In 1930, the Stratemeyer Syndicate published the first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. Since then, Nancy Drew has become known around the world. But who was behind Carolyn Keene? The mystery of the pseudonym persisted until a 1980 court case identified Mildred Wirt Benson, a journalist and Iowa woman, as the original ghost writer. Benson began working as a ghost writer for the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1927 when she was still a student at the State University of Iowa. Eventually, she wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries. The Iowa Women’s Archives received Mildred Wirt Benson’s papers in 2013.
In The Mysterious Mildred Wirt Benson, you can learn more about Benson’s papers, her legacy, and her adventurous life as a ghost writer, an airplane pilot, and a journalist. Benson was an alum of the University of Iowa. She became the first person to receive a master’s in journalism from the State University of Iowa in 1927.
In the 1990s, she was inducted into the University of Iowa’s journalism schools Alumni Hall of Fame and received the University’s distinguished alumni award. The site includes pages dedicated to biography, the University of Iowa Nancy Drew Conference in 1993, the story of the custom made cabinet that houses 146 of Mildred Wirt Benson’s published works, and resources for Nancy Drew and Mildred Wirt Benson scholarship.
Have you ever heard a story that your grandparents, for example, told you and you were so fascinated to hear the story that you still remember it? With oral histories, a person is able to travel through time and imagine all the events and experiences that the narrator was living in those years. My name is Lupita Larios. I am an undergraduate student double majoring in Portuguese and International Studies with a track in Latin American Studies. I have been working at the Iowa Women’s Archives for almost two years, transcribing the Mujeres Latinas oral histories. I have really enjoyed listening to and transcribing the interviews. I have learned about the Mexican-American culture, the Mexican society of the 20th century, the transitions that a person has to face to belong to a new society, and how the Mexican-American community tries to put in practice their version of Mexican traditions.
I am fluent in Spanish and am able to understand most of the Mexican slang and Mexican colloquial language in the interviews. On occasion, I had to search for the meaning of some Mexican regionalisms like bolillo or words that are used in other countries like cipota, used in Honduras. Many of these interviews address issues such as migration and race. Some of the interviewees talk about the Mexican Revolution, discrimination, sexual assault, sense of community, LULAC, bilingual education, college experiences, and Mexico’s earthquake of 1985. My favorite parts of this project are the stories of how interviewees’ parents met or how they met their loved one, stories that made me laugh, or made me feel empathy for the person experiencing a difficult event in their life. Here are a few of my favorites:
Irene and Jose Guzman’s story
They are husband and wife residing in Des Moines, IA. Irene was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Jose was born in Kennedy, Texas, both with Mexican ancestors. What I liked about this oral history is that they were involved in the Migrant Action Program. This organization advocated for the rights of the Latinx migrants especially farmers, to have better housing, childcare and medical assistance. Most importantly, to let them know that they had rights and that they employers could not ignore them. I also appreciate listening to their stories of success and advocacy with the Latinx community through this program.
Berta Murillo’s story
Berta was born in Mexico City in the metropolitan area of Coyoacán in 1946. What is fascinating about this story is that her descriptions of the streets of Mexico City transported me there. I was able pass the Hernan Cortez headquarters on her way to school; she described museums, baroque churches, and the Casa Azul, which is the Frida Kahlo Museum. In addition, it was very interesting to learn that her grandfather, Mardonio Magaña, was an important sculptor in the Mexican arts that gained the respect and support of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. When Berta and her brother visited some family in Des Moines, she met Eddie. Eddie was learning Spanish and Berta was learning English. They kept in touch through letters to practice until their friendship grew into romance and they married.
Ana Ahern’s story
Ana was born in San Buenaventura, Honduras in 1929 where she grew up on a farm. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to go to school in Honduras, because her father was afraid that she would run away if she fell in love. However, she still wanted to learn how to read and write, so she paid a teacher until her father found out and prohibited her from studying. After she moved to the United States, most of her employers abused of their power by making her work long hours without liberty or benefits. One employer even took her passport so that she could not look for other jobs or go back to Honduras. After she had saved enough money to open a convenience store in Honduras, she decided to go back. The most heartbreaking part of her story is that when she returned, she discovered that her sister wasn’t taking care of her children like she had promised. The most devastating thing Ana recalled was that her daughter was living in rags and her ex-husband had taken their son to the banana plantations. Ana had to pay three hundred dollars to her brother in law to get her son back.
These are just a few stories that I had worked on, but I always find something that is very interesting and that as Latina I can identify with. Even if people are not doing research for a paper, or looking for primary sources, I recommend that they take some time to come and read a little bit about the lives of some Latinas that arrived in Iowa. Read about the hardships and stigmas they faced, the new changes that they had to make, the racism they faced, their education and employment experiences, and their communities. Enjoy the ride and visit Iowa Women’s Archives!
Lupita Larios, student worker in the Iowa Women’s Archives
In 1916, a young doctor by the name of Myrtle Hinkhouse stepped onto a ship heading toward China. Years earlier, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions appointed her to serve in Tengchoufu and, after studying at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, she was ready to begin her work. Hinkhouse worked in China for three decades, helping patients, training nurses, and teaching at medical academies before returning to family in West Liberty, Iowa. Her great-niece, Ann, grew up listening to her stories.
I met Ann while working as the director of an ESL program at a local church. She contacted me with the hope of meeting my students from China. She thought they would like to see and even keep some of the items Myrtle brought back from her travels. I set a meeting up with her and about five students, not really thinking anything of it. I assumed, mistakenly, Ann mostly had art or jewelry, maybe a fan or two. I was astonished when she instead pulled out folders of hand-written letters, photographs, and a journal. This wasn’t pieces of art. This was a history collection.
Feeling sick, I watched the students pick out which papers to keep. I knew once the collection was separated, it would be almost worthless. “Ann,” I said, “have you considered donating this to an archive?” She told me she had asked a local historical society, but they weren’t interested. She didn’t think anyone else would be, either. “Ann,” I repeated, “did you ask the University?” The University of Iowa was only a couple blocks away. That fall, I had started the School of Library and Information Science graduate program. Nestled in the same hallway as my classes sat the Iowa Women’s Archives. It seemed if Myrtle’s papers belonged anywhere, it was there, kept together, and accessible to everyone. The challenge was convincing Ann of that.
I’ll spare you the details of how I begged Ann to leave the collection with me, the time spent relocating the items given away in that first meeting, or my devastation upon learning that one student went back to China with most of the photos, even after promising them to me. It was that last event that prompted me to run to IWA, clutching what I did have of the collection. I knew what I had was important; I didn’t know what to do with it, and I was afraid of losing more. But it all worked out. Ann visited IWA later and agreed to donate the collection. I volunteered to process it myself, determined to learn and to see the project through. Around the time I was hired as a student worker, Ann discovered a travel trunk full of Myrtle’s papers. I spent a year piecing through those items, adding the new material into what had already been organized.
Over one hundred years after Myrtle’s departure for China, I’m glad to announce the Hinkhouse collection is finally processed. The finding aid has been published and researchers finally have access to her letters, books, and photographs. As happy as I am, though, the moment is bittersweet. Processors, I think, always feel a connection to the people whose collections they are organizing. It’s hard not to, especially after delving through diaries, letters, childhood essays and recent memoirs. With Myrtle Hinkhouse, though, it was always more than that. She feels like an old friend, one I’ve cared deeply about and worried over, one that brought me Ann’s companionship, and one that pushed me into a new (and happy) path at the IWA during my graduate career. I can only hope she’ll inspire the students and researchers who study her collection as much as she inspired me.
In the window of the Main Library Gallery sit two bags, a trunk, an Army uniform, and the navy nurse’s cape that Evelyn Crary Bacon wore as a student at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa.) What do all of these items have in common? They belonged to members of “The Greatest Generation,” a cohort of Americans that came of age during the Great Depression and rose to the occasion of World War II. The Gallery’s current exhibition, “Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation,” commemorates the bestselling book by Tom Brokaw as well as members of the generation that inspired it.
The exhibit is centered on a massive ceiling to floor art installation made from copies of enthusiastic letters Brokaw received from fans of the book. It is as if a bag filled with stories is being poured out onto the floor. Around this are cases filled with the stories of individual Iowans, including many women (and one man!) whose materials reside in the Iowa Women’s Archives. Here are just some of our collections you’ll see represented when you visit:
Evelyn Crary Bacon
Born in 1916 in Grundy Center, Iowa, Evelyn Crary Bacon made her mark in Europe where she participated in the invasion of Normandy as a captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. After the war, Bacon embarked on a teaching career. She held positions in nursing colleges from California to Virginia. Besides her nurse’s cape, a WWII military helmet and a canteen from her papers are present in the exhibition.
During World War II, Dick Hayashi’s family was sent to live in Japanese internment camps while he spent the war as a member of the Armed Forces. As a soldier, Hayashi met Evelyn Corrie, an Iowa woman who would go on to become columnist and radio homemaker Evelyn Birkby. A photograph of Hayashi and a letter he wrote to her survived in one of her scrapbooks and are now on display.
Blanca Vasquez Gaines
Vasquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1918, but military service took her to Iowa. She joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and trained at Fort Des Moines just south of the state’s capital. There, she met her husband, Harold Gaines. Blanca Vasquez Gaines and her husband lived in Iowa until 1956 when she returned to Puerto Rico to teach English and American Literature at the University of Puerto Rico.
All in all, “Stories Worth Telling” has materials from nine IWA collections and much more from the University of Iowa’s Special Collections & University Archives, and the African American Museum of Iowa. You can see the exhibition in the Main Library Gallery until January 4, 2019.
In 1972, the University of Iowa’s Manuscript Librarian, Robert McCown, wrote a letter to Nora Leander. He hoped that she would donate the papers of her aunt, Esther Bacon, an Iowan and missionary to Liberia from 1941 – 1972. In 2018, Leander’s niece, Ann Prekker, found the letter among Bacon’s papers and decided to contact the Iowa Women’s Archives. She knew it had been almost 50 years, but were we still interested? Oh yes, we were!
Originally from Sioux City, Esther Bacon was a medical missionary in Liberia from 1941 – 1972 where she worked in the hospital at Zorzor. Through her work as a midwife, Bacon delivered over 20,000 babies and provided medical care to people of all ages. She died in Liberia after succumbing to Lassa fever in 1972. The collection includes photographs of Bacon’s time in Liberia, missionary newsletters, and many moving tributes to Bacon describing the lives she saved and the children she brought into the world. Bacon’s papers will join the papers of other Iowa women who chose to be missionaries such as Myrtle Hinkhouse, Marian Farquhar, and Marianne Michael.
Prekker, her husband, and their two daughters traveled to Iowa City this week to donate Esther Bacon’s materials and we are so glad they did. It may have taken 46 years for the papers to get here, but they were worth the wait!
What makes this night different from all other nights? That’s a good question, and one that has been asked by generations of children celebrating the Passover or Pesah, the Festival of Spring. According to the Reuben family’s 1958 copy of The Jewish Home Beautiful, “Pesah tells of the rebirth of a nation, the redemption from slavery to freedom, the restoration to the disinherited among men of their God-given rights to life and liberty. […] Pesah is so called because of the Biblical account regarding the angel of Death who passed over the homes of the Israelites” (28).
Sandra Reuben recalls Passover fondly in her article, “Recollections of Growing up Jewish in Forest City, Iowa”:
“My Mother, Lillian Reuben, usually hosted our extended Iowa family for seders in Forest City. . . With my Dad and two sisters, Marlene and Joanie, we fit 16 people around tables that filled the entire living room. Then add Jenny and Meier Friedman, the only other Jews in our small “Norwegian” city. It was a challenge for my Mother to cook the traditional foods as Forest City had no stores that carried Passover foods. The matzo, matzo meal and other foods were brought from the Kropman grocery store in Mason City. . .some 30 miles away. Grandma came from Mason City to help Mother make gefilte fish from scratch, clean and roast the chickens, make the haroses, simmer the chicken soup band matzo balls and produce the rest of the traditional dishes. Years later my cousin Elinor (Elly) remembers these seders as an important foundation for our Jewish family.”
Reuben’s account of the Passover seder is not so unusual for residents of Iowa in the 1950’s. To this day, Jewish communities still make up a relatively small percentage of the overall Iowa population, but this has not deterred the traditional celebrations from taking place with ample amounts of attention and preparation. Throughout Iowa history, Jewish women have played important roles in community and family life, maintaining cultural and religious traditions, working in businesses and on farms, and participating in civic life. The documents and images included here were gathered from 2014-2017 as part of the Jewish Women in Iowa project at the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Today we’re celebrating National Girls and Women in Sport Day! Since it was inaugurated in 1987 by a Presidential Proclamation, NGWSD has recognized the on and off-field achievements of female athletes, from girls active in school and community sports to elite international athletes.
[side note–if you’re not already following our #WPAscrapbook project about a 1930s Work Project Administration photographer who documented women’s recreation at the University of Iowa, join us in February as we document this exciting find]
But February is also Black History Month, and opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off this week, so we wanted to share materials from the Nadine Domond Papers, which were donated by Domond in 2001. Check out our Twitter and Tumblr channels for more objects from the Domond Papers.
A Connecticut native and the top-ranked guard in the country, Domond made headlines in 1994 when she chose to play basketball at the University of Iowa.
In her freshman season (1994-1995), Domond played on the last team coached by legendary women´s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer during her time at the University of Iowa. For the next three years, under head coach Angie Lee, Domond and the Hawkeyes won a Big Ten Championship and made it to the 1996 NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen round.
During this time, Domond also played for various USA Basketball teams, including the squad that won the silver medal in the 1997 Jones Cup. Domond graduated from the University of Iowa in 1998 with a degree in African American World Studies and Instructional Design. As of 2017, Domond held the number five spot in all-time Hawkeye women´s three-point shooting.
Domond was the nineteenth-overall pick in the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) 1998 draft, which was the WNBA’s second draft.
After a professional career overseas, she because the Head Coach for Grambling State’s women’s basketball team before joining longtime-Iowa coach Vivian Stringer at Rutgers University, where Domond now works as an Assistant Coach.
Thank you, Nadine, for letting the Iowa Women’s Archives be part of sharing your story and amazing accomplishments. And as we get ready to kick off another Olympic Games, we’ll let Nadine have the last word.
One of our graduate student workers spent last semester processing additions to IWA’s University of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women collection. The new material included everything from Women as Leaders conference records to faculty publications. But one item in the new material surprised us–a scrapbook from the 1930s with “Work Projects Administration” inscribed on the inside cover.
One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal economic stimulus programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA, renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939) made significant contributions to American infrastructure in the 1930s, building roads, bridges, and the University of Iowa’s original Theatre Building.
Federal Project Number One, a subset of the WPA, provided employment for artists, actors, writers, directors, and musicians by sending them to local communities across the United States, including Iowa City and towns.
Research on the scrapbook continues, but we are excited about this find and wanted to share these images with those who aren’t able to visit the Archives in person. So stay tuned to our social media channels (Twitter and Tumblr) in February, as we dive into this scrapbook together and see how an unknown WPA photographer documented women’s physical education at the University of Iowa.
A few sneak previews:
The 2017-2018 academic year is the 25th anniversary of the Iowa Women’s Archives, but 2018 also marks 25 years since 6-on-6 girl’s basketball was played in Iowa. IWA is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service for their Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America exhibit. Click here to learn more about IWA’s role in this exhibit.
Here at the Iowa Women’s Archives, we believe every woman has a story and every girl has a voice. And if you were part of the 6-on-6 movement or participated in women’s athletics, physical education, or recreation, we’d love to hear from you and talk about the possibility of adding your story to our collection. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-335-5068.
It is in part thanks to the Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission that the IWA has such a collection of materials on the suffrage movement in Iowa. The commission, incorporated in 1922, was organized “to commemorate the efforts of the Pioneer Suffragists and the long procession of workers who helped secure the final enfranchisement of women.” In addition to successfully erecting a bas relief memorial by native Iowan artist Nellie Walker in the state capitol building, the commission worked to preserve materials relating to the women’s suffrage movement through 1941. Many years later, Lindsay Shannon, Assistant Professor of Art History at North Central College and author of “Uncharted Territory: The Iowa Suffrage Memorial and the Pioneer Spirit“, found the collection quite useful. Shannon, who received her Ph.D. in American art history from the University of Iowa, had this to say about the collection:
“The Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission records are a true gem! I often begin a research project on a female artist expecting to find very little documentation of their working methods or process, but was delighted to find a detailed account of these politically astute women debating and deciding how best to represent their achievements in a work of public art. This collection has been crucial to my efforts to give the Iowa Suffrage Memorial the recognition it deserves through published research and public presentations, such as the exhibition “Women’s Suffrage in Iowa: 90 Years after the ‘Winning Plan'” at the Blanden Art Museum. What excites me the most is knowing that the Iowa Women’s Archives is custodian to historical collections like this and that it continues to actively seek out new material that represents overlooked or undervalued voices.”
The collections in the Iowa Women’s Archives feature women from all walks of life. For Karissa Haugeberg, Assistant Professor of History at Tulane University, the papers regarding nursing and nurses are of special interest. Collections in this broad topic include papers authored or co-authored by Geraldene Felton, Professor and Dean of the
College of Nursing at the University of Iowa from 1981 to 1997, newspaper clippings and letters of support concerning Iowan Barbara Fassbinder, who advocated for the rights of AIDS patients from 1990 to her death in 1994, and records pertaining to the involvement in professional organizations of Myrtle Aydelotte, the Director and Dean of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) College of Nursing from 1949 to 1957. Haugeberg, who worked as a graduate assistant at the Iowa Women’s Archives while she was a student at the University of Iowa, comments on her use of all of these collections for her latest project.
The records of nursing organizations and the papers of key nurses are fueling my research on the history of American nursing. The papers of Geraldene Felton, who served as the first African American dean of nursing at the University of Iowa, include her reflections on the women’s liberation movement and
her scholarship on topics ranging from nurses’ work with abortion to the physical demands of working night shifts. Barbara Fassbinder’s papers include newspaper clippings, speeches, and correspondence about one of the first nurses to contract HIV on the job. After she disclosed her illness publicly, Fassbinder traveled the nation, often speaking before church groups, in an effort to destigmatize the illness. Finally, Myrtle “Kitch” Aydelotte’s papers and the records of UI’s College of Nursing illuminate the relationship between nursing education and larger movements for social justice during the twentieth century. The breadth of IWA’s collections is
enabling me to offer new insights about the history American nursing.