The Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA) will kick off Women’s History Month with an event at the Iowa City Public Library! Welcoming the Immigrants: Refugee Resettlement in Jewish Iowa will bring Dr. Jeannette Gabriel of the Schwalb Center for Israel & Jewish Studies at theUniversity of Nebraska-Omaha to Iowa City. In her talk, Gabriel will use IWA resources to examine the impact of WWII refugees on Iowa’s Jewish Communities. The event will take place 4:30 – 6pm simultaneously at the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A and online, livestreamed on the ICPL’s YouTube channel.
The Iowa Women’s Archives has long held strong collections in Jewish history, including the papers of one of our founders, Louise Rosenfield Noun and the papers of Joan Lipsky, the first woman to represent Linn County in the Iowa General Assembly. Lipsky had a strong interest in preserving the history of women like her own Jewish ancestors who immigrated to Iowa. She gave $50,000 to IWA to establish the Jewish Women in Iowa Project and hire Jeannette Gabriel as its project archivist. For three years, Gabriel worked closely with potential donors around the state to bring Iowa’s Jewish history to the University of Iowa.
Welcoming the Immigrants is part of a semester long schedule of events celebrating Anne Frank and Jewish life in Iowa. This larger program, The Anne Frank Tree: Taking Root in Iowa, will culminate April 29th 2022 on the Pentacrest with a planting ceremony for a sapling propagated from the immense horse chestnut tree that grew in the courtyard behind the annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for 761 days during World War II. It will be only the 13th Anne Frank Tree planted in the United States. For a full schedule of this semester’s Anne Frank Tree events, see the project’s website or contact the Obermann Center.
Welcoming the Immigrants: Refugee Resettlement in Jewish Iowa
Where: Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A OR Iowa City Public Library YouTube livestream
When: March 1, 2022, 4:30 – 6pm
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires as reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the Iowa Women’s Archives in advance: 319-335-5068.
The following post was written by IWA Graduate Assistant, Emma Barton-Norris.
Six-on-six girls’ basketball was extremely important in Iowa, to both those who played the game and to those who made the trek to attend the annual Iowa State Championship every year. In the newly processed collection, Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa ephemera, the stories of individuals who experienced the “joy and zest” of the sport are put on display.
The Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa ephemera is a continuation of a long-standing project at the Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA). Finding unique and inspiring stories in the past of Iowa’s girls’ and women’s sports, the IWA created the physical and digital exhibit 6-on-6 Basketball and the Legacy of Girls’ and Women’s Sport in Iowa back in 2018. During the traveling exhibit, IWA Curator Kären Mason and University of Iowa lecturer Jennifer Sterling collected stories from Iowans about their personal histories with one of Iowa’s favorite pastimes: girls’ six-on-six basketball.
What is six-on-six basketball, and just what made it different and exciting for players, coaches, and fans alike? According to the 2008 Iowa Public Television documentary “More Than a Game: 6-on-6 Basketball in Iowa,” the six-on-six version of basketball that became known and loved by Iowans was established by 1920. Girls played a two-court, six-on-six game that required three forwards from one team and three guards from the other on each side of the center line – and no one was allowed to cross it. This meant that if a team had one high scorer, they couldn’t be beat. In addition, players were only allowed two dribbles at a time and a referee was needed to inbound the ball after every basket. But why was this new version of the traditional five-player basketball game (that had been invented and played for nearly half a century before) necessary? It’s simple: sexism. Girls were seen as the “weaker sex” and the full-court, five-on-five version would be too strenuous for their weak disposition.
This did not stop the rise to fame that girls’ basketball experienced in small town Iowa. In fact, the game was uniquely made to help small-town Iowan schools thrive because of a team’s ability to rely on one high scorer. Towns like Newhall and Van Horne became the heart and soul of six-on-six.
Highlighted within the new ephemera collection are notable names in women’s Iowa basketball, such as 1968 State Championship star Janet Scharnberg and 1995 University of Iowa women’s basketball coach Angie Lee. Numerous newspaper clippings showcasing the excitement rural Iowans had for their “Iowa girls” are also heavily featured. One such newspaper article exemplifies how the passion of six-on-six fans encouraged the longevity of the game in Iowa. Newhall and Van Horne won the Iowa State Championship in both 1927 and 1962. Within Jean Kubu’s folder of Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa ephemera, a copy of the March 9, 1972, South Benton Star-Press cover story features this girls’ basketball team in 1927 and 1962 – two state champion teams, side by side.
As told by “The Bobcat” in 1972:
“…we take you back to the year 1927… It was a hectic journey to the number one spot, as it so often is, even for the best of team, which Newhall was, as evidenced by their outscoring of combined opponents, 703-147. […] By the final round of the [State Championship] tournament, Newhall had three starters on the bench, but kept battling, narrowing it to 37-36, favor of their opponents Sioux Center. With just 30 seconds remaining in the game, Newhall’s Luella Gardemann fired in the winning basket for a thrilling 38-37 victory and the state crown.
“For the girls from Newhall wearing bloomers, it was a great time and one the people who lived in Newhall in 1927 will never forget. The tears, smiles, hard work and teamwork all paid off for those Newhall girls and their coach…”
From ten minutes away, and thirty-five years apart, the Van Horne girls’ basketball teams of 1962 would accomplish the same feat.
“The Bobcat” continues:
“The year was 1962. Van Horne went to the state finals at Waterloo with much going for them. […] During the week of the state tournament, Van Horne, and the surrounding areas had a bad snowstorm, but the fans came to Waterloo anyway. The team had not even practiced because of bad weather, and they didn’t check into their hotel until they had already played their first game.
“Tension was tight during the game and the score was close, but the team won 62-59 to win the coveted state championship. […] As they left Waterloo, they were on the television and at the Garrison corner a caravan of about three miles in length followed them to Van Horne […] to present the trophy to the team and coach.”
“The Bobcat” concludes: “It was a great experience for the basketball team… It was a week that coach, the team, and fans will never forget.”
The Iowa Women’s Archives is proud to now have these Iowans’ stories available for all to enjoy. Materials include memorabilia, photographs, newspapers, tournament programs, and film of actual State Championship games. With the help of basketball players, old and new, the IWA has been able to save the legacy and history of girls’ and women’s sport in Iowa.
The progress six-on-six basketball made for young women carries on in every girl’s high school basketball game. Those who attended the crowded six-on-six championship games can never forget the energy on the court and in the stands. Iowa’s high school and collegiate players who now participate in five-on-five basketball should never forget that their great-great-grandmothers also played the game they loved. Six-on-six may be gone from high school athletics, but it will never be forgotten.
This fall, Yamila Transtenvot, an instructor in Spanish at Cornell College, has been working with IWA, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 10, and the Davenport Community School District (DCSD) to bring primary sources about Latino/a/x history to Iowa schools. I sat down with Transtenvot this Latinx Heritage Month to discuss this exciting collaboration.
Transtenvot, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has a background in education. She trained as a high school literature teacher and spent time working for the government of Argentina in an after-school program aimed at getting disadvantaged youth excited about reading and writing. Eventually, the University of Iowa’s Master of Fine Arts in Spanish Creative Writing pulled her to the United States. While completing her MFA, she taught Spanish at UIowa. When members of LULAC Council 10 approached her about writing lesson plans with IWA’s Latina collections, it seemed like a natural fit.
Davenport schools introduce migration as a topic to students in elementary school, but the current curriculum lacks stories about Mexican migration, which began in the 19th century and accelerated in the 1910s during the Mexican Revolution. DCSD and LULAC Council 10 wanted to introduce new stories and more primary sources into migration lessons. IWA houses dozens of collections and over one hundred oral histories documenting the lives of Latinas in Iowa. Transtenvot used Migration is Beautiful, a website about these collections, and advice from IWA’s staff to choose just a few items and oral histories to highlight.
Transtenvot concentrated on the stories of young people. In one the three lessons that she’s created, students will use the memoir of Martina Morado, who immigrated to Iowa as a teenager in the 1910s, to learn about migration. In another, a childhood photograph of Otilia “Tilly” Gomez in Cook’s Point, a Mexican settlement in Davenport, Iowa, will help students think about cultural heritage and what life was like for immigrants in Iowa during the first half of the 20th century. The way Transtenvot has planned the lessons offers several ways to engage with the topic including class discussion, a Kahoot quiz, and a migratory Monarch butterfly for them to color.
Above all, Transtenvot wants students to learn how to reflect on primary sources and form their own thoughts about them. The lessons are filled with questions that allow students to think and wonder. For example, after seeing a photograph of Angela and Martina Morado from 1913, classes will be invited to speculate in writing on the relationship between the women, how old the photograph is, and whether it reminds them of any old photographs they’ve seen of their own families. Transtenvot has also striven to center the voices of Latinas by using excerpts from oral histories by Rosa Mendoza and Otilia Gomez, and a memoir by Martina Morado. She says that the charm of primary sources is that they give a glimpse of people’s personal experiences. By making space for these voices and for reflection on what they say, Transtenvot hopes her lessons will help students build empathy.
The lessons will debut in Davenport, but Transtenvot sees this as a starting point. She’d like to see the project spread to other districts in Iowa and perhaps go further, resulting in lessons about other underrepresented groups in the state. Finally, she intends to have her lesson plans put on the Migration is Beautiful website, where they will become resources and inspiration for teachers across the country.
In Box 24 of the Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer papers, Andrew Seber finally found exactly what he was looking for: personal testimonies by rural citizens whose lives were turned upside down by the development of hog confinements near their Iowa homes. Seber’s dissertation, Neither Factory nor Farm: the Other Environmental Movement, will focus on industrial animal agriculture in Iowa, one of the world’s largest hog producers. As 2021’s Linda and Richard Kerber Travel Grant recipient, Seber was able to travel from the University of Chicago, where he is a doctoral student, to Iowa City and spend a week researching at the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Seber traces his interest in meat production back to high school, when an AP environmental science course first made him aware of meat as an environmental problem. He took this interest to college where he developed a scholarly interest in agriculture, ecology, and cultural studies. He believes that historically, the environmental movement has marginalized animal agriculture as a focus, in favor of fossil fuels and conservation. While recognizing that these are important issues, Seber says the irony is that animal agriculture is inextricably linked to both of them as it uses tremendous amounts of fossil fuel and causes air and water pollution. In his opinion, it cannot afford to be neglected, and he sees his work as a critique of the liberal environmental movement that became predominant in the 1970s and which informed the environmental social sciences.
For his research in IWA, Seber is relying heavily on the Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer papers to help him situate his work geographically. Spencer became an activist against Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the 1970s when she learned that a hog lot was being built near a Girl Scout camp. Through her work, she discovered that hog confinement was more than an odor problem. It affected property values, poisoned ground water, polluted air, and overall amounted to a new health hazard for rural residents. This is where Seber’s favorite box 24 of the collection comes into play. Spencer built a network of Iowans experiencing this pollution and a network of scientists studying it. She lobbied for regulations that would limit hog odor and animal waste; her efforts were mostly unsuccessful.
Seber says Spencer’s 1970s activism is part of a larger pattern that tends to go in cycles. In the 1970s and 1990s there were movements that really pushed for regulations on CAFOS. He’s found similar headlines in both eras and similar outcomes. He posits that this is partly due to neoliberal businesses that capture the process when activists try to use, as Spencer did, government hearings and studies to build their cases. But this isn’t the only problem, in some cases hog manure storage needs increase more quickly than regulations can keep up with, and some people still don’t view agriculture as an industry, which thwarts regulatory efforts.
After his fruitful research in Iowa, Seber will work on writing his next chapter, tentatively called “A Plain Old Cesspool: Concentrating Animal Life in Neoliberal Iowa,” and then turn his focus to North Carolina, another state with large scale hog operations. He hopes to complete his dissertation and degree in 2023.
The following post is written by University of Iowa senior, Jack Kamp.
When I started my internship at the Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA), I knew I was interested in working with Black women’s history. As a student interested in the history of civil rights and social justice, I knew that this collection would give me the chance to gain some archival skills while also being immersed in a field that fascinated me. What I learned in the archives has added a layer of complexity to how I conceptualize historical research. My time at the IWA has allowed me to develop the skills that aid in analysis and organization regarding a wide range of materials in and contexts surrounding archival collections. Originally, I predominantly looked at research from the perspective of a student historian. My main concern was simply finding that certain document or photograph or piece of correspondence that would aid me in my research or simply out of interest. After first-hand experience with processing a set of papers, I can see that there are so many more connections to be made, even within one single set of papers.
There are many decisions to make regarding the organization of a set of papers. How should I order the folders? Which folders should I make? How will each series fit into the larger collection? Should it be chronological? How should the original organization of the creator be preserved? Each of these decisions has the capacity to impact future researchers looking at those papers and how they are presented to the public through such means as written papers and presentations. My experience at the IWA has led me to pay attention to how materials are grouped and to consider why they may be organized the way that they are within the collection.
During my time as an intern, I processed the personal papers of Madgetta Thornton Dungy, a professional Black woman who found success in education administration at college campuses across the United States. She was the first Black woman to graduate from Cornell College in Iowa and went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in higher education administration. When I began to process her collection, much of my interest was in the older materials: old family photos from the 1940’s, old church programs from 1955, and a teaching certificate from 1968. As a history student, and a historian interested in the postwar era Black Freedom Struggle, I was most interested in these materials out of the whole collection. However, as I began the processing procedure and began sorting the materials into the established series’, I started to find more interest in the materials I might have passed over had I not been involved in the processing of Dungy’s papers.
Through processing Madgetta Dungy’s personal papers, I began to see how the singular pieces that I was most drawn to were related to the greater collection. As I placed the Dungy family photos next to the materials relating to Dungy’s involvement with The Links, Incorporated, a Black women’s national organization, I began to see the political and personal sides of Dungy come together. As I placed the 1955 church program next to the church program that Dungy produced herself in 1978, I was able to see some of the impact that religion had on Dungy’s life and the way in which she understood and considered her own religion. As I placed her teaching certificate from 1968 next to her CVs and academic transcripts, I saw the hard work and dedication Dungy put in her education and professional life. As I continued placing the materials I had initially found interest in next to other materials, I began to see more dimensions and more complexity within the person whose papers I was processing. Madgetta Dungy became more than a name on a file. She became a dynamic, complicated, and multifaceted person with interests, goals, and relationships.
Dungy’s educational, personal, and professional achievements and experiences play a crucial role in the story of Black Iowa women’s history. As a successful professional, her papers illustrate what it is like to be a Black woman in the professional sphere during the mid to late 20th century. It is because of this that I hope Madgetta Dungy’s papers are researched and utilized by many historians in a range of areas. Additionally, the experience of processing Dungy’s papers has allowed me to expand my skill set and has exposed me to more ways of viewing and understanding archival collections and papers. My time at the IWA has certainly set me up for success, as it has allowed me to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in an archives, what archivists have to consider when processing various collections, and allowed me to develop new skills in research and navigating archival spaces as a historian.
I would specifically like to thank Janet Weaver and Anna Holland for their guidance and assistance in the archives. Additionally, I really valued the support I received from Erik and Heather over the course of my internship in the archives and regarding prospective graduate study. I have greatly appreciated my time in the IWA over the summer and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to an archives so crucial to the University and the Iowa City community.
After the pandemic postponed her research trip, Yazmin Gomez, the 2020 Linda and Richard Kerber Travel Grant recipient, finally made it to IWA! Linda Kerber, May Brodbeck Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of History Emerita, and her husband Richard founded this grant to help researchers, especially graduate students, travel to the Iowa Women’s Archives. Thanks to the Kerbers, IWA can award $1000 every year to a promising researcher like Gomez, whose work would benefit from travelling to Iowa and using IWA’s collections for an extended period.
Gomez, graduate student from Rutgers University is focusing her dissertation research on the labor and educational activism of Latinas in the Midwest. Her work has been years in the making. As an undergraduate at Marquette University, she enrolled in the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, aimed at helping first generation students and students from underrepresented groups prepare for graduate school. It was her first taste of independent research and archival work. By the time she’d finished her senior thesis, “Viva La Raza, Viva Las Latinas: Late 20th Century Female Activism in Milwaukee’s Latinx Community” she knew she wanted to keep studying Latina activism at Rutgers.
At IWA, Gomez is seeking to broaden the scope of the research she did on Latina activism in Wisconsin to include a larger picture of the Midwest. She believes that the region, though it has a smaller Latinx population than other areas of the US, has greater internal diversity within its Latinx communities that has created a unique situation for activism. She’s particularly interested in the intersection of gender and race among the Latinas she has studied. “They weren’t exactly Gloria Steinem, women’s liberation feminists, their activism was community-based,” Gomez said. They were focused on things like unionizing and expanding the role of women in established organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
She’s also finding connections to other civil rights activists and battles. The oral history of Mary Campos, whose work on behalf of Latinx people in Iowa earned her a place in the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame, introduced her to a wider web of activism. Campos worked for a Dr. Griffin, the husband of civil rights activist Edna Griffin, known for her fight to desegregate Katz Drug Store in Des Moines. Reading Griffin’s FBI file, Gomez found a familiar story in how female activists of the mid 20th century were underrated. Even the government agents assigned to trail Griffin didn’t understand why they were following “just a housewife.”
Aside from the connections to her own research, Yazmin Gomez has enjoyed finding personal items in the collections she’s seen mixed in with community activism. While learning about Cesar Chavez’s visit to Iowa, she might see a graduation cap and tassel, photographs of a first communion, or her favorite, a newspaper clipping about a local man who grew a potato that looked kind of like an elephant. By encountering items like these in the Archives, Gomez has been able to spend the last two weeks in IWA immersing herself in the lives and community networks of Latinas over 50 years ago. She’s excited to take what she’s learned back to Rutgers as she moves closer to a PhD.
Are you interested in applying for the Linda and Richard Kerber Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives? We will be accepting applications again next spring. You can keep tabs on the deadline and learn more on our website.
Due to the ongoing closure of library facilities around the country, the Iowa Women’s Archives has extended the application deadline for the Linda and Richard Kerber travel grant to June 1st, 2020. Because we are uncertain about when the Archives will be accessible, the time period in which recipients can use the funds has been extended to December 31, 2021.
The Linda and Richard Kerber Fund awards $1000 to a scholar each year to help them travel to Iowa City and use the Iowa Women’s Archives for their research. The Archives accepts applications from graduate students, academic and public historians, and independent researchers and writers who reside outside a 100-mile radius of Iowa City, Iowa, and whose research projects would be substantially enriched by the use of materials held by the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading Travel Grant Application. For more information about our travel grant and the application process please visit our website.
Ella Wagner, a PhD candidate from Loyola University is this year’s Linda and Richard Kerber travel grant recipient. Linda Kerber and her husband Richard founded this Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives that awards $1000 annually to a researcher, especially a graduate student, whose work would benefit from travelling to Iowa and using IWA’s collections.
Wagner, a public historian and graduate student, plans to use the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Iowa records in her dissertation, “’The Saloon is Their Palace’: Race and Politics in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1874 – 1933.” When Wagner entered the PhD program at Loyola in 2015, she knew her future would be in public history, but wasn’t sure what her dissertation topic would be. But a class assignment in the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives led her to the WCTU.
Frances Willard served as the president of the WCTU from 1879 – 1898, during which time it became one of the largest women’s organizations in the country. The Frances Willard House keeps the papers of Willard herself and a variety of records related to the national WCTU organization. After her class, Wagner worked part time at the Frances Willard House as a public historian to curate a digital resource entitled “Truth-Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells” that focused on racial conflict within the WCTU. Wagner realized that her dissertation topic was right there: the racial and sectional politics of the WCTU.
In the late 1800s, the WCTU under Frances Willard was striving to expand from its original strongholds of support in the Northeast and Midwest and become a larger national organization. They formed sections of the group to attract members among black women, immigrant women, and southern women. The racial and party politics were never far from this effort as some members made publicly racist comments and couldn’t tolerate any affiliation with the traditionally abolitionist Republican party.
Iowa’s role in this dramatic conflict drew Wagner to IWA’s holdings. In the 1880s, the WCTU in an effort to subvert the two party system, officially endorsed the Prohibition Party. In response, the Iowa chapter of the WCTU elected to separate itself from the national organization and still other Iowa members split from the Iowa chapter and affiliated with the national group as the WCTU of the State of Iowa. The two would Iowa organizations would remain separate until 1906. Wagner hoped to find details illuminating that schism here and also look for the voices and involvement of women of color within the WCTU at this time. She hasn’t been disappointed. She’s found the minutes of the WCTU of the State of Iowa and also found records of several black women’s WCTU chapters in Iowa all the way to the 1960s. After a week in the Archives, Wagner can see there is plenty left to do, but she’s already imagining using the WCTU of Iowa records in the conclusion of her dissertation in 2021.
Taryn D. Jordan was researching Ella Fitzgerald at the Schlesinger Library in the Radcliffe Institute when she first encountered the papers that would bring her to the Iowa Women’s Archives. Jordan is a doctoral candidate in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Emory University and an ACLS Mellon Dissertation Completion fellow who has been researching in the papers of Aldeen Davis this December.
Her dissertation, A Peculiar Sense: Feminist Genealogy of Soul is drawn from her interest in the domestic work black women did in their homes and how this created “soul,” which Jordan defines as “black collective feeling.” Soul provided a space of respite from racism and anti-blackness and helped to articulate a philosophy of endurance within black communities.
Jordan’s dissertation initially only touched on the concept of soul broadly, but after receiving an e-mail from a friend of friend she was inspired to dig deeper. The Ella Fitzgerald papers at the Schlesinger Library contained a number of cookbooks, the friend said, that complemented Jordan’s work. Although her prospectus was complete, Jordan arranged for a trip to Massachusetts to see these books and the three folders donated with them. Within one of these folders was a draft of ‘Miss Aldeen’s cookbook,’ by Muscatine, Iowa woman, Aldeen Davis. It captivated Jordan because unlike so many of the other cookbooks about black cooking that she had encountered, it treated cooking as more about feel than measurements, something that came from the soul. Jordan tracked down a published copy of the book, now titled Soul Food for Thought, at the University of Alabama but discovered that it had radically changed from the draft in Ella Fitzgerald’s papers that had been so captivating. Why were the books so different? This was the question that drove Jordan to the IWA and the Aldeen Davis papers.
Aldeen Davis, the author of Soul Food for Thought was a writer and community activist who moved to Muscatine, Iowa in the 1940s. She became thoroughly involved in Muscatine and its black community, serving on the Muscatine Human Rights Committee and the Equity Committee of the school board, and published articles in The Iowa Bystander, an African American owned newspaper. Her book was based on her long running column “Soul Food and Thought,” that combined recipes with African American history and descriptions of daily life.
In the late 1990s, Davis donated scrapbooks of her columns along with personal papers that recorded her community involvement in numerous causes and women’s clubs to the Iowa Women’s Archives. In these papers, Jordan found the answer to the question that had brought her to Iowa. The published book substantially changed from its draft, but not because Davis had changed her mind about it. In fact, she had written the draft in response to a soul food cookbook that she didn’t like because it was too precise. But the publishing world wouldn’t print a cookbook that measured by feel. Davis was forced to re-write. Soul, Food for Thought was published in 1984.
After spending a week immersed in Davis’ papers, it’s an open question how much of this will find a place in Jordan’s final dissertation. But she says the trip to Iowa has been worth it, to get to know Aldeen and her work. It’s “like she found me,” Jordan said, “I feel like we’re talking to each other across time.”