- Spoiler alert.
- Happy Easter!! In a secular, candy-based way. Or not. Whatever you’re into…
Love, Iowa Women’s Archives
Love, Iowa Women’s Archives
The historical records of the Des Moines County Red Cross chapter list a bewildering array of hand-knitted items (“Ditty bags”? “Hospital housewives”?) sent to soldiers during World War II. But as indicated by this thank-you note for "bed-pockets" (a kind of pants substitute?), the mysterious objects were much appreciated.
We mourn the loss of Julia Bennett, who passed away one week ago on Wednesday March 26, 2014. We were privileged to have worked with her over many years to document the remarkable Dieman-Bennett Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres through a rich collection of scrapbooks, programs, photographs, and videotapes of performances.
The Dance Theatre was founded in Cedar Rapids in 1951 by Julia Bennett and Edna Dieman. They offered concerts and classes for all ages, and taught a variety of styles of dance, including classical ballet, contemporary tap and jazz, classic Indian and Spanish dance, and historical court dances.
There are so many wonderful photographs in the IWA collection of Bennett, Dieman, and many performances throughout the years. Hope you enjoy these lovely ballet dancers from the early days of the Dieman-Bennett Dance Theatre of the Hemispheres.
Cedar Rapids Gazette article: “Julia Bennett, Cedar Rapids’ ‘grand dame’ of dance, dies”
"Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot" claims a recent New York Times article about archery’s current pop culture moment, thanks to the Hunger Games trilogy and Disney’s “Brave.” But as these 1940s images from the University of Iowa suggest, the latest resurgence is part of a longer tradition of female participation in the sport:
[Archery] had been a popular female sport for many centuries, with such famous archers as Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Women’s participation in archery did not breech any standards of propriety for young students. Archery was elegant and graceful, and women could participate outdoors, while corseted and dressed fashionably, and without having to wear the shocking bloomers… [Student experimentation] in competitive, individual sports such as fencing, archery, tennis, golf, and bicycling… were important for paving the way to more competitive and vigorous women’s sports. — Bright Epoch: Women and Coeducation in the American West by Andrea G. Radke-Moss
Collect them all!!
In 1978, Lois Rich was asked by her 8-year-old daughter, a baseball card collector, why there weren’t any pictures of girls on the cards. By the following year, Rich had sought out and received grant funding from educational organizations to create the Supersisters trading card set, featuring 72 feminist heroines [source]. With subjects ranging from puppeteer Shari Lewis to politician and future IWA co-founder Mary Louise Smith, the cards have been dismissed by some modern-day pundits as a “noble but misguided” project (“It’s sort of hard to imagine kids getting excited about them — ‘Hey, I’ll trade you two Bella Abzugs for a mint Shirley Chisolm!’”). However, I find them a fascinating artifact documenting the areas in which women were — and weren’t — making progress during the second wave of feminism.
— former IWA assistant and current archivist supersister Sarah Dorpinghaus
The Dubuque Iowa chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) was organized in late 1973 by a small group of women from the University of Dubuque and the surrounding community to improve and expand the role of women in society. The group supported the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and worked to keep abortion safe and legal, to eliminate sexist language and images in education, and to make communities safe for women.
Welcome to Women’s History Wednesday!
This week we are highlighting Dr. Linda K. Kerber and announcing The Linda and Richard Kerber Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives which will award a grant of $1000 to fund travel to Iowa City, Iowa, to conduct research in the Iowa Women’s Archives.
Dr. Linda K. Kerber, is one of the preeminent scholars in the field of women’s history and is professor emerita in the University of Iowa Department of History. In her writing and teaching Linda Kerber has emphasized the history of citizenship, gender, and authority. In the history department she taught courses in U.S. history with an emphasis on the history of women and gender; feminist theory, and U.S. legal history.
She has been an ardent supporter and unfailing advocate for the Iowa Women’s Archives since its opening in 1992, bringing countless classes to the library to “learn the secrets of the archives” and suggesting new ways of thinking about the collections. Upon her retirement in 2012, Kerber requested that gifts in her honor be designated for the Linda and Richard Kerber Fund for Research in the Iowa Women’s Archives. Thanks to the generous contributions of students, colleagues, friends, and family, the Iowa Women’s Archives is able to award its first travel grant this spring.
Travel Grant guidelines: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/kerber/
Welcome to Women’s History Wednesday! Today we’re sharing some fantastic photos of Dora Mackay, a singer and beauty shop owner in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dora was a member of the first graduating class of the Crescent School of Beauty and Culture in 1940, and in the same year assumed ownership of Berline’s Beauty Shop, one of the few black beauty shops in Des Moines at the time. A cosmetologist by day, Dora was a musician on the side. She sang and played piano for radio stations in the 1940’s, and sang at the club Johnny and Kay’s in the 1970’s.
The third picture here does not actually include Dora, but her sister Virginia Mackay Williams. These amazing photographs are a few of the many gems you can find in the archives!
Welcome to Women’s History Wednesday!
Today we’re featuring Edith Reed Atkinson, a classically trained singer and radio-script editor from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The youngest of eight children, she was born in 1919 in Davenport, IA and her family later settled in Cedar Rapids.
From 1935 to 1944, Edith performed in The Gold Flashes song-and-dance act with her brothers, Wallace and Cecil Reed. She recalled that when the trio accompanied the Dempsey Jones Group, Dempsey used to introduce Edith and her brothers by saying “and now we go from the ridiculous to the sublime” (Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 30, 1986). Judging by this photo of Edith performing on stage with brother Cecil, they were sublime, indeed!
Edith Reed Atkinson had a radio show on local station WMT for a time, during which she sang requests and performed for such celebrities as Nat King Cole during the dinner hour. She also served as the choir director for thirty years at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids. Edith taught people about African-American history through her music, and in 1997 received a Woman of the Year Award in celebration of Linn County Women’s Equality Day.
Much of women’s lives remains completely hidden from history or is only partially known or told. As [Iowa Women’s Archives] co-founder Mary Louise Smith has said, “If people know that there is an archive where women’s records will be valued and preserved, they will make a deliberate effort to collect materials that might otherwise be discarded.” The holdings of the Iowa Women’s Archives provide rich resources for anyone seeking to explore the diversity of Iowa women’s lives. While these materials were not created specifically for researchers, they can be used by researchers to show how an individual lived her life or how an organization functioned. By soliciting the documents of African-American women in Iowa, the archives staff hopes to build a core collection of materials that will make it possible for a more complete history of these women to be written.
…Most of the collections added since the [African American Women in Iowa] project officially began document women who have played a public role in history. One such individual is Catherine Williams of Des Moines, who went from dancing in the movies with the likes of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Cab Calloway to a lengthy career in the Iowa Department of Social Services. She retired in 1981 as deputy commissioner of that department. Her collection includes photographs that document her dancing days, family life, and career in government; speeches; and records of Delta Sigma Theta, the traditionally African-American sorority to which she belongs. Another recent addition are the papers of Mary Elizabeth Wood, who recently returned to her native city Des Moines after several decades away. In 1957, when Wood was appointed to the position of executive director of the YWCA of Buffalo and Erie County in New York, she became the first African-American woman in the country to direct a metropolitan branch of that organization. The archives houses her photographs, correspondence, certificates, speeches, newspaper clippings, and other material.
While the Iowa Women’s Archives welcomes the papers of these prominent women, we also want to celebrate women whose accomplishments may be known only within their own families. For example, the repository’s holdings include a video that documents the experiences of Maxine Baker Griggs and Creole Baker Griggs, two sisters who reminisce about their lives in the small town of Clarinda, Iowa. While these women might not have played a public role in Iowa’s history, their materials offer a glimpse into their experiences and provide valuable historical information for researchers. As is the aim of the Iowa Women’s Archives generally, the mission of the African-American Women in Iowa project is to collect the papers of women from all walks of life. — from “Giving Our History a Home: The African-American Women in Iowa Project” by Kathryn M. Neal, Books at Iowa (November 1996)