University of Iowa Asian American Oral History Archive

The following is written by Asian Alumni and Student Oral History Project Intern Jin Chang

Asian Alumni and Student Oral History Project Intern Jin Chang

Since the start of the pandemic, prominent leaders have stood in front of crowds of American people calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” As a result, Chinatown businesses closed as tourists continued to avoid Chinatowns across America and racially charged attacks increased against Asian elders, including a mass shooting in Atlanta specifically targeting Asian Women in the massage industry. Unfortunately, all these moments had precedents in the past. The Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882, which barred the Chinese from immigrating to America, was one of many policies motivated by Yellow Peril, a racist characterization for the fear of Asian people. This racist belief that East Asia and their people pose an existential threat to America influences the belief that Chinatowns are a uniquely dangerous spot of disease. Before COVID-19, Chinatown and Chinese people were blamed by many Americans for smallpox and cholera in the late 1800’s, the bubonic plague in the early 1900’s, and the SARS epidemic as recently as 2003. For the direct violence against Asians in America many of the wars in Twentieth Century American history have been against Asian countries, teaching Americans to view Asians as the enemy.

This longstanding history of Sinophobia, anti-Chinese sentiment, and the belief in Yellow Peril reveals the racism following COVID-19 is not some bizarre aberration. It is America’s history. While many of these notable early instances of racism against Asian people came from areas with heavy Asian populations such as California, Asian and Asian Americans have long lived in Iowa, and the population continues to grow in the present. As a Korean-American myself, I believe our experiences with navigating race and racism here in Iowa follows national trends, but I also believe there are many unique elements that come from reconciling race and racism as an Asian or Asian American in Iowa that is missing from the national discourses of today.

Directory from the Korean Student Association folder in Organizations & Clubs vertical files of University Archives

For the University of Iowa specifically, we are lucky to have the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC) as a space of community, healing, and empowerment for Asian Americans in the University. However, APACC began in 2003, and Asian and Asian Americans have long been forming communities in the University of Iowa. One group established in 1999, the Asian-American Coalition, served as a consolidated voice for many Asian Americans, and as one of the leading voices in the founding of APACC. Another group, the Asian American Women’s Group sought to address the specific needs of Asian American Women and predates the Asian American Coalition as it was established in 1993. Prior to the 1990s, many Asian international student groups existed on campus such as the Korean Student Association, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and PERMIAS an Indonesian Student Association.

decorative
A brochure found in University Archives for Asian-American Law Students Association, a current student organization

Many of these student groups are underrepresented in the University Archives. The lifecycle of student organizations also means that new iterations exist on our campus to serve Asian and Asian American students today, making it a challenge to capture organizations that have come and gone. While collecting materials from Asian and Asian American groups’ is a priority for the University Archives, the Special Collections & Archives team has also recognized the importance of collecting the stories of communities through oral history. Thus, over the course of the next year, the University Archives will be collecting oral histories of Asian and Asian American students and alumni from the University of Iowa. By capturing our stories and narratives through oral history, we have an opportunity to have our histories recognized and to create a genealogy for future Asian and Asian American students here at the University of Iowa.

If you wish to have your story included in the oral history archive, please contact Jin Chang at jin-chang@uiowa.edu.

Black and white photo of Earl F. Rose with wearing horn-rimmed glasses and white scrubs

A Unique Perspective: The JFK Assassination Through the Lens of the Earl F. Rose Papers

The following is written by graduate student worker Bailey Adolph. 

Black and White photo of Earl Rose wearing horn-rimmed glasses and scrubs
Earl F. Rose circa 1960

A collection that is currently being reprocessed in Special Collections & Archives is the Earl F. Rose Papers, which gives a unique perspective of the John F. Kennedy Assassination and the events that followed. Earl F. Rose was the medical examiner who performed the autopsies of Lee Harvey Oswald, Officer J.D. Tippit, and Jack Ruby. One of the greatest resources in the collection is Rose’s memoir that gives insight into the assassination, the autopsies, the subsequent investigations into the murders, and the resulting conspiracy theories. The following is a brief synopsis of the memoir to give a taste of what it is like to peruse this collection.

On November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. During this time, Earl F. Rose was the medical examiner for Dallas County and he was in his office when Kennedy was brought into the Parkland Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. Rose immediately went to the ER because this death was a homicide, and medicolegal considerations took priority for the future trial. At this time, the federal government had no criminal jurisdiction over murder, even the murder of the president, so this was a matter of the state, meaning the courts of Texas had exclusive jurisdiction over this matter. It also made the most sense for the autopsy to be done in Dallas as the Texas courts would be handling the trial for this crime and therefore an autopsy done in Texas would be more credible. However, the Justice of the Peace had to authorize the autopsy otherwise the control would pass over to the next of kin, Jackie Kennedy. According to Rose’s memoir, he repeatedly told the Justice of the Peace to authorize an autopsy but he shrank away from responsibility. Ultimately, they removed the body and Mrs. Kennedy authorized a partial autopsy to be done at the hospital of her choice, Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington D.C. There were several issues with the incomplete autopsy as it was fraught with errors due to a lack of experience of those performing the autopsy and their inability to properly evaluate the death and gunshot wounds. The autopsy did not ultimately matter for a trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was murdered before one could take place. It did, however, contribute to conspiracy theories in the following years.

A character in this story that is largely unknown is Dallas Officer J.D. Tippit. After Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the President, he was on the run.  Officer Tippit happened to cross his path while he was on patrol, and stopped the pedestrian Oswald to have a chat. Oswald pulled a gun on him and shot him four times before leaving the scene and running to a theater where he was later apprehended. Officer Tippit was dead upon arrival at Parkland Memorial Hospital and Earl F. Rose performed the autopsy. In his memoir, Rose states that “It was imperative that the investigation into the death of Officer Tippit be thorough and complete for the prosecution of Lee Harvey Oswald, the putative defendant, might hinge on this autopsy information in the event that it was not possible to prosecute Oswald for the assassination of the president,” (Dallas: My View of History, 1963-1968, p. 76). Following his apprehension, Oswald was held in the Dallas City Police Department and was to be transferred to the Dallas County Jail the morning of November 24, 1963.

Slide image of Jack Ruby's brain
Slide image from Jack Ruby’s autopsy

That morning, Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters while handcuffed between two Dallas detectives. Rose went to his office in Parkland Memorial Hospital while Oswald was rushed there for emergency surgery, which was unsuccessful and he died there. Rose then performed a medicolegal forensic autopsy in order to maximize the amount of information to be used during the trial of Jack Ruby. He subsequently used the document to testify at the trial in 1964. Jack Ruby, Oswald’s murderer, was charged and convicted for first degree murder in March 1964. However, the conviction was later reversed and delayed for a new trial by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He died on January 3, 1967 from primary bronchial cancer of the lung before a retrial could be held. Rose was brought in to perform this autopsy as well. 

Meanwhile, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Warren Commission in January 1964 in order to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy. Those involved concluded in a report released on September 7, 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, without any conspiracy, foreign or domestic, (Rose, p. 155). However, there were many discrepancies and unanswered questions in the Report of the Warren Commission and this fueled conspiracy theories. Therefore, the House Select Committee on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. was at work from 1977 to 1978. Rose was a member of the panel of forensic pathologists appointed as consultants for this committee. He traveled to Washington D.C. to review the forensic material and to give his testimony regarding what he observed. After all information was gathered, the hearings were held and they came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the crime and that while the committee believes that there were two gunmen, scientific evidence does not support that.

Two test bullets sit in white tissue in a clear box
Test bullet from the gun used on Lee Harvey Oswald

So, how did this collection end up at Iowa? Earl F. Rose began teaching pathology at the University of Iowa in 1968, retiring in 1992. While he was working for the University of Iowa, Rose autopsied Roy J. Carver, a benefactor of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, when he died in 1981. This experience is described in another of Rose’s personal writings, My Ana. He and his wife Marilyn were quite active in the Iowa City community later in life as well, which included donating his materials to the University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives. In this collection, there are actual pieces to the story that was just told. Newspapers, slides and reports from Lee Harvey Oswald’s and Jack Ruby’s autopsies, the test bullet shot out of the gun used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, personal writings describing the monumental period of history that he lived through and played a role in. The items work alongside Rose’s personal writings and actual legal documentation to give the researcher a unique perspective into a highly publicized event in American history. It is arranged in a way that allows the researcher to learn about the event through Rose’s words and then to view supplemental materials that strengthen the narrative. Finally, the collection concludes with correspondence between Rose and conspiracy theorists that leave the researcher either considering other outcomes or amused by the ideas that others had when conducting their own research. The Earl F. Rose Papers is a collection with exceptional depth and we welcome researchers to come discover more about the John F. Kennedy Assassination as well as the unknown key player Earl F. Rose.

 

Find more on the Earl F. Rose Papers online finding aid

Civilian Conservation Corps, Civilian Climate Corps: The CCC Then and Now

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Rachel Miller-Haughton 

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a program established in 1933 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt to provide jobs for “young, unemployed men during the Great Depression.” As a program, it existed for 9 years and employed about 3 million men across the country, ages 17 to 28, who were US citizens. The men enrolled served 6-month terms, and could serve up to two years. They were required to send a large chunk of the $30 a month they made home to their families 

During the Great Depression, these men were fed, clothed, and housed. They made the equivalent of $500 a month in today’s dollars and worked physically demanding jobs. The money made a huge difference to these men and their families (they were usually unmarried). At the beginning of the CCC program, the program was about creating model manual laborers; by the end of 1942, men enrolled were seen as future soldiers and many enlisted in WWII after finishing their time in the Corps.  

The men in the CCC “made valuable contributions to forest management, flood control, conservation projects, and the development of state and national parks, forests, and historic sites. In return, the men received the benefits of education and training, a small paycheck, and the dignity of honest work.  One such man was Harry L. Hogancamp, whose scrapbook is held in Special Collections & Archives.

A member of CCC Company 3728 in Bancroft, Iowa, Hogancamp was an Iowa native with a camera who documented his bunkmates, peers and officers, and daily work. His certificate of proficiency in “Stump Blasting” is found at the beginning of his scrapbook, along with a cigarette purchase card, both from 1940. What follows are images of trucks of explosives, his friends at work, and portraits of men about camp. Harry’s photos offer us some insight into the realities of President Roosevelt’s favorite New Deal program, according to Jean Edward Smith in her 2007 biography FDR 

Other sources of information about the historic CCC in Special Collections are the Frederick Elliott Biermann Papers (Msc0128) and the Quenton C. Nolte Collection of WWI and CCC Materials (MsC0996). The program has a strong history in Iowa.  

Of course, the realities of the CCC program were far from perfect. It was segregated, and Black men were not allowed into supervisory positions except as educational directors in the all-Black camps; the majority of all CCC camps were led by white men. There was also a separate division for federally recognized tribes: the “Indian Emergency Conservation Work Division” (IECW), also known as CCC-ID (“Indian Division”) [Gower].  

President Joe Biden has reinstated the CCC, but with a different aim, and certainly one that is inclusive. His Civilian Climate Corps borrows the letters of FDR’s CCC and spins it on its head: it is an initiative “to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”  The establishment of this new Corps was part of a brief from January 27, and shows that the new president, like FDR, wants Americans to have opportunities on improving the environment. Although the setup of Biden’s CCC is likely to be different, it is impossible to deny the parallels between the New Deal and the current administration.  

Like its predecessor, this new CCC uses government programs for jobs and training for “public projects aimed at preparing for, mitigating or forestalling some of the worst environmental impacts of global warming.” This project is, so far, not up and running. But it is worth it to look back on the example set by the 1930s CCC and see what to emulate and what to change. With examples from the archives like the scrapbook of Harry Hogancamp, we can see how the values of hard work and concern for the environment carry on and can help to build a better future for America.  

Page from Harry’s scrapbook showing life working for the CCC

 

Further Reading:

Gower, Calvin W. (1972). “The CCC Indian Division: Aid for Depressed Americans, 1933–1942”. Minnesota History. 3–13.

Gower, Calvin W. (1976). “The Struggle of Blacks for Leadership Positions in the Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933-1942.” The Journal of African American History, 61(2), pp. 123-135. 

Heller, C. E. (2010) ‘The U.S. Army, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Leadership for World War II, 1933—1942.” Armed Forces & Society, 36(3), pp. 439–453. doi: 10.1177/0095327X09333944.

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Alexa Starry from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

Alexa Starry

Cookbooks are a wonderful way to share things through time, heritage, and generations – recipes, ideas, home remedies, you name it. They are an incredibly valuable source of information for historical narratives. When you follow a recipe that was handwritten with care by someone before you, you’re keeping a piece of that person alive. Cooking can be a beautiful, shared experience throughout history, and, in that case, cookbooks can be the blueprint for interpretations of these experiences. They can help shed a light upon the past.

Through Julia Booker Thompson’s 1898 recipe and travel book, we get a glimpse into the daily life of a woman during the nineteenth century. We know she enjoyed trying new recipes, traveled occasionally, and oftentimes looked through the newspaper for home remedies. The details in the journal point to a woman dedicated to running an efficient household, something expected of many middle- and upper-class women at the time. 

Julia’s recipe collection ranges from sponge cake to pumpkin pie to potato puffs. She includes a recipe for scalloped tomatoes which consists of tomatoes seasoned with sugar, pepper, salt, and butter, then covered with breadcrumbs and baked. There are also recipes for grape juice, orange filling, ice cream, and soda mixtures. She would often leave notes in the margins of these recipes with brief personal reviews such as “fine” and “good.” Though short, these notes are an impression of Julia’s character, her tastes and thoughts. A few of her recipes are credited to a woman named Ella Churchill, and there are also recipes from an “Aunt Florence,” the namesake behind Julia’s entry of “Aunt Florence’s Chicken Pie and Biscuits.” The preservation of cookbooks like this one give us the chance to recreate ideas, such as meals, in the present day. It is a way to vividly reimagine the past in a modern context.

Some of the most interesting things in the book are the home remedies and newspaper clippings tucked inside, including tips on how to remove mildew, a remedy for poison ivy, how to clean silk with a raw potato, a trick to remove ink stains with a “paste of sweet milk and corn meal,” and a cure for Cholera Infantum that calls for boiled strawberry leaves. These remedies not only provide a glimpse into common ailments that might afflict a household during this time, but also a look into how people were applying their knowledge and resources to fight these afflictions. 

Another noteworthy and unique component of the book is that a short portion of it serves as a travel journal. There are notes of a trip to Montreal, followed by a quick journey to St. Paul, as well. It is a look into not only the ordinary home life of Julia Booker Thompson, but also an exciting moment in time for her. 

Though we often associate women of the nineteenth century with the home, this little book shows several facets to Julia Booker Thompson. The recipes and reviews show a woman who cared about the food she cooked, and the names with the recipes show a community of women Julia found herself a part of. Paper clippings show someone interested in furthering her knowledge of best practices for a healthy, clean, and efficient household. And the unique travel log shows a woman not just confined to one space. In fact, her recipe and travel book offers a vivid and sensorial look into the past. It has been over a hundred years since Julia wrote in this book, but we are still able to see details of a life lived, of Julia’s life, live on. 

 

Further Reading:

Driver, Elizabeth. “Cookbooks as primary sources for writing history: a bibliographer’s view.” Food, Culture & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, 2009, p. 257+. Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

“Everyday Life & Women in America: C.1800-1920 / from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, Duke University, & the New York Public Library.” Marlborough, Wiltshire, England: Adam Matthew Publications, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, 2006.

Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wessell, A. “Cookbooks for Making History: As Sources for Historians and As Records of the Past”. M/C Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Aug. 2013.

Djuna Barnes’ Ladies Almanack: An almanac like no other

The following is written by Curator of Books and Maps Eric Ensley

March is women’s history month, and it feels appropriate to turn towards the work of a great writer from the early twentieth century, Djuna Barnes.

Barnes is well known to students of gender and sexuality, particularly for her literary work that broached the topic of homosexuality in ways that ran afoul of censorship laws in the United States in the early half of the 20th century. Born in New York in 1892, she spent most of the 1920s in Paris, where she befriended author James Joyce and enjoyed some success as an author herself, though her now-celebrated novel Nightwood did poorly at the time.

Title page with crossed out printer’s name

UI Libraries Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a first edition copy of Barnes 1928 roman à clef, Ladies Almanack. The first edition had a run of 1,050 copies, which it appears the author and her friends handed out on the streets of Paris. They even smuggled it into the United States, where the book’s overt description of lesbian relationships defied decency laws. Even the book’s printer, Edward Titus, blocked out his name on the novel’s title page, either to protect himself from the possibility of legal reprisal for the previous reason, or in fear of legal reprisal by members of the elite lesbian circle surrounding Natalie Clifford Barney that the book obliquely describes.

The novel is told through the genre of an almanac, with careful attention to time and seasons and their relationship to the female body. The illustrations, all created by Barnes herself, are meant to resemble the woodblock prints of early almanacs. Likewise, the illustrations often depict the labors of the month, tying them to a long tradition of guidance books showing the appropriate actions at a given moment—such a use of illustrations goes back to books of hours and their miniatures of the labors of the month.  Author Lindsay Starck, in the summer 2019 issue of Modern Fiction Studies, argued that this attention to the rhythms of the year serves to highlight early twentieth-century sexologists arguing that homosexuals were out of step with the appropriate rhythms of nature.

Illustration by Barnes

Barnes and her work did not enjoy widespread success during her lifetime or enter the mainstream of literary conversation —this is in large part due to the repression of her work and bigotry against her due to her homosexuality. The first edition of Ladies Almanack has an important story to tell in its reminding us that book history often takes center stage in the history of censorship and repression. I hope as you look at this book you’ll imagine Barnes surreptitiously and illegally carrying this little volume with its covered printing statement, full of “dangerous” ideas, across the border into the United States.

Discovering the hectographic world of Mae Strelkov

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Rich Dana

In the 1970s, a remarkable woman from Argentina was an underground art sensation.

While researching the forgotten art of hectographic printing, I discovered the work of Mae Strelkov, a little-known visionary artist from Argentina. This discovery was the sort of experience that illustrates precisely why those of us who frequent special collections libraries love them so much; when I followed the finding aid (M. Horvat Science Fiction Fanzines Collection, MsC0791) and opened the folder, the contents were not just a reproduction or a digital scan of some of her creations, but a nearly-complete collection of her hand-made zines, including post-marked, hand-made envelops and personal notes. 

 

Purple landscape of mountains with tree and owl in foreground
Example of Mae Strelkov’s purple-hued landscapes

Some readers may have never heard of a hectograph. Hectography is a technique for duplicating documents using inks made from aniline dye rather than pigments. The ink is transferred to paper via a rubbery copy pad made of gelatin and glycerine, yielding up to 40 prints before becoming depleted. The hectograph was the precursor to the spirit duplicator, commonly known as a “ditto machine,” remembered for the bright purple text and sweet methyl-ester smell it produced. “Hecto” was used widely by school teachers and churches and in the production of early science fiction fanzines. It fell out of favor as newer copiers became available after WWII, making Mae Strelkov one of a handful of artists still using hectography in the 1970s. 
 
I began to search for more information on Mae Strelkov, and found several articles written by SF fans in the early 1970s. I was also very fortunate to speak with her son, Tony Strelkov, from his home in Argentina via Zoom. Tony explained that his mother was born and raised in China, the child of English missionaries. As a teenager she met his father, Vadim Strelkovwho had fled Russia after the revolution. They married when Mae was 18 and were immediately forced to flee China to escape the Japanese invasion in 1937 

The young refugee couple found a new home in Chile, and then Argentina. In Buenos Aires, Mae worked as a translator and secretary.  In 1960, Vadim was hired to manage an estancia (estate and cattle ranch) in the Cordoba hill-country of Argentina. In these beautiful surroundings, Mae raised their children, wrote and created art. Mae was an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, and despite the isolation of ranch life, or perhaps in response to it, she became an amateur publisher, trading her zines by mail with other fans in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. She became close friends with Donald A. Wolheim, the legendary science fiction publisher and founder of DAW books. Tony described to me the boxes, packed full of science fiction novels and fanzines, that would regularly arrive from her American friend, Wolheim. 

For Mae, printing options were limited for creating her publications. She settled on the hectograph, making her own printing pads (a fan legend that Tony confirmed) by boiling cow bones to extract the gelatin. Because of the limited ink colors available, her idyllic landscapes are rendered in pinks, purples, and blues, giving them a psychedelic quality. Her writings reflect on her missionary parents’ spiritual traditions, those of her childhood home in rural China, and the Andes’ indigenous people. Her landscapes are fantastical, and her accounts of everyday life on the ranch are infused with a mystical quality. Her missives are also full of observations on linguistics. She created symbols for what she considered universal human sounds– a far-out idea at the time, but one that is now widely studied among language scholars. 

In 1973, Susan Wood (Glicksohn), a Canadian literary scholar/feminist/environmentalist (and SF fan) wrote in her fanzine Aspidistra: 

“SF conventions, for me, exist mainly as places to meet other fannish people whom I only know on paper, people whom I have never met, who are my friends. One of those friends is Mae Strelkov…Mae has lived most of her life in Argentina, where she and her husband Vadim share a ranch with children, cattle, crazy goats, pumas—a whole world she’ll create for you with skill and zest. A talented author and an artist too, Mae is equally at home, and equally fascinating, writing about her lively family—or the world’s problems; about linguistics, and the strange pattern of words and symbols she finds repeating themselves through the oriental, western and Amerindian cultures she knows so well—or the antics of her pet skunk; about the Catholic Church, and its effects on the world as she sees it—or your latest fanzine.” 

Picture of Mae's head on an orange background
From “The Mae Strelkov Trip Report,” 1975

 Susan Wood and Ohio fan Joan Bower mounted a successful “fan fund” (commonly used in fandom to subsidize travel for fans who cannot otherwise afford it) to fly Mae from Argentina to the US, where she would attend the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington DC (DISCON II) and DeepSouth Con in AtlantaAccording to Con reports, the grandmotherly 57-year-old Strelkov made a splash with the young American con-goers. She also purchased a Greyhound Bus Ameripass and zig-zagged from coast to coast and back, visiting fans, pen-pals, and distant relatives on an epic solo adventure, all of which she recounted in The Mae Strelkov Trip Report. The 35-page report was mimeograph-printed and distributed by one of her biggest fans, NASA engineer and fanzine publisher Ned Brooks. 

No description of Mae Strelkov’s writing and artwork can fully impart the actual documents’ utter uniqueness and magical quality. Unlike the vast majority of fanzines, Mae’s were produced almost entirely outside of the direct influence of American pop culture and fannish activities. For American SF fans in 1974, she must have appeared much like the character Valentine Michael Smith, a fascinating stranger in a strange land. 
 
Mae Strelkov’s zines, as well as those created by Susan Wood and Ned Brooks,  all available in the Michael Horvat Science Fiction Fanzines Collection, Msc0791.  

 

A special thanks to Tony Strelkov for sharing his mother’s story.