About Author: Karen Mason

Posts by Karen Mason


The Nutcracker in Cedar Rapids

Program and photographs of productions of The Nutcracker from the records of the Dieman-Bennett Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres.

Dancers Edna Dieman and Julia Bennett opened their dance studio in 1951 at a rented room in the Cedar Rapids YWCA.  Ten years later they formed the Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres and built a repertoire in classical ballet, Indian and Spanish dance, tap, jazz, and historical dance.

For more information about the company and its productions, go to


Program for 1985 performance of The Nutcracker.

Dancer with the Nutcracker, 1960s?

Nutcracker performance with Jefferson choir, 1955


Top Secret Rosies

Secret Rosies

In 1942 a group of female mathematicians helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age.  Top Secret Rosies shares the little known story of a group of female mathematicians who did secret research for the US Army during WWII, a handful of whom went on to serve as the programmers of ENIAC, one of the first electronic computers.

Please join filmmaker LeAnn Erickson for a reception and a screening of her new documentary Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII on Monday, December 6th at 6:30 p.m. in 1505 Seamans Center (College of Engineering—across from Old Capitol Town Center).  The film will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public.


Winning the Vote

Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission records, Iowa Women's Archives.

Celebrate Women’s Suffrage!

August 26th marks the 90th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the United States.

Here are a couple of ways to honor those courageous and determined women who fought for the vote:

• Learn about Iowa women’s involvement in the suffrage movement through the exhibit Women’s Suffrage in Iowa: A Sneak Peek of a New Digital Collection.

• Read about an overlooked Iowa suffragist, Annie Savery, in the book Leader and Pariah: Annie Savery and the Campaign for Women’s Rights in Iowa, 1868-1891 by Iowa Women’s Archives founder Louise Noun.  You can purchase the book through the Iowa Women’s Archives.


Online exhibit on LGBTQ life in Iowa City earns honorable mention from OutHistory.org

The Iowa Women’s Archives and University of Iowa Archives Collaborated on the exhibit entitled “LGBTQ Life in Iowa City, Iowa: 1967-2010,” which was entered in the “Since Stonewall Local Histories Contest” hosted by OutHistory.org.

Kären Mason, curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives and David McCartney, University Archivist, curated the exhibit, which was posted along with LGBT histories from across the country on a non-profit website dedicated to uncovering and preserving the history of the modern movement for LGBTQ rights.

The online exhibit begins with the 1967 publication of The Iowa Defender, which included an article about lesbians in Iowa City. Photo from the Iowa Women's Archives.

Rally in Iowa City to celebrate Iowa Supreme Court ruling upholding gay marriage, April 3, 2009. Photo by Laurie Haag

The Iowa City exhibit begins in 1967 with The Iowa Defender publishing an article on lesbianism in Iowa City and ends in 2010 with The Iowa City Press-Citizen naming a lesbian couple (Dawn and Jen BarbouRoske) as “Persons of the Year” for their role in challenging Iowa’s defense of marriage law and ushering in same sex marriage in Iowa in 2009. According to OutHistory.org, the exhibits are meant to be “works in progress” that continue to chronicle important events.

The curators used collections from individuals in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Archives and the Iowa Women’s Archives to compile a visual timeline of the history of LGBTQ activism in Iowa City.

Some collections used from the IWA include: Ain’t I a Woman? newsletters, Rusty Barceló papers, Tess Catalano papers, Cherry and Lockwood papers, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives records, Jill Jack papers, Jo Rabenold papers and the Women’s Resource and Action Center records. To find more collections that have materials on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activism, visit: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/Topical_holdings_lists/LGBT.html


June 17-19: Women’s & Gender History Conference in Dubuque

The fourth biennial conference of Women and Gender Historians of the Midwest (WGHOM) will be held on June 17, 18 and 19, 2010, at the Town Clock Center for Professional Development of Northeast Iowa Community College in Dubuque, Iowa. 

This conference will bring together scholars, educators, students and the public to explore current issues in women’s and gender history to showcase the academic work of Midwestern and other scholars who focus on women or gender. 

Honoring the conference location in the historic river community of Dubuque, Iowa, the 2010 theme highlights the convergence of scholarship and contemporary pedagogy in all areas of women’s history and related disciplines. 

Dr. Pat Cohen, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara will be the keynote speaker. Her address is titled, “An 1850’s Challenge to Traditional Marriage: Mary Gove Nichols and the American ‘Free Love’ Movement.”

Program and further information can be found at: http://department.monm.edu/wghom/


We think it’s a breast pump

Lamaze books, baby bonnet, and early breast pump.

We’ve put up a small exhibit in the Iowa Women’s Archives reading room in conjunction with our upcoming Women’s History Month event about the history of the Lamaze method of natural childbirth.  The exhibit includes several Lamaze books from the 1970s from the papers of Patricia Hillard, a leader in La Leche League International from the 1970s through the 1990s.  Also in the exhibit are a baby bonnet dating from the early 1900s, and an unusual glass breast pump.

The breast pump came to the Iowa Women’s Archives with various artifacts and historical records from the Heritage Room of the University of Iowa College of Nursing.  A tag accompanying the breast pump says that it was purchased in New Orleans in 1750.  If anyone knows how this early breast pump worked, we’d like to hear from you.


There’s this thing called Lamaze. . .

On Wednesday, March 10th, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. we’ll be talking Lamaze in the Iowa Women’s Archives.

We’ve joined forces with the UI History of Medicine Society and the Council on the Status of Women’s Herstory Committee to bring you some entertainment and enlightenment.  Join us from 4:30 to 5:15 for cookies and conversation with old friends and new.

At 5:15 p.m., Theatre Arts graduate student Janet Schlapkohl will entertain with “There’s This Thing Called Lamaze,” a brief monologue and song about natural childbirth in the 1970s.  We’ll be entering uncharted territory in the IWA with live music  (if we can pull it off).  Some of you will have seen Janet perform at the Riverside Theater as part of Walking the Wire.

At 5:30 p.m. Professor Paula Michaels of the UI History Department will present a lecture “Comrades in the Labor Room: The International Story of the Lamaze Method, 1950-80.”  Most of us are familiar with the Lamaze method’s patterned breathing and conscious relaxation that became popular in the 1960s and 70s along with the natural childbirth movement (be sure to check out the very seventies attire pictured on the Lamaze books in the IWA reading room display).  But who knew about the Soviet origins of Lamaze and its association with the French Communist Party?   Paula Michaels will talk about the origins of the Lamaze method and the efforts to obscure these leftist ties during the Cold War in order to make Lamaze palatable to Americans. 

Hope to see you here on Wednesday afternoon. 

(3rd floor, south side, University of Iowa Main Library at the corner of Burlington and Madison in Iowa City).


All About Eve

Our first women’s history month event features the work of Eve Drewelowe, who in 1924 became the first person to earn a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa. 

The painting “Summertime with Sis and Soot” evokes Drewelowe’s Iowa childhood and on a day like today, with the sun shining and snow melting, I can almost believe that summer–or at least spring–is on the way.  I’m lucky to have this painting hanging in my windowless office, providing a glimpse of Iowa fields and sky on a summer day.

On Wednesday, March 3rd, from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. in the North Exhibition Hall of the University’s Main Library, we’ll unveil the Eve Drewelowe Digital Collection that was recently completed by the University of Iowa Libraries with the assistance of Lindsay Shannon, a graduate student in the School of Art and Art History.  Upon her death, Drewelowe bequeathed her artworks and personal papers to the School of Art and Art History. When the Iowa Women’s Archives was established in 1992, the papers were placed in the Archives on permanent loan. These materials have now been digitized in their entirety for the online collection, which features more than 700 items, including paintings, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, and correspondence. 

Professor Joni Kinsey, Curator of the Drewelowe art collection, will speak about the artist’s work and the significance of the collection at 4:30 p.m.  Please join us on Wednesday to celebrate the remarkable Eve Drewelowe.


Welcome to our blog!

Women’s History Month is upon us and there’s a lot happening in the Iowa Women’s Archives.  We thought it would be nice to let people know about events, collections, exhibits, and other newsworthy items, so we’ve started a blog. 

For our first post, we wanted to share a local TV news story highlighting valentines in the Iowa Women’s Archives.  This news story was prompted by a post on the Digital Library Services blog by Joanna Lee.


Winners All: The Experiences of Women in Iowa Sports

April 13, 2009

Iowa Women’s Archives curator Kären Mason will moderate a panel discussion concerning the role of sports in girls’ and women’s lives and the impact of changing opportunities for participation in organized sport. Panelists will include former director of UI Women’s Athletics Christine Grant, UI volleyball coach Sharon Dingman, sports reporter Susan Harman, assistant UI women’s basketball coach Jan Jensen, and visiting assistant professor in Health and Sport Studies Christina Johnson. Monday, April 13, 7:00 p.m. at the UI Athletics Hall of Fame and Museum on the corner of Mormon Trek Blvd. and Melrose Avenue. The forum is free and open to the public. Admission to the Hall of Fame and Museum will also be free from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on April 13th.