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 Iowa Women’s Archives features several collections related Iowa’s rejected 1980 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was the first state ERA initiative after the passage of the national ERA in 1972. These include the Iowa ERA Coalition papers, and the Iowa Women Against the ERA papers. Both collections were of use to Celeste Campos-Castillo, Assistant Professor at UW-Milwaukee, and stef shuster, Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University, when they were grad students at he University of Iowa and researching social movement activists. Exciting discoveries were made in the research process, which shuster explains.
Celeste Campos-Castillo (Sociology PhD at UIowa, Assistant Professor at UW-Milwaukee) and I (stef shuster, Sociology PhD UIowa, Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University), used the Iowa ERA Coalition and Stop ERA collections to examine how social movement activists pitch their issues to a wide audience in the hopes of mobilizing them to action. We had some pretty exciting results! While social movement theorists tend to assume that activists should present their issues in a way that
resonates with their audience (called frame resonance) to enable a higher chance of success, we found contradictory evidence to this longstanding theory. In analyzing the archival material from the IWA, we found that movement activists might consider pitching their issues in a way that creates dissonance in their audience to improve the chances of mobilization (e.g. like voting for the ERA). These ideas were published in the March 2017 issue of the Social Psychology Quarterly.
We intend to turn our attention next to how issues can be framed in a way that compels certain emotions, and which emotions might be most effective for mobilizing people. Some of the artifacts that we would like to incorporate are the cartoons from both pro- and anti-ERA organizations.
“Diversity in Dance.” This was the motto of Edna Dieman and Julia Bennett when they founded the Dieman-Bennett Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres in 1951. The Cedar Rapids dance school operated until 1997, with classes in classical ballet, as well as dance styles from Spain and India. Miss. Dieman and Miss. Bennett, as they preferred to be called, donated the records to the Iowa Women’s Archives in 1996 and later years. Since then the photographs of dances, choreography notes, costume designs, and scrapbooks documenting Dieman’s and Bennett’s international training among many other items have been used by students and researchers alike.
Jane Nesmith, an assistant professor of rhetoric and director of the writing center at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. She explains her interest in the Dieman-Bennett Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres.
For the past few years, I’ve been doing research on Edna Dieman and Julia Bennett, who ran the Dieman-Bennett Dance Studio in Cedar Rapids from 1951-1997. They taught my dance teacher, so I think of them as my “dance grandmothers.” I began visiting the Iowa Women’s Archives, which holds their collected materials, to do research in the summer
of 2013, and I have been thrilled to find so many rich and interesting materials: diaries, manuscripts, newspaper articles, photos, recital programs, video footage and more. These items help the story of Miss Dieman and Miss Bennett come alive for me, and for the groups to whom I’ve given presentations. The librarians here are so welcoming: they find materials, make copies, and
have even connected me with others who are interested in the Dieman-Bennett papers. I don’t know what I’d do without this resource that preserves and shares materials important to the story of these two important women.
– – Jane Nesmith, Coe College, 2017
University of Iowa associate professor and chair of the dance department Rebekah Kowal likewise found the records helpful for her research. Over the years, she has brought many of her dance students into the Iowa Women’s Archives. Here, she describes some of what her students have loved about using the Dieman-Bennett materials:
I was first introduced to the Dieman-Bennett collection my first semester at The University of Iowa. An MFA student in dance had encountered the collection as part of an assignment given to her by Professor Linda Kerber in a women’s history class. The assignment was to find a topic of interest in the Iowa Women’s Archives and explore the resources accordingly. The MFA student was thrilled by the idea that there was a Cedar Rapids based dance company devoted to the teaching and performance of global dance, and that Edna Dieman and Julia Bennett had been so generous to leave their materials to the Iowa Women’s Archives. At the time, I had not begun my current research project, which is investigating the significance of international dance performance during the postwar period, so I shelved away the information about the collection as something I would explore when ready. Flash forward 15 years, and the Dieman-Bennett collection has provided a wellspring of materials for my current book project as well as for several undergraduate dance researchers to discover. For the past two years, I have been working with several dance
major honors students to examine the legacy of Dieman’s and Bennett’s mentor, La Meri, in southeast Iowa, including the inspiration to inaugurate the Dieman-Bennett
Dance Theater of the Hemispheres and related school. My students have thrilled at the opportunity to study Dieman and Bennett, poring through their records, especially diaries and Bennett’s unpublished autobiography “A Chest of Jewels.” They have taken the initiative to design and build a website to document their research, and to provide a lens onto the legacy of international dance performance in our region. We have all also appreciated the chance to view related videotapes, which are unique among repositories across the U.S. in demonstrating the educational lecture-demonstration format preferred by Dieman and Bennett as an approach to community engagement and education.
Edna Griffin’s civil rights activism earned her the title of the “Rosa Parks of Iowa.” Griffin moved to Des Moines with her husband and children in 1947 and by 1948 she was agitating for change. She led a campaign to desegregate the lunch counter at the local Katz Drug Store, organizing picket lines, and filing charges against its owner, Maurice Katz. Her suit went to the Iowa Supreme Court where Katz was declared guilty of violating the 1884 Iowa Civil Rights Act in 1949.
Landon Storrs, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the University of Iowa’s history department has supervised many undergraduate graduate students as they’ve used the Iowa Women’s Archives and the Edna Griffin papers in particular:
IWA has been an indispensable resource for my undergraduate students conducting original research assignments for classes including the Introduction to the History Major (a methods class on how to find and interpret historical documents), US women’s history since 1877, and The Sixties in America. I’ve also supervised many honors theses, masters’ essays, and PhD dissertations that have relied on IWA collections. Topics have included Iowa women’s fight for voting rights and later for AND against the Equal Rights Amendment; women’s war work on the WWII home front, women’s military service, women’s antiwar activism, African American women’s fight for civil rights, Iowa City women’s liberation groups,
and farm women’s activism during the 1980 farm crisis. The archives has rich records of diverse individual women and also women’s organizations.
One example that leaps to mind is the collection of Edna Griffin (1909-2000), an African American who successfully campaigned to desegregate the Katz Drug Store in Des Moines in the late 1940s; one undergraduate from Des Moines wrote an excellent paper explaining the origins and significance of Griffin’s campaign, which preceded the more famous Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott. This is just one example–if time permitted, I’d also discuss Emma Goldman Clinic records, the collections of several Iowa League of Women Voters chapters, and the feminist periodical of the 1970s, Ain’t I a Woman–all these have fascinated the diverse male and female undergrads who learn to find and interpret historical evidence using these locally resonant papers.
Today, the Iowa Women’s Archives commemorates Lenabelle Bock. Bock, whose name is spelled variously Lenabelle and Lena Belle, was politically active in Iowa for over twenty-five years before her election to the Iowa House of Representatives. Bock, a Republican, campaigned for and won the House seat for Hancock County. She was one of five women elected to the House in 1960. She is often remembered for her statement: “Women in the legislature need to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog.”
The Lenabelle Bock papers, housed at the Iowa Women’s Archives consist of three scrapbooks covering Bock’s legislative career from 1961-1964.
When I was starting research for my MA on women in politics in Iowa in the 1950-60s, I was delighted by the trove of useful primary sources I found at the Iowa Women’s Archives. One of the best finds of my research there, which in turn helped shape my MA project, was discovering the political
scrapbook of Lenabelle Bock, who served the Iowa House of Representatives from 1961-1965. What struck me most about the Lenabelle Bock scrapbook was its compilation – I saw her constructing a narrative about her political career not just in what she chose to keep and collect in the pages of a scrapbook, but in how she decided to compile it. For example, Bock placed a newspaper article listing her as a candidate at a Republican rally opposite a page describing her as “our state representative” at the same rally the next year, despite the majority of the scrapbook running month-to-month chronologically. She was making a conscious connection between the two events, as if to say that she made good on her candidacy.
Today, at the Iowa Women’s Archives commemorate one of our founders, Mary Louise Smith! Smith was born Mary Louise Epperson on October 6th, 1914 in Eddyville, Iowa. She became involved with the Republican Party in the 1950s and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1974, just after Watergate, she was appointed as the first woman to lead the Republican National Committee. Among her many accomplishments, we’re most grateful for Smith’s part in establishing the Iowa Women’s Archives. Her papers, documenting a long political career, were among the first on IWA’s shelves.
Catherine Rymph was one of the first student hired to work in the Iowa Women’s Archives when it was established in 1992. Rymph earned her PhD in history at the University of Iowa in 1998 and is now a professor of history and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri. Her experience processing the papers of Mary Louise Smith had a profound impact on her:
The Mary Louise Smith papers and the Iowa Women’s Archives changed my life!—or at least they changed my career.
In the summer of 1992, while a graduate student in History at the University of Iowa, I took an extra job working at the IWA (before the archive even opened). I spent the next year and a half processing collections what at the time were the nearly empty stacks. By far the largest collection I worked on was the papers of Mary Louise Smith, one of the IWA’s prescient founders. The collection is rich in correspondence and other documentation of Smith’s many years as a Republican Party official and as an active participant in the 1970s women’s movement. Through the process of sorting through and organizing Smith’s papers, I became
particularly fascinated by her self-identification as a Republican feminist. So fascinated, in fact, that I switched my Ph.D. research focus from the 19th to 20th centuries and wrote a dissertation on women in the Republican Party. I later published Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), which was the basis of my early career as a historian. Although I visited a number of other archives for my research, I never would have landed on the topic at all without that formative experience in Smith’s papers.
Ruth Salzmann Becker’s papers represent several common themes found in IWA’s collections, including Jewish women in Iowa, German immigration, and feminist activism. Elizabeth Heineman, professor and chair of the University of Iowa’s history department, has used Becker’s papers in her classes. She shared with us why she finds the Ruth Salzmann Becker papers so engaging:
“One of my favorite collections at the IWA is the Ruth Salzmann Becker papers. Ruth was born in Berlin to a Jewish Socialist family; both of her parents were medical professionals. With the rise of Nazism, the family fled, though they couldn’t all get visas together. Ruth went to England, and her parents and younger sister Eva sailed to Cuba. In 1940 they regrouped in New York, where Ruth got a degree in nursing. Somewhere along the line she met Samuel Becker, who later founded Communication Studies at UI. They married, settled in Iowa City, and raised three children. Ruth became an activist for disabled children, racial justice, and feminist causes.
One of the wonderful things about this collection is how it shows the blending of cultures that occurs with immigration. For example, Ruth started a recipe book in Germany, perhaps as part of a Home Economics class. The book traveled with her to England, then New York, and finally Iowa. Over the years, the recipes changed, from German classics like Sauerbraten to my personal favorite: marshmallow salad. Ruth switched from German to English, from grams to ounces – even her handwriting changed, from an angular Germanic script to rounded American letters. When we displayed items from the collection in a recent exhibit called “German Iowa and the Global Midwest,” visitors could see how the family tradition of political engagement evolved: from her father’s membership book in the German Social Democratic party to Ruth’s collection of pins from the 1970s, with slogans like “My consciousness is fine – it’s my pay that needs raising!” My only regret in using the collection is that I didn’t do it early enough to meet Ruth herself!”
— Elizabeth Heineman, University of Iowa, June 2017
From October 24th – 27th Trudy Huskamp Peterson, the former Acting Archivist of the United States, and Jane E. Schultz, Professor of English and Medical Humanities at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, will visit the University of Iowa.
A longtime friend of the Iowa Women’s Archives, Trudy Huskamp Peterson has made an international career of archives and human rights. Besides serving as the United States’ Acting Archivist, Peterson has consulted with truth commissions in South Africa and Honduras and worked for three years with the police archives in Guatemala. She is currently the chair of the International Council on Archives’ Human Rights Working.
On Monday the 24th Peterson will host an archival workshop for graduate students and researchers from 4:00 – 5:30 in 302 SH Commons. She will follow this on Tuesday the 25th with a public lecture entitled “What Every Citizen and Historian Should Know: How Governments Shape Archives.” The lecture will take place in 302 SH Commons from 12:30 – 1:45 and will include a light lunch.
Finally, on Thursday the 27th, the Universty of Iowa History of Medicine Society and the Iowa Women’s Archives will jointly present Jane E. Schultz. Schultz, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, formerly consulted for the PBS miniseries “Mercy Street” and has written extensively about women and the Civil War. Her lecture “Civility on Trial: Nurses, Surgeons, and Medical Extremity in Civil War Hospitals will take place in the Medical Education Research Facility (MERF) 2117 from 5:30 – 6:30.
Dr. Annessa Babic, coordinator of interdisciplinary studies at the New York Institute of Technology and Dr. Tanfer Tunç of Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey are the most recent recipients of a research grant from the Linda and Richard Kerber Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives, a grant that helps researchers travel to the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Collaborators since 2008, Tunç and Babic met in graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook where each produced feminist scholarship. In 2008, the pair co-edited The Globetrotting Shopaholic: Consumer Products, Spaces, and Their Cultural Places. Since then they have continued to produce articles together and apart examining consumerism, nationalism, and Wonder Woman, among other subjects. Although the two collaborators had planned to travel to Iowa City together, the political unrest in Turkey stifled Tunç’s plans at the last minute. Nevertheless, Dr. Babic had a fruitful week in the archives hunting for places where feminism and food activism collide.
Tunç and Babic’s current project will extend “common discussions concerning food waste, overabundance, and safety by connecting food activism to consumer activism and social and civil rights, particularly the environmental and women’s movements.” Babic believes that movements surrounding food safety and packaging are gendered due to the heavy marketing of food products to women. She and Tunç hope to explore the parallels they see between the environmental and women’s movements of the late twentieth century. Although this project is in its early stages, Babic and Tunç expect that it will result in an article that will put food activism in the cultural context of the United States from 1970 – 1990.
The duo were drawn to the Iowa Women’s Archives by its diverse holdings about grassroots movements as well as its collections of oral histories. Additionally, they were interested in exploring resources of the Midwest, a region less studied than the American coasts. Babic, who is also a travel writer, confessed that she had never been to Iowa before, and expects to produce work about the trip itself as well as the resources she found in the archives.
While here, Babic looked at the papers of farm activists such as Denise O’Brien, Carol Hodne, Ericka Peterson-Dana, and Janette Ryan-Busch, as well as the records of food activist organizations like the Mothers for Natural Law and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network. What was her favorite collection? With three days of research behind her, Babic said she most enjoyed reading oral histories from Voices From the Land, a collection produced as part of the Iowa Women’s Archives’ Rural Women’s Project. It includes intrviews with rural women who were politically active in the 1980s farm crisis. Babic said she found the farm women’s take on that era interesting and refreshing. We look forward to finding both qualities in the future work of Tunç and Babic.
In her research, Lauren looks at the changing conceptions of marital engagement in the 19th century. She argues Americans worried about the future of marriage as divorce rates rose. She believes that in response to this fear engagement increased in importance and became a trial period for the marriages that would follow. Lauren wants to expand the scope of her research to include minorities, rural women, and sources outside of the Eastern United States. After finding the Kerber Grant on H-Net, she felt the IWA’s Kerber Fund would be a good fit for her research.
When asked at the beginning of her week here what her favorite documents were so far she admitted that she hadn’t had much time to read them yet. However, she couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into Van Voorhis White’s and Riggs Cosson’s courtship correspondences with the men who they would marry. It isn’t common to have both sides of a correspondence and, as Lauren says, “that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”
We were so happy to have Lauren visit us for the week as a Kerber Fund recipient, and cannot wait to hear about the scholarship she produces.