Women’s History Month: Pilar Angeles Garcia

On March 2, 2018, a group of Iowa State University students presented at the 2018 Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). In their presentation, “Lost Stories: Women of Color at Iowa State University,”the students listed accomplishments of women of color at ISU and encouraged the university to recognize the achievements of women of color who have contributed to the success and innovation of the university. Their session included the story of Pilar Garcia, who had worked at Iowa State in the Department of Food and Nutrition from 1950-1991. I had come across this collection by accident in my first year here as outreach archivist and noted it because Garcia was born in the Philippines, like my mother. In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to put a spotlight on Pilar Garcia and her papers.

Pilar Angeles Garcia was born on November 4, 1926, in Manila, the Philippines. Her father, Gaudencio Garcia, served as a professor of international and political law, and her mother, Maria Paz Angeles Garcia, was a high school biology teacher. She is the second oldest of ten children.

Garcia’s high school education was interrupted by WWII. There is a note she wrote and included in her papers, when describing photographs from her childhood (RS 12/6/53, box 4, folder 2):

All earlier records were destroyed during WWII when our family home burned to the ground.

Pilar Garcia graduated from the University of the Philippines at Manila, in 1949, with a B.S. in pharmacy. During this time she earned the Barbour Scholarship, which sent her to the University of Michigan. This prestigious scholarship celebrated it’s 100th anniversary last year. One year later she earned the Master of Science degree in botany at the University of Michigan.

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Garcia then relocated to lowa State University, where she completed her studies in nutrition and worked as a graduate assistant. After she completed the M .S. and Ph.D., in 1952 and 1955 respectively, she immediately served as research associate in the Department of Food and Nutrition at ISU.

In 1957, Garcia became an assistant professor at ISU and in 1961 she was promoted to associate professor. It was not until 1974 that she was promoted to full professor. Throughout her academic career, Garcia spent her time researching and teaching courses about the effects of nutrition on people, primarily women. In 1978, she took a six-month faculty leave at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos College, Laguna, in order to conduct research on nutritional conditions of the rural, elderly poor. She earned a faculty citation from the lowa State Alumni Association in 1970 and won the Amoco Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 1986. Pilar Garcia retired in December 1991. In a letter written by Garcia she stated, in regards to her time at Iowa State, that (RS 12/6/53, box 1, folder 1 ):

Teaching undergraduate courses and interacting with students gave me the greatest joy and satisfaction

To read more about Pilar Garcia’s life and work at ISU, drop by the reading room! We’re open Monday-Friday, 9-5.

Rare Book Highlights: Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Black and white engraved head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman with hair pulled back from her face and wearing a dress with a furred or feathered collar.

Portrait of Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799), Italian mathematician, from the Scala Museum, Milano

“For, if at any time there can be an excuse for the rashness of a Woman, who ventures to aspire to the sublimities of a science, which knows no bounds, not even those of infinity itself, it certainly should be at this glorious period, in which a Woman reigns, and reigns with universal applause and admiration.”

So Maria Gaetana Agnesi writes in the dedication of her major work Instituzioni analitiche (Analytical Institutions) to Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, as translated by John Colson in 1801. It was typical for an author to dedicate a book to a monarch, hoping to win favor and patronage, but here Agnesi (although with the usual flattery and praise) also speaks as woman to woman in a world dominated by men.

Agnesi (1718-1799) is considered the first woman mathematician, born in Milan, Italy to a wealthy merchant. She was a highly intelligent child, who spoke fluent French by the age of 5, knew Latin by age 9, and by 11 added Greek and Hebrew to her classical language repertoire as well as several modern languages. Her father provided her and her younger sister with tutors, and he liked to show her off at gatherings in his home with scholars and celebrities. She presented theses on a number of subjects and then defended them in academic disputations with the scholars present. These discussions were held in a variety of languages, and she answered in the language in which she was addressed.

In 1738, she published Propositiones philosophicae, a compilation of her defense of 190 theses that she gave at a gathering as a kind of capstone to her studies. Following this publication, she announced that she wished to join a convent. At her father’s objection, she reconsidered, but insisted on living a simple life devoted to study and contemplation and free from social obligations. At this time she turned her attention to studying mathematics, and after ten years, she published Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana (1748), or Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth.

This volume, written in Italian rather than Latin, and presented as a handbook for educating young people in mathematics, was noted for its clarity and comprehensiveness. She treated not only algebra and geometry, but also the newer fields of integral and differential calculus.

Instituzioni Analitiche ad uso della gioventu Italiana Didna Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Milanese, Dell' Accademia delle Scienze di Bologna, Tomo I. In Milano, MDCCXLVIII. Nella Regia-Ducal Corte. Con licenza de' Superiori.

Title page of Instituzioni Analitiche.

She received much acclaim for the book. Maria Theresa of Austria, to whom she dedicated the book, sent Agnesi a diamond ring and letter. Pope Benedict XIV also sent a letter along with a gold medal and gold-and-gemstone wreath. He also appointed her to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Bologna, which she accepted as a purely honorary position. In spite of all this, Agnesi continued to withdraw from society and mathematical work and worked more and more for the church and the poor. Later in life, she became the director of a poorhouse, and held that position until her death.

Four drawings of conical sections, including figures 58, 59, 60, and 61.

Table 10 from volume 1 of Instituzioni Analitiche.

It is often noted that her fame is not due to any major mathematical discoveries of her own, but is based on her reputation for brilliance, which convinced some men of the time that women had the capacity to understand complex scientific and mathematical concepts. In fact, in John Colson’s “Introduction” to his English translation, he challenges English women to take up the study of mathematics in order not to be outdone by Italian women: “[Women] seem only to want to be properly introduced into these studies, to be convinced of their usefulness and agreeableness, and to prevail on themselves to use the necessary application and perseverance. They have here a noble instance before them, of what the sex is capable to perform, when their faculties are exerted the right way. And they may be fully persuaded, that what one lady is able to write, other ladies are able to imitate, or, at least, to read and understand.”

Two books bound in vellum stacked on top of each other showing leather spine labels that have been partly chipped off the spine.

Iowa State University copy of Agnesi’s 2 volume work.

The ISU library copy of Instituzioni analitiche includes the bookplate and signature of Henry Bickersteth in each of the two volumes. It is bound in simple vellum with spine labels. Henry Bickersteth (1783-1851) was an English lawyer who, in 1836, became a member of the Privy Council and was created Baron Langdale, of Langdale in the County of Westmoreland.

The bookplate indicates that Bickersteth likely acquired this book before he was given a peerage. The bookplate is simple, with no coat-of-arms, and simply the name followed by “Lincoln’s Inn.” This is, to me, a bit of a puzzle. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London, the professional organizations for barristers in England. The puzzling part to me is that in 1808 Bickersteth was admitted to the Inner Temple, another of the Inns of Court, as a student. Why would he be a student at one, and have his residence at another? But there is more evidence that he did, in fact, live at Lincoln’s Inn. The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry Lord Langdale by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy (1852) include a letter from Henry Bickersteth to his brother dated “Lincoln’s Inn, May 31st, 1827.”

Do you know why this would be? Leave a comment!

Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana. Milan: Nella Regia-ducal corte, 1748. Call number: QA35 A27


Agnesi, Maria Gaetana. Analytical institutions, in four books, originally written in Italian. Translated by John Colson, London: Taylor and Wilks, 1801.

“Bickersteth, Henry, Baron Langdale (1783-1851).” Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885-1901.

Hardy, Thomas Duffus. Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry lord Langdale. London: R. Bentley, 1852.

Harvey, Joy and Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana (1718-1799).” The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Routledge, 2000. 14-16.

Kramer, Edna E. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana.” Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner, 1981. 75-77.

Women’s History Month: Evidence of Exclusion at ISU

Last month, a SCUA blog post on Black History Month and audiovisual recordings referenced the problem of “cultural memory gaps,” which is to say, gaps in the historical record that came about as the direct result of exclusionary attitudes and practices of the time. Sometimes, the loss or absence of a record is noticeable, as was the case with Ralph Ellison’s undocumented visit to Iowa State University. Sometimes, however, this loss or absence takes the form of lost potential, as is the case when members of underrepresented groups are systematically denied access to education, opportunity, and association that might have allowed them to better develop their talents in the first place.

Traditionally, Women’s History Month draws attention to the achievements and contributions of extraordinary individuals who proved exceptions to the rule of their time. It is equally important, however, to remember why so few achievements and contributions exist (at least, in documented form) to celebrate. Today, therefore, we are going to look at material which evidences some discriminatory practices and attitudes connected with ISU history.

The first example is a rejection letter from the Vet Med school, dated 1957.

The picture below features a photocopy of the original letter, with the name of the individual to whom it is addressed redacted for privacy purposes. The photocopy also contains markings from a patron who once included the letter in a class guide and wished to draw special attention to the justifications offered for the rejection.

March 11, 1957. Dear Miss: It is the policy of the Division of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State College not to admit women to the professional curriculum. Because of limited educational facilities it has been necessary to restrict the number of new students who may be admitted to approximately sixty-four. Each year we receive more applications from men students than can be accommodated. If women were admitted, they would displace the same number of men. In many cases women are not physically equal to the educational requirements of the large animal clinics. There are many good fields for women which are closely related to veterinary medical science, such as medical technician, radiologist, major study in bacteriology or zoology, and possibly human medicine. We are sorry to disappoint you. If you wish, we will be happy to consider your application for admission to some other curriculum offered by the Iowa State College. Sincerely yours.

Photocopy of 1957 letter of rejection (Iowa State University, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, Subject Files, RS 3/6/1; Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of the Dean, Administrative Records, RS 14/1/8)

Notice how none of the justifications for rejection reference the applicant’s personal qualifications, but instead emphasize a desire to give male applicants priority consideration based exclusively on their gender.

The practice of discriminating against qualified applicants based on gender ended shortly thereafter, in 1960. Unfortunately, though, the attitudes which shaped the original policy seem to have persisted within the institution beyond the following decade, as there is later evidence of discriminatory practices that limited female students’ access to opportunities for professional development in more subtle ways, even after they had been admitted.

For example, we have a piece of correspondence from 1971, written in the name of the Osborn Research Club and signed by distinguished professors in animal husbandry and bacteriology, one of whom was dean of the graduate college at the time. The purpose of the letter was to establish unwritten policies in response to a challenge, though it is unclear whether this was common practice, as Osborn did not have a constitution at the time of founding.

The Osborn Research Club is a prestigious, now nearly-century-old, group on campus. It is not merely a student club or an honorary, but rather an academic, discussion-based, professional organization, intended to stimulate debate among active researchers in various branches of science. Unfortunately, certain matters were not up for debate.

2. No, women should not be admitted to membership; nor should they be guests at the meetings. (Unanimous). There are several good arguments for not accepting women as members (or even as guests). The presence of women, as members or guests, would make less free the discussions both at the table and after the paper; their presence might also restrict the freedom of selection of the content of the paper or the manner in which it was presented. The rules of politeness in our society are different when women are present than when the affair is stag. Almost all women view matters from a subjective viewpoint; many men can, and some do, view matters objectively. A woman presenting a paper is most likely to view serious and deep discussion as criticism; a man is not likely to react this way. In the presence of women men have to be careful not only what they say but how they say it. Sigma Xi, which is much more impersonal than Osborn Research Club, should serve better the needs of the woman scientist on our campus until such time as the campus women start some activity of their own.

Correspondence from Osborn Research Club, 1971 (Iowa State University, Osborn Research Club Records, RS 20/2/1, box 1, folder 11)

It is especially interesting to note that, despite the authors’ confidence in the absolute truth of their assertions, there was a pointed reluctance to open this question up for discussion among their reportedly objective-minded members. In fact, the authors of this letter – who, incidentally, signed themselves as “The Patriarchs” – burdened their membership with the responsibility of raising the issue in the first place, perhaps hoping it would simply not come up during their time in office.

3. We advise against the chairman going out of his way to present these questions of membership to the club for action. By tradition any member has always been free to bring any matter before the group for consideration at any meeting. It is probably wise that the chairman be informed in advance of such intention. 4. The chairman should decide the amount and nature of background material presented at the outset in a formal way. Discussion should be free and complete. (But we warn that there will be more wind than wisdom.)

Correspondence from Osborn Research Club, 1971 (Iowa State University, Osborn Research Club Records, RS 20/2/1, box 1, folder 11)

But, indeed, the patriarchs‘ hesitance to democratize the issue and create “wind” seems to have been well-founded, as the young men of the club voted to admit women in 1972, the year immediately following. Today, the Osborn Research Club counts numerous female researchers among its officers and members.

Nor is this the only moment in ISU history when students have stood up to their elders in the name of a social justice cause.

In the summer of 1943, the ISU chapter of Mortar Board, then an honor society for senior women (now a co-ed honorary for upper-classmen), initiated a letter-writing campaign to debate a national board ruling, which had excluded a highly-qualified black student from joining the Ohio State University chapter, even though the girl’s classmates had already unanimously voted her in.

The letter, after quoting the Mortar Board constitution, summarizes the incident below:

As you will note after reading carefully our purpose and membership qualifications we have no statement in that which bars a girl because of race, color or creed. However, in the past your Council has made it a policy to admit only members of the white race except where special permission has been requested and granted. This spring one of our chapters unanimously elected a girl of the negro race. This girl has all the necessary qualifications for membership: high scholarship, service to the school, and holds many importatn [sic] offices including that of president ofthe [sic] Y.W.C.A. and A.W.S. board member. The chapter advisors, knowing of our former policy, referred the matter to Council. Since the six members of the Council are so widely separated it was difficult in so short a time to discuss adeqately [sic] the situation and to decide wisely and fairly. also, we did not wish to pass judgment hastily on a matter of national policy of some years standing. Therefore, we reqested [sic] the chapetr [sic] to elect the other new members this spring and if, after our Council meeting, we decided to sanction the election of a negro, this action would be retroactive and the chapter in the fall would initiate the girl in question and she would still have her full year of active membership.

Correspondence from Iowa State University chapter of Mortar Board (Mortar Board. Torch Chapter (Iowa State University), RS 22/2/3, box 1, folder 10)

The language of the ISU chapter letter remains carefully diplomatic throughout, framing the issue as one of local democracy, in which each chapter should be allowed to decide on their own admissions policies. It does, however, repeatedly call for response from its sister chapters (implying that the complaint, although addressed to the national president, was not posted privately). It is also filed together with just such a response from the Mortar Board chapter at the University of Washington, and the latter minces fewer words:

It has seemed to us that there is very little room for debate on the matter. Mortar Board is a national organization to recognize and honor coed achievement and leadership. It is not an organization to honor white achievement and leadership. mortar Board loses its entire meaning if it refuses to recognize ability outside of a certain selected group. If a Negro girl -- or a girl of any other race -- has met the standards set forth by Mortar Board for membership, then there is no conceivable reason why she should not be admitted. If National refuses to verify her initiation, then national would be guilty of one of the basic principles against which we are fighting -- racial intolerance. And we as sub-chapters of the organization would share that guilt.

Correspondence from University of Washington chapter of Mortar Board, 1943 (Mortar Board. Torch Chapter (Iowa State University), RS 22/2/3, box 1, folder 10)

Sadly, we have little evidence on the outcome of this specific incident. The folder contains only a reply from the national president, along with a note on onion skin paper from an unidentified alumnae association. Both the president and the alumnae repeatedly, almost redundantly, classify the matter of whether or not to admit black students as a “problem,” find the University of Washington chapter’s tone “belligerent,” and generally agree with the ISU chapter that such policies, such “problems,” are best decided upon at the local level. There is no indication of whether or not Ohio State permitted the girl to join Mortar Board, let alone whether she had any remaining desire to do so.

With this lack of resolution in mind, here are a few take-away points:

1). Despite what the first two documents examined in this blog post imply, the attitudes and prejudices which shape exclusionary practices, at ISU and elsewhere, are not, and have never been, the sole property of men. Women of color have faced systematic exclusion much longer than, and frequently at the hands of, white women.

2). Historically speaking, it is not at all a new phenomenon for young people to champion policy-based change, only to hear their elders patronize and dismiss them for their zeal. In fact, many individuals who make sweeping generalizations about Generations X, Y, and Z today would themselves have belonged to the generations that protested exclusion with such recognizable turns of pandering, “wind,” and “belligerence.” 

3). The missing pieces from all of these stories are the thoughts, reactions, and even identities of the women whom these exclusionary policies impacted. All of these individuals must have had some perspective on what had happened to them and why. All of these individuals had lives before and after they butted up against the policies. But their stories are filtered exclusively through the words of their oppressors and/or, occasionally, the people who chose to stand up for them. This is unfortunate, because it frames our entire knowledge of these women as victims who required saving, and there is no evidence that this is how they saw themselves. For all we know, they may have been glad to discover upfront how prejudiced these organizations were, or what a potentially toxic environment they had escaped. A number of them may have gone on to be very successful in the context of other institutions, other organizations, or in other fields. Without hearing the story from multiple sides, we have no way of knowing what precisely was lost.

The real loss in all of these cases, then, is the institution’s loss, the archives’ loss, the historical record’s loss. Not only was ISU denied many opportunities to boast a role in shaping young talent, but current and future historians have been denied the opportunity to gauge with any accuracy precisely how much damage these exclusionary policies caused, or to whom. All we know for certain is that they existed, they were implemented, and why.



Rare Book Highlights: Mr. Francatelli’s cookbook

Black and white engraved portrait of Charles Francatelli

By Joseph Brown (1809-1887) (signed in engraving) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Elmé Francatell. Francatelli’s modern cook : a practical guide to the culinary art in all its branches : comprising, in addition to English cookery, the most approved and recherché systems of French, Italian, and German cookery… Reprinted from the 26th London ed., Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1895. Call number: TX715 F844n2 1895


If you have been watching Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece, you may be interested to know that the palace chef Mr. Francatelli was a real person–and a cookbook author. Charles Elmé Francatelli, born in London in 1805, studied French cooking in Paris under Antonin Carême before returning to England. He held several positions as chef de cuisine and maitre d’hotel for wealthy noble families and various London clubs before serving as chief cook for the royal household in 184o-1842. In the television series, Victoria requests that Mr. Francatelli return as cook after the chef that replaces him serves less-than-appetizing dishes. The reality may have been the opposite: his short term working as chef for Victoria may have been because she and Prince Albert preferred plain English cooking to French cuisine.

Francatelli's New Cook Book. Francatelli's Modern Cook. A Practical Guide to the Culinary Art in All its Branches. Comprising, in addition to English Cookery, the most approved and Recherche systems of French, Italian, and German Cookery. Adapted for the use of all Families, large or small, as well as for hotels, restaurants, cooks, cake bakers, clubs and boarding houses; in fact, for all places wherever cooking is required, while at the same time, all will save money by referring to its pages. By Charles Elme Francatelli, pupil to the celebrated Careme, and chief cook to Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of England. With sixty-two illustrations of various dishes, and a glossary to the whole work. Reprinted from the twenty-sixth London edition. With large additions, and carefully revised. Philadelphia: David McKay, publisher, 23 South Ninth Street.

Title page to one of ISU’s copies of Francatelli’s Modern Cook. Ours is an American edition, reprinted from the 26th London edition.

Charles Francatelli published a cookbook The Modern Cook in 1846, which was popular enough to run to twenty-nine editions. In doing so, he joined the ranks of celebrity chefs that had begun in England in the 18th century, and which carries on today. Capitalizing on his service in the Royal Household to cement his celebrity status, he writes a full-page dedication “To The Right Hon. The Earl of Errol,” Lord Steward of the [Royal] Household, under whose “liberal and judicious directions” Francatelli served as Chief Cook and Maitre d’Hotel while in the service of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

This cookbook is not for the middle class family cook, as Francatelli notes in his Preface to the First Edition–“Many dishes are obviously expensive, and can only be indulged in by the wealthy epicure…,” and later he acknowledges that “throughout this work, the Author has supposed the various dishes and preparations are required to be made for a large number of guests, with the usual resources at hand in a well-appointed kitchen; perfection and economy can only be fully attained under such circumstances.”

Take, for example, these three different recipes for Lamb’s Ears:

(Note: this is only a selection of the text shown.) 938. Lambs' Ears, a la Financiere. Procure a dozen lambs' ears, scald these, then immerse them in cold water; when cold, wipe them dry, and singe them over the flame of a charcoal fire; they must then be gently braized in some blanc (no. 235) for about three-quarters of an hour, and when done drain upon a npakin; the thin part of the ears should be carefully scraped with the back part of the blade of a knife to remove the skin, leaving the white cartilaginous part entire; this last must then be slit in narrow bands, without cutting through the ends, so that when the ears are turned down, these bands by curling over should appear like a row of loops; place the ears as they are trimmed in a deep sautepan or stewpan containing some of their own liquor, sover them with a buttered paper and the lid, and set them aside till dinner time. While the ears are braizing, prepare some veal force-meat, and fill a plain low cylinder border mould (previously buttered) with the force-meat; poach this in the usual way, and when about to send to table, turn it out upon its dish, place the lambs' ears all round the top of it and in each of these put a round ball of black truffle; fill the centre with a rich Financiere ragout (No. 188), pour some of the sauce round the base and serve. Note. -- This entree may also be served with a ragout a la Tortue (no. 189).

Recipes for Lambs’ Ears a la Financiere, Lambs’ Ears a la Dauphine; Lambs’ Ears a la Venitienne.

The end of the book includes bills of fare for dinners for every month of the year, to serve from 6 to 36 persons. There are even bills for a ball supper and a public dinner for 300! Several pages contain the bills of fare for actual dinners served for the queen on particular dates:

Her Majesty's Dinner. 25th January. (Under the control of C. Francatelli.) Potages: A la Tete de Veau en Tortue. Le Quenelles de Volaille au Consomme. Poissons: Le Saumon, a la sauce homard. Les Soles frites, sauce Hollandaise. Releves: Le Filet de Boeuf, pique braise aux pommes de terre. Le Chapon a la Godard. Entrees: Le Bord de pommes de terre, garni de Palais de Boeuf. La Chartreuse de Perdrix aux Choux. Les Cotelettes d'Agneau panees. La Blanquette de Volaille a l'eclarlate. Les Laperaux, sautes aux fines herbes. Les Petits Pates aux hitres. Rots: Les Poulets. Les Faisans. Releves: Le pudding a l'Orange. Les Omelettes Souffles. Entremets. Les pommes de terre a la Strasbourgeoise. Les Epinards au jus. La Gelee de Marasquin. Le Petites Talmouses. Les Feuillantines de Pommes. La Creme aux Amandes Pralinees. Buffet. Roast Beef and Mutton. Boiled Round of Beef.

The Bill of Fare for a dinner served to Queen Victoria on January 25th during Francatelli’s time as Chief Cook in the Royal Household.

Francatelli published three other cookbooks: A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes in 1852, The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s and Butler’s Assistant in 1861, and The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner in 1862. He also married late in life (age 65) to Elizabeth Cooke, daughter of William Cooke, a hotel keeper–but don’t let historical fact disrupt your anticipation of wedding bells with Head Dresser Mrs. Skerrett!


Baker, Anne Pimlott. “Francatelli, Charles Elmé (1805-1876).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford University Press, 2004, 729.

Sherman, Sandra. Invention of the Modern Cookbook. Greenwood, 2010.

In Honor of Women’s History Month: Winifred R. Tilden

Ames, Iowa native Winifred R. Tilden was a long-time and influential faculty member at Iowa State College (University). In honor of Women’s History Month and in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I, we highlight her and her contribution to the war effort.


Photograph of Winifred Tilden in her YWCA uniform, ca. 1918. Original located in the Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive, Ames Public Library. Winifred R. Tilden papers, RS 10/7/11

Faculty members answered the call to duty not only by serving as officers, but also in noncombat capacities. Winifred R. Tilden was one of them. Tilden spent her career at Iowa State College as a leader of physical education for women. She initially served as Director of Physical Culture for Women and was later named Professor of Physical Education. During World War I, Tilden took leave so that she could direct a National Y.W.C.A-sponsored recreational program in a French nurses camp. Formally, she served as Hostess and Recreation Director at Toul and then as Manager of the Palais Royal in Paris.


Receipt of Identity Card Application, Paris, France November 5, 1918. Winifred R. Tilden papers, RS 10/7/11
This was the form that Winifred Tilden used to apply for a foreign identity card during her service in France.


How the Blue Triangle helps in France. Y.W.C.A.: Homes–For American War Workers: Recreation–For American Nurses: Rest Rooms–For French Munition Workers. American War Posters from the First World War, UC Berkeley. 1917-1918. Courtesy of Bancroft Library, University of California. From the American War Posters from the First World War, BANC PIC 2005.001:128–AX. 

To learn more about Winifred R. Tilden, come to Special Collections and University Archives, located on the 4th floor of Parks Library and see her collection in person. Find the guide to her collection here.

For more about Iowa’s involvement in World War I, visit our exhibition “Do[ing] Their Bit:” Iowa’s Role in the Great War on display on the 4th floor of Parks Library.

Tuesday Tip for beginning researchers: Yearbooks & Newspapers

Today’s blog post is a research tip for beginning researchers.We often advise students who are researching student life or campus life to take a look at the yearbooks. However, the yearbooks often make veiled references to events without providing full information.

Title of page is "king's dead - did we react with a purpose" and paragraph: "Martin Luther King was dead! Riots, looting, and violence spread across the nation. How was our campus going to react? Everyone knew the situation was the proverbial firecracker ready to be lit. Yet, there were no riots; but a silent vigil, there was no looting; but a memorial march, there was no violence; but a few broken glasses. We took the time to dedicate ourselves to the advancement of ideals Doctor King stood for. It has been over a year since we first declared our objectives. Isn't it time to stop again, judge our progress and rededicate ourselves to those ideals?" Top right black-and-white photograph, one of a young Black woman speaking and 3 older white men in suits sitting underneath her,caption says: "Pat Alford sings a tribute to Doctor King before some 350 people at a special memorial service." Second photograph, black-and-white, bottom of page, has men and women marching holding up signs one partially says "Let Freedom" others say "Black" and "White" caption: "Iowa State students, faculty, and Ames townspeople begin their memorial march from Ames to Des Moines."

Page 16 from the 1969 Bomb book 1. This page describes reactions on campus when Martin Luther King was assassinated.

To dig into further details on the silent vigil, memorial march and “a few broken glasses” mentioned in the yearbook, one would need to find corroborating documentation. I find the best documentation of student life is the student newspaper, the Iowa State Daily. Below is an article that was used in an earlier blog post, Formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU. The protest organized by Black students on campus led to the formation of the Black Student Organization (now the Black Student Alliance) at ISU.

Iowa State Daily, Twelve Pages, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, Saturday, April 6, 1968, Vol. 97, No. 118. Headline: Union is site of unexpected demonstration. By Staff Writers. Reaction to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was seen on the Iowa State Campus yesterday in the form of an active demonstration in the Commons, Memorial Union, and a silent vigil on the steps of Beardshear Hall. The Commons demonstration began about noon as 40 to 50 Negroes, most of them students, filed in, took trays with glasses of water and orange juice and then sat down at tables. All were dressed in dark clothing, many in suits. As the demonstrators pulled their tables together, surrounding students moved away, giving them the area. Toast: Black Unity. All demonstrators then stood; one Negro proposed a toast to "black unity on campus." Then before the disbelieving stares of onlookers, they threw their glasses on the floor, turned over the tables and chairs and walked out. After their departure, Union workers rushed out to clear the scattered broken glass and trays and pick up the overturned tables and chairs. One onlooking student reacted, "What was the purpose of all of this? What did they expect to accomplish? His answer from one woman was the cry, "You ask what they do it for? My God, that's what's wrong with all of us!" Black Students' Statement. A statement about the demonstration was issued by Bruce Ellis, Math 3. It read: "We, the Black Students of Iowa State University, are here to awaken YOU to the conditions and consequences of the situation which has led to the violent death of our non-violent leader, the Most Reverent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." The statement was signed "Afro-American Students of Iowa State University." This group was formed late Thursday night and elected Ellis as their chairman. At Beardshear, about 250 students gathered for a vigil of silence from noon to 12:30 p.m. Negroes Absent. At the top of the steps students held a sign "We Mourn for King" and a processional cross draped with a purple cloth in observence of the Lenten season. Negroes were noticeably absent. Many instructors and students wore black arm bands passed out at the Union and by United Campus Christian Ministry members who organized the vigil. UCCM members also handed out leaflets announcing the Memorial March tomorrow from Ames to Des Moines. The Rev. Mark Rutledge, UCCM minister, broke the vigil's silence, asking if anyone wanted to make a statement. At this time several students left for class. Tribute to Leadership. Robert Muehlmann, instructor of philosophy, gave a prepared speech in tribute to King's nonviolent leadership. A man, reported to be a Boone resident, read a passage from a book King wrote concerning the necessity of action in the civil rights movement. A poem relating personal reactions of the news of King's assassination compared with similar feelings at the March on Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1963 was read by Mary Francis Cochran Sci 1. In the last speech Dr. Richard Van Iten, philosophy, urged students to go home this Easter vacation and carry through on their actions there by speaking to parents, friends and city officials. "We Shall Overcome." Rutledge asked the group to sing, "We Shall Overcome" to conclude the vigil and the crows left slowly. At 12:45 p.m. as students walked to class, Carillon-neur Ira Schroeder played Chopin's "Funeral March" and two Nero spirituals. Schroeder said he wanted to play something appropriate. Later in the afternoon Don Stephens, director fo the Memorial Union, was questioned about the noon incident. He reported there was about $100 damage due to broken dishes, glasses and scarred furniture. Stephens thought the students picked the Union for the demonstration because they knew there would be a big audience there over the noon hour. "When students first gathered in the Commons," Stephens aid, "Union officials thought there would only be a sit-in or quiet demonstration. They should have gone to Beardshear," he added. Officials Discuss Demonstration. Following Friday'sdemonstration by Negro students in the Commons, University officials met with two Negro student leadres, Bruce Ellis, Math 3, and Louis Lovelace, I Ad I, to discuss the demonstration and other problems. Dr.Wilbur L. Layton, vice president for student affairs, said the two students explained the demonstration took place as a symbolic gesture to show that Negro students on campus are trying to get organized. Layton said, "University officials are very interested in communication with Negro students and are trying to understand their problems." Layton pointed out that a member of the Lake County Urban League, near Chicago, had been at Iowa State recently to talk to University officials about facilitating communications with Negro students. Set Up Future Talks. Layton said Ellis will contact him Monday to set up future conferences to discuss problems. The administrator said he did not think there would be any more active demonstrations though.

Article from the Iowa State Daily, April 6, 1968 reporting on the demonstration by a group of students at the Memorial Union the previous day.

Now that there are more details about campus’ reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, there are further places to research. You can look up the Black Student Organization (BSO) and Black Student Alliance Files in the collection on Student Organizations, RS 22/3/0/1 to see what further developments took place. You could check the papers of the ISU president at the time, Robert Parks, to see what files the administration kept on the protests or the BSO, or if there was any relevant correspondence worth checking out from 1968.

Where else do you think you could look for more information on how campus reacted? Leave a comment below or drop by our reading room to do some research! We’re open Monday-Friday, 9-5.

Ralph Ellison, Film, Jazz, and Cultural Memory Gaps

On 18 March 1970, Ralph Ellison spoke at ISU as part of the University’s Lecture Series program. Mr. Ellison was a 20th-century, African American author, whose first and only novel, Invisible Man, won the National Book Award. In spite of his renown, the lecture was not recorded (or, if it was, apparently did not survive). Nor have I been able to locate any documentation about his lecture. I’m left wondering how he would have engaged with the Iowa State audience. I wonder whether he spoke about his love of jazz and how music influenced his writing.

Ralph copy

WOI TV News Clip 452 (AV07469) 16MM single perf  image of  Ralph Ellison 1970

Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden (1877-1931) was a well-known, African American coronet player and a progenitor of the jazz movement in New Orleans. His trombonist claimed that at least one cylinder phonograph was made of Bolden’s music at the turn of the century by a local New Orleans saloon owner, but no known recordings have survived. Major music industry labels – Edison, Columbia, and the Berliner – regularly paid white artists to record Black music. In fact, the earliest known jazz recording is a 1917 album by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, an all-white group. So, despite its apparent uniqueness, labeling the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recording as a foundational document of jazz would be a misrepresentation of American history. In doing so, we would be ignoring the racism of the music industry that refused to record Black musicians and erasing the people and communities who were the actual creators of this American art form.

The loss of early jazz recordings – probably through neglect and mishandling – is one of the greatest examples we have of a cultural memory gap.

Cultural memory gaps within memory institutions are why modern archiving practices are slowly shifting toward intentionally collecting and prioritizing records of marginalized communities. This is why Black Archives, and other archives focused on marginalized communities, are so important. But we shouldn’t rely solely on these dedicated institutions to do ALL the collecting, prioritizing, and describing of these records. All archives must be responsible for hiring staff that can properly identify and interpret the records of marginalized communities. And as archivists, all of us share in the responsibility of preserving them.

Film and audio-visual (AV) records already have notoriously patchy documentation. What records have been collected have often not been effectively described. Combine that inherent lack of information with institutional and societal-level systems that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, erase the work of marginalized groups, and we are left with a huge cultural memory gap. We have little film and sound recordings from marginalized communities at ISU.

The scarcity of these records makes the ones that we DO have even more valuable. I happened upon one of those valuable records while wrangling the Iowa State University Film Collections.

What we do know about Ralph Ellison’s visit to ISU is that Dorcas Speer, a WOI TV reporter, interviewed him before his lecture. That the interview was filmed, and that I was able to find it. This footage is from the WOI Radio and Television collection (more information about this collection is here). We are working towards making WOI TV’s film collection more discoverable for researchers in the near future.  To see the interview, watch  here.

Researching Former Black Students at Iowa State

People familiar with Iowa State University history usually are already aware of the story of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American graduate and faculty member, and Jack Trice, Iowa State’s first black student athlete. Over the years, much research has been done on these two individuals. Unfortunately, learning about students of color that came after them is a much more difficult task.

One frequent request we receive are questions about the first students of color to receive degrees from a specific department, the first to play on a particular sports team, or the first to be part of a campus organization. Most people contact us in the hopes that maybe somebody has compiled such a list and that it exists in the University Archives.

Bomb yearbook 1894

Iowa State’s yearbook, The Bomb, can be a starting point for research on African American students, but its usefulness is limited. This is the cover to the first yearbook from 1894.

In reality, these questions are extremely difficult to answer for a variety of reasons, but primarily because no such list exists. Over the years, archives staff have slowly been adding to an internal list of known early black students, but it is far from complete and stops in the 1960s. One of the most reliable sources for learning about student life, the yearbook, is an unreliable resource for identifying students of color because not all students appear in it and it can be particularly difficult to determine race and ethnicity based on the small, grainy, black and white images. Another factor to consider is that the University did not start collecting information on student race and ethnicity until the late 1960s so it is difficult to even know how many students of color were on campus at a given time.

So how does one go about searching for students of color in the archives? As previously mentioned, the yearbook is one place to start. Other resources to investigate are the commencement programs. These can be effective for identifying graduate students of color as the programs often list the school that the students received an undergraduate degree. If the school listed is a historically black college or university, then that is a promising lead. Student directories are another possible resource. Unfortunately, searching through these materials can be very tedious and time consuming. It is also important to remember that this is just a starting point for research. Tracking down additional details will likely lead to contacting archives at other schools and communities or into direct contact with members of the person’s family or his/her descendants.

Photographic portrait of Frederick D. Patterson

Portrait of Frederick D. Patterson (RS 21/7/19)

Staff both in the archives and within the larger Iowa State community have done some research on former black students at Iowa State. You can read about some of these students in this blog, such as Rufus B. Jackson, Frederick Patterson, Mary E.V. Hunter, Samuel Massie, and James Mitchell. Other members of the Iowa State community have done their own research on early black students at Iowa State and written articles on Holloway Smith and Walter G. Madison, for example.

These are just a small number of the many black students who have come to Iowa State since George Washington Carver first arrived on campus in 1891. If you would like to start your own investigation into students of color at Iowa State, the staff in Special Collections and University Archives would be happy to assist. Stop in and say hello!

In Honor of Black History Month: Rufus B. Jackson

“Rufus B. Jackson.” Alumnus of Iowa State College., April 1919, ArchivesLH1. Lo9a.

In honor of Black History Month and in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the United States’s involvement in World War I, we highlight Des Moines resident and Iowa Stater Rufus Benjamin Jackson, Class of 1917. Second Lieutenant Jackson was a member of the 370th Infantry Regiment, 93d Division, A.E.F. and fought in France.

Second Lieutenant Jackson earned a distinguished service cross “for extraordinary heroism in action near Farm La Folie, France, September 28, 1918. Having been ordered to use his Stokes mortars in wiping out machine-gun nests, which had been resisting the advance of his company, Lieutenant Jackson made a personal reconnaissance by crawling to the enemy’s lines to locate the nests. Accomplishing his purpose, he returned and directed the fire, silencing the guns.”

For more about Iowa’s involvement in World War I, visit our exhibition “Do[ing] Their Bit:” Iowa’s Role in the Great War on display on the 4th floor of Parks Library.


Rare Book Highlights: the Booker T. Washington – W.E.B. Du Bois Debate

Du Bois, W.E.B. The souls of black folk; essays and sketches. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co, 1903. Call number: E185.6 D85s

The Negro problem; a series of articles by representative American Negroes of today. Contributions by Booker T. Washington, W.E. Burghardt Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt, and others. New York: James Pott & company, 1903. Call number: E185.5 N39


It is the turn of the 20th century. The Civil War is almost 40 years in the past, and Jim Crow laws are passed in Southern states to enforce racial segregation, while Black Americans encounter racism and discrimination across the country. A debate is going on within the Black community about how to respond to these conditions.

Booker T. Washington and vocational education

In 1895, Black intellectual and educator Booker T. Washington gave a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he urged Black Americans to temporarily accept segregation and disenfranchisement in exchange for economic opportunity and free vocational education funded by the white community. He believed that if Black men trained for vocational jobs, they could take advantage of the technological developments of the day and make economic progress. By attaining economic independence through hard work, thrift, and patience, he believed that eventually Black Americans would win the acceptance of the white community and thus be granted full civil rights. Critics of Washington’s speech dubbed it the ‘Atlanta Compromise.’

Red and black lettering reads, The Negro Problem, A series of articles by representative American Negros of to-day, contributions by Booker T. Washington, Principal of Tuskegee Institute, W. E. Burghardt DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt, and others, New York, James Pott and Company, 1903.

Title page of the first edition of The Negro Problem. Our copy was originally held by the State Library for Iowa, which is why “withdrawn” is stamped across the page.

Washington’s speech was not published (though you can read the transcript at the Library of Congress), but his views on education for Black men (remember, this was at a time when a woman’s place was considered to be in the home) are captured in his essay, “Industrial Education for the Negro,” published in The Negro Problem in 1903. He writes that, following the Civil War, Black Americans tried to distance themselves from their past as slaves through higher education in the liberal arts:

There were young men educated in foreign tongues, but few in carpentry or in mechanical or architectural drawing. Many were trained in Latin, but few as engineers and blacksmiths. Too many were taken from the farm and educated, but educated in everything but farming. For this reason they had no interest in farming and did not return to it. And yet eighty-five per cent of the Negro population of the Southern states lives and for a considerable time will continue to live in the country districts. (p. 13)

He saw the loss of vocational knowledge as a loss of economic opportunity to the population, and he believed that a purely liberal education only prepared Black men for jobs that they had no opportunity to acquire. This guided his decisions as the head of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now Tuskegee University, in designing the curriculum:

Almost from the first Tuskegee has kept in mind–and this I think should be the policy of all industrial schools–fitting student for occupations which would be open to them in their home communities. (pp. 23-24)

Critiques by W.E.B. Du Bois

On the opposite side of the debate is W.E.B. Du Bois, a Black intellectual who was born and raised in Massachusetts and became the first Black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Where Washington advised patience and submission, Du Bois called on members of the Black community to agitate for civil rights. He also argued that higher education, not simply vocational education, was necessary to create Black leaders that would uplift the whole Black community.

Du Bois was Washington’s most outspoken critic. His essay, “The Talented Tenth,” follows Washington’s in The Negro Problem. In direct rebuttal to Washington’s contention that liberally educated Black men cannot find jobs they are qualified for, Du Bois writes:

The most interesting question, and in many respects the crucial question, to be asked concerning college-bred Negroes, is: Do they earn a living? It has been intimated more than once that the higher training of Negroes has resulted in sending into the world of work, men who could find nothing to do suitable to their talents. Now and then there comes a rumor of a colored college man working at menial service, etc. Fortunately, returns as to occupations of college-bred Negroes, gathered by the Atlanta conference, are quite full–nearly sixty per cent. of the total number of graduates. (pp. 51-52)

Teachers 53.4 per cent, clergymen 16.8 per cent, physicians etc 6.3 per cent, students 5.6 percent, lawyers 4.7 per cent, in government service 4.0 per cent, in business 3.36 per cent, farmers and artisans 2.7 per cent, editors secretaries and clerks 2.4 per cent, miscellaneous 0.5 per cent.

Tables showing occupations of Black Americans who attended college, from Du Bois’s “The Talented Tenth” in The Negro Problem.

Du Bois’s most famous book The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of fourteen essays, includes one with the title, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others.” He critiques Washington’s broader plan of white appeasement and the regression it has brought:

Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things, —

First, political power,

Second, insistence on civil rights,

Third, higher education of Negro youth, — and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:

1. The disfranchisement of the Negro.

2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.

3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro. (p. 51)

Black text reads, The Souls of Black Folk, essays and sketches, by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, Chicago, A. C. McClurg and Company, 1903.

Title page of the first edition of The Souls of Black Folk.

Both men were deeply concerned about the social and economic progress of Black Americans. Their backgrounds shed some light on the sharp differences in their approaches. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856 and taught himself to read as a child following the Civil War. Later, he worked his way through Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia, now Hampton University. Du Bois, on the other hand, was born in 1868 in Massachusetts, where he attended school in a primarily white community. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, where he first encountered Jim Crow laws. Later, he became a leader in the Niagara Movement, a Black civil rights organization. When the group dissolved in 1909, Du Bois went on to co-found the NAACP.

What strikes me the most, as I write this blog post, is that the concerns of Washington and Du Bois are still relevant today. In the age of #BlackLivesMatter, this statement from Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk stands as a challenge and call to action:

…the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs. (p.59)