Celebrating LGBT History Month


This post was written by Christina Jensen, Student Assistant in the Iowa Women’s Archives and graduate student in the UI School of Library and Information Science.

October is LGBT history month!  To celebrate, we’re taking a look at some of the eye-catching cover art of Better Homes and Dykes, from the Jo Rabenold papers.





Better Homes and Dykes was a newsletter published in Iowa City by the Lesbian Alliance between 1972 and 1982. Issues featured editorials, satirical essays, and community information. In the inaugural issue, a welcome message proclaimed:

Who are we? We are those of you that have been working women, old maids, housewives, unmarried aunts, women’s libbers, students, career women, et al. No longer content with being in the Shadows of the Feminist Movement, much less shadows to each other […] Better Homes and Dykes is for all lesbians here in Iowa City and elsewhere.

LGBT periodicals like Better Homes and Dykes were often created by independent publishing collectives, targeted a narrow regional distribution, and often existed for short periods of time. Better Homes and Dykes is one of the many examples of independent LGBT press preserved in the Iowa Women’s Archives. These documents were critical tools in early LGBT community building and remain important artifacts of LGBT history, capturing the birth and growth of the gay rights movement.

Want more? Visit the Iowa Women’s Archives!  We’re open weekly Tuesday-Friday, 10:00am to noon and 1:00pm to 5:00pm.

A list of collections related to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Iowans can be found here.


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