-45 edition is included in the Louise Goldman Papers, and Goldman edited the handbook for the University Women’s Association.

Sounds like parties at the Union were very classy, with an orchestra, program, and soft lighting. Indeed, “There’s nothing like Iowa on a Saturday night!”

Guide to the Louise Goldman Papers

[From: Louise Goldman Papers. Series 2: State University of Iowa (University of Iowa). “Code for Coeds” - 1944-1945.]

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

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Living Learning Community in IWA

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On Tuesday of this week, the Iowa Women’s Archives held an event for the “New in Town” Living Learning Community. We asked the question, “What was it like to be a student at Iowa 100 years ago?” Each table represented a decade from the 1910’s all the way to the 2000’s, so the group of first year students got the chance to explore the history of student life at the University of Iowa. Scrapbooks and yearbooks were a big hit!

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

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“The Newhall Girls of 1927″

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Welcome to Women’s History Wednesday!

In 1924, the Iowa High School Athletic Association decided that organized basketball was “unhealthy” for girls and announced their decision to eliminate the girls’ state championship tournament. In response, female athletes statewide took action; that included members of the Newhall team, pictured here, who rode on horseback from farm to farm to win their neighbors’ support.

Those efforts paid off big for Newhall’s players, who in 1927 won the first-ever girls state championship under the newly-founded Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. After a breathless night following the game remotely — it wasn’t broadcast on the radio, so fans gathered at a Newhall restaurant where the tournament plays were called out via a long-distance phone call — the whole town turned out the next morning to welcome their champions back home.

As one newspaper report described it, “The Newhall Girls of 1927 have given the town a place in the sun.”

Newhall items from the Rural Women Digital Collection

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

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Gladys Conn’s five-year diary

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A five-year diary belonging to Gladys Conn, social worker and graduate of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). The first entry in the diary is dated January 1, 1932, at which time she would have been in school. It’s hard to tell what year this entry is from, but here is what Gladys wrote on November 1:

The Tragedy of Niginsky by ___

Enjoyed very much

It turns out that “The Tragedy of Nijinsky” is by Anatole Bourman and Dorothy Lyman and was first published in 1936. So it appears that Gladys did continue to use this diary, at least occasionally, over the span of a few years. And isn’t that usually the way it is with these five-year diaries?

Guide to the Gladys Conn Papers

[From: Gladys Conn Papers. Series 3: Diaries. Chronological (2 volumes). 1929-1932.]

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

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Mildred Wirt Benson, Iowa’s most successful “ghost”

"Ghost Gables"

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Welcome to Women’s History Wednesday, now in our fancy new home at the Iowa Women’s Archives tumblr!

Despite our recent Mildred Wirt Benson gif-a-thon, we couldn’t resist one more post on Iowa’s most successful “ghost” for Halloween.

In a 1973 essay for our Books at Iowa journal, Benson described getting her start as a ghost writer. Soon after graduating from the University of Iowa in 1925, she was hired by Stratemeyer Syndicate as one of “a few ‘ghosts’ who accepted a brief plot outline, vanished, and returned to the office weeks later with a finished manuscript.” She eventually took on an assignment to launch the Nancy Drew series, and created a strong, independent heroine — one who “might rate as a pioneer of Women’s Lib,” according to Benson. The Syndicate was initially less than pleased:

“Mr. Stratemeyer expressed bitter disappointment when he received the first manuscript, The Secret of the Old Clock, saying the heroine was much too flip and would never be well received. On the contrary, when the first three volumes hit the market they were an immediate cash-register success for the syndicate. Over a thirty-eight-year period, the series was printed in seventeen languages and, according to a published report [from 1969], achieved sales of more than 30,000,000 copies.”

Benson then states the most blood-chilling part of her tale: “As ‘ghost’ I received $125 to $250 a story, all rights released.”

Read Benson’s “The Ghost of Ladora” essay

Browse the Mildred Wirt Benson digital collection

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

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eras of emma: the emma goldman clinic through four decades

eras of emma:  the emma goldman clinic through four decades

Join us for a panel discussion featuring women who have been active in Iowa City’s feminist health clinic founded in 1973. The clinic had its origins in an abortion referral service started by Iowa City’s Women’s Liberation Front in 1971. The Emma Goldman Clinic for Women opened September 1, 1973 in a house at 715 North Dodge Street, just months after Roe v. Wade was decided by the United States Supreme Court. Initially focused on woman-centered health care, the Emma Goldman Clinic later expanded its mission to provide reproductive health care for men as well as women.
 
The panel will be moderated by Karen Kubby, former director of the clinic, and will include clinic founder Deborah Nye, first director Marilyn Cohen, current director Jennifer Price, and board member Jorie Slodki.
 
 
Friday, October 18, 2013
 
1:00-2:30 p.m.
 
Iowa Women’s Archives,
3rd floor, Main Library
The University of Iowa
 
  egc newsletter w Our Bodies  EGC n dodge house in snow
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Left: The first home of the Clinic, at 715 N. Dodge, Iowa City.
 
Right: The cover of a 1979 newsletter put out by the Clinic. Note the speculum in the back pocket and the copy of Our Bodies Ourselves on the chest of drawers. The newsletter was later renamed Emma’s Periodical Rag.
 
Both items are from the Emma Goldman Clinic records in the Iowa Women’s Archives.
 
 

 

 

 

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John Fry: What I Learned from Publishing an Edited Manuscript, Fri, Sept 20, 10-11am

Laura and Earle Smith

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.

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Leading the Field: Women and Sport at Iowa, Thu, Mar 28 at 4pm

Celebrate Women’s History Month with the Iowa Women’s Archives

In collaboration with the UI Council on the Status of Women, IWA will welcom Susan Birrell for a talk and Janet Schlapkohl for a dramatic reading on Thursday, March 28 starting at 4pm in the Iowa Women’s Archives (3rd floor south of the Main Library).

University of Iowa is a recognized leader in women in sport and physical education. Four years ago, the University of Iowa Libraries celebrated that legacy by digitizing a collection of the UI Department of Physical Education for Women. Below is more information about this remarkable digital collection.

Almost 1000 historic photographs of University women’s physical education classes – from archery and synchronized swimming to basketball and dance – are now publicly available online. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the University of Iowa Libraries has released the UI Department of Physical Education for Women digital collection: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/wpe .

The photographs, spanning almost 100 years (1906-2004), are part of a larger manuscript collection that documents the rise of women’s athletics at Iowa from the one-member Department of Physical Culture and Athletics to the dawn of women’s intercollegiate sports. The Department of Physical Education for Women at the University of Iowa was a pioneer in the development of graduate study and professional training as well as athletic opportunities for women.

“These photographs offer a fabulous window into women’s sport—and campus life—over the past century.  They’re very appealing, from the expected team portraits and sports action shots to the more surprising images of laboratory experiments, rifle enthusiasts, and slumber parties,” says Kären Mason, Curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives. “The digital collection provides easy access to these photos, and I hope it will inspire people to explore the equally fascinating records of the Department of PE for Women that are available in the archives.”

Intercollegiate athletics for women at The University of Iowa originated in the Department of Physical Education for Women in the late 1960s and early 1970s and maintained that association until 2000.  This relationship stemmed from the philosophy of the women physical educators and the value they placed on education and women-centered and -controlled sport.

“Those two key, related notions are still at the heart of the current Department of Health and Sport Studies: that sport and physical activity should be part of a liberal arts education and that they can contribute greatly to both individual well-being and the social good,” says Catriona Parratt, Associate Professor in the Department of Health & Sport Studies. “We are delighted that the Iowa Women’s Archives digital photographic collection will make it easier for many more people to appreciate this aspect of the University’s mission.”

This historic image collection is the latest edition to the Iowa Digital Library — http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu — which contains more than 225,000 digital objects, including photographs, maps, sound recordings and documents from libraries and archives at the UI and their partnering institutions as well as faculty research collections.

To explore the vast digital holdings from the Iowa Women’s Archives, a portal that allows users to browse by subject, time period or artifact type is available online at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa . It will be continually updated with new items drawn from the IWA’s 1100 manuscript collections, which have provided valuable primary source materials for books, articles, theses and class projects on women’s history.

For more information about the collection, contact Kären Mason, Curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives, at 335-5068.

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“Life is not all sunshine”

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.

A few letters from the Viola Nesfield Owen papers.

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).

Viola Nesfield Owen

Viola Nesfield Owen

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.