Women’s History Month: ISU’s first woman Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Margaret Sloss knew what she was talking about when she told the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society the following:

When you are working toward some dream, the first thing you must do is wipe out all the reasons why you cannot have or achieve it. Keep your mind only on the things that must be done to realize it. Toss out all the reasons why you think you cannot have what you want. For it will profit nothing to think up what you want if you are going to think immediately of doubts that you can attain it. (Margaret Sloss Papers, RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 1)

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Sloss’s own dream had been to become a veterinarian, and, indeed, she was the first woman to graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Iowa State College in 1938, and only the 27th such woman in the United States.

Pioneer in her field

A sheet of data on women students in veterinary medical programs around the United States found in the Margaret Sloss Papers (RS 14/7/51) paints a vivid picture of the environment that Sloss was working in. This data shows a total of 37 female applicants to ten veterinary medical programs surveyed for the year 1937, of which nine had been accepted; the total number of female students that had ever graduated from those schools was 16. The “policy toward acceptance” category (seen below in the far right column) is even more revealing. The most positive comment is, “Favored but realize hazard of short professional careers.” The rest range from “not enthusiastic” to “Discourage to extent of ability.” Iowa State’s policy? “Not favored. No out-of-state applicants will be accepted” (Box 1, Folder 10).

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Sloss had a battle to fight on her own behalf. Initially rejected as an applicant, she successfully argued that the land grant charter for Iowa State stipulated that admission to the college could not be refused based on sex. In 1939, Lois Calhoun became the second woman DVM to graduate from ISC, but it was another 25 years before the next woman graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1964! For the subsequent decade, there were only two to three female graduates out of each class of 60 students; beginning in 1975, women started to make up 25-30% of each class. Since then, the percentage of women studying veterinary medicine has increased significantly. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in its Annual Data Report, 2013-2014 shows the current enrollment of women in US veterinary medical colleges to be 79.6%.

Sloss was clearly a pioneer in her field, but she spoke very moderately when discussing her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated profession. In a letter to Charles Paul May dated February 8, 1963, she writes of herself and fellow graduate Calhoun, “Perhaps neither one of us is a very good judge of how prejudice [sic] people were as far as women in the profession is concerned. We went on the assumption that we were medically and scientifically minded and would rather be in veterinary medicine than in human medicine.” She goes on to say, “As far as our classmates and professors were concerned, sure we took a lot of kidding but since being on the staff here at I.S.U. I realize we didn’t take anymore than some of the fellows did or do now” (RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10).

Iowa State Grants It's First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman

Issue of ISU’s Summer Quarter News from 1938, with article, “Iowa State Grants Its First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman.” Box 1, Folder 15.

Women’s movement–Carrie Chapman Catt and Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not to say that she did not recognize the difficulties faced by women in the profession. In 1939, she wrote a paper titled “Women in Veterinary Medicine” whose purpose was “to disprove a current theory that it is useless to spend time and money educating a woman in this science” (RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 6). In a letter to Iowa State alumna and woman’s suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt the following year, she describes wanting to publish the paper. However, “its nature is such that it must almost of necessity appear in a women’s journal, preferably a women’s medical journal. So far as I have been able to learn, there is none such. I am sure that it would never be accepted by any of the man-published scientific journals, and probably would lead to a mild furor if it were” (Box 1, Folder 13).

This letter was written on the occasion of the Women’s Centennial Congress, organized by Catt to commemorate one hundred years of progress in women’s rights. Catt had written to Sloss to announce that Sloss had been selected as one of 100 women honored for success in various fields. Sloss wrote back to convey “the great honor” she felt of being recognized and to express her regret at not being able to attend. “I know of nothing from which I would derive more benefit and pleasure,” she wrote. “However, since it is impossible to be with you, I can only assure you that I shall be thinking of your group, officers and delegates, frequently and earnestly next week, and wishing for you the most successful and inspirational meeting possible” (Box 1, Folder 13).

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss's selection to the "list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago" for the Woman's Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss’s selection to the “list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago” for the Woman’s Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Catt wasn’t the only prominent woman of her time to recognize Sloss’s early achievement. Four years later, in 1944, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited Sloss to a luncheon at the White House on October 6.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944. Box 2, Folder 4.

Academic Career

After graduating with her veterinary medical degree, Sloss began teaching at Iowa State as an instructor in 1941. In 1943, she was granted tenure as an Assistant Professor, but here she seemed to reach a glass ceiling. It took fifteen years for her to be promoted to Associate Professor in 1958, and finally to full Professor in 1965. When she retired in 1972, she was awarded the status of Professor Emeritus. Although recognition came slowly, she made important contributions to the department. Former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine Norman F. Cheville wrote, ” As a new faculty person in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Margaret Sloss moved the established discipline of pathology into a newly developing area of clinical pathology, the study of blood, urine and other body fluids to aid the diagnosis of disease. Before her time, clinical pathology had not been used nor taught in the curriculum” (letter dated March 1, 2002, box 1, folder 17).

WVMApamphlet_1-9_resized

Veterinary Medicine as a Professional Career for Women,” published by the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association, 1965. Box 1, Folder 9.

Sloss promoted the status of women in veterinary medicine throughout her career. She helped establish the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association in 1947, and served as its president from 1950-1952.  She was also active in several other professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Delta Epsilon and Phi Zeta.

Sloss retired from ISU in 1972 at the age of 70. To mark the occasion, Professor F.K. Ramsey, head of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, organized a celebration in her honor, which he entitled “This Is Your Life.” He invited family and friends of Sloss to contribute a letter as well as a monetary gift to present to Sloss. So many letters and donations came in that the letters fill up four bound volumes, and she received a check for $2,071.00! (Considering inflation, that amount would come to over $11,000 today.) This is truly a testament to her influence and popularity as a professor, colleague, mentor, and friend. One letter-writer describes her as one “who always wore a radiant smile and greeted me in the corridors with a pleasing twinkle in her eyes.” Another noted her “patience, sincerity, joviality and always a good humor.” Still another writes, “I just wanted to write this letter to one of the truly nicest persons that I once had the pleasure of being associated with” (Box 5, Folders 1-3).

Sloss has received many recognitions from Iowa State University and in Iowa; only a few are noted here. During her lifetime, she was awarded the Iowa State Faculty Citation in 1959 and the Stange Award for Meritorious Service in 1974. After her death in 1979, the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center on ISU campus was named in her honor in 1981. She was also posthumously inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Stop by Special Collections to check out more from the Margaret W. (Margaret Wragg) Sloss Papers!


“House Babies” at Iowa State

"Jack" (RS 12/5/4, 1925-1936, box 7)

“Jack” (RS 12/5/4, 1925-1936, box 7)

Imagine that it’s your last year in college. Before you can graduate you have to move in with 8 or so roommates (plus a resident advisor) to a single family house on campus. You will have to keep the house spotless, host a dinner or birthday party, decorate, manage accounts, schedule leisure time, continue with your other classes, and take care of an actual baby for six weeks. You and your new roommates will take turn being cook, accountant, hostess, manager, and “child director,” and you have to do it all for a grade! For over thirty years (1924-1958) female Iowa State students and “borrowed” children formed temporary families in the Home Management houses. By the time the program was over, Iowa State students had participated in raising 257 children.

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CyPix: Women’s military drill in front of Old Main

When Iowa State College (University) first opened its doors in 1869, military training was mandatory for all male students, based on the terms of the Morrill Act. Iowa was the first state in the country to accept the terms of the Morrill Act, under which the state would receive land to sell to raise funds for the establishment of a college of “agriculture and mechanic arts.” These schools included compulsory military training–but not for women.

Women's military drill at Old Main ca 1894

Group of women participating in military drill outside of Old Main, circa 1894.

Carrie Chapman Catt was an early ISC student, attending from 1877 to 1880, who later became a prominent women’s suffragist and political activist. She was instrumental in the movement to establish women’s military drill on campus. Women’s voluntary drill began in 1879 and continued until 1897, and the women even joined the men as part of the Iowa delegation to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

More information about early military training can be found in the Department of Military Science Subject files (RS 13/16/1). See the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers (RS 21/7/3) and related items in the Digital Collections for more on this early Iowa suffragist.


Women’s History Month: New Addition to the Woman Suffrage Collection!

The department recently received a letter, pictured below, that has now been placed in the Woman Suffrage Collection, MS 471.

saffordltr001

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

This letter, written on October 14, 1912, was addressed to Mrs. E. N. Mann of Boone, from Mary Safford, President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. Rev. Safford wrote urging Mrs. Mann to accept a position on the Board of Directors of which she was elected after having left an unnamed convention. Rev. Safford wrote:

In any event, I wish to congratulate you on the honor conferred, tho [sic] you may think yourself more in need of sympathy. That is understood, at all times, on my part.

In her effort to persuade Mrs. Mann to take the position, Rev. Safford added the following:

I urge all this for the sake of our common cause, and wish to add my personal urgent request that you do not permit anything to cause you to refuse to serve.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know how this turned out, and what convention this was. The following remark makes me even more curious (the words in brackets are educated guesses – the letter is a bit worm-eaten):

I greatly admired your [action] in [the] Convention and wish to express my personal appreciation of your womanhood as manifest by your frank statement.

What was this “frank statement?” What exactly went on at this convention? Perhaps someday we’ll know more about all of this, but in the meantime we have many other women’s rights-related collections that are worth viewing. These include Iowa State University. University Committee on Women Records,  the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, and the collections within the Archives of Women in Science and Engineering. Also see the Women’s Collections subject guide. If you’re at all curious about the history of women’s rights in Iowa, come in and read the rest of the letter and have a look at any of these great collections!


Women’s History Month: Mary Newbury Adams letters

In celebration of Women’s History Month, today we’re highlighting a newly digitized collection of correspondence: a selection of Mary Newbury Adams letters from the Adams Family Papers found on our Digital Collections website.

Portrait of Mary Newbury Adams

Mary Newbury Adams.

Mary Newbury Adams was born in Peru, Indiana, in 1837 to Samuel and Mary Ann (Sergeant) Newbury. Her father strongly believed that both men and women should be educated, and so she attended Mrs. Willard’s Female Seminary in Troy, New York, where she graduated in 1857. A few months later, she married Austin Adams, a young lawyer who had graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard. They moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where he eventually became a judge and was later elected to the Iowa Supreme Court and became chief justice there. The Adams had four children, Annabel (b. 1858), Eugene (b. 1861), Herbert (b. 1863), and Cecilia (b. 1865).

In an early letter, dated February 21, 1857, Mary writes from school to her fiancé Austin (“My dear one”). She suggests that his cousin might come to call on her while she is spending a Sunday with her aunt in Lansingburgh, New York, the following month. “I should be happy to see him,” she writes, adding with maidenly modesty that disappears in later letters, “although I should feel rather embarrassed I fear.”

Mary Newbury Adams was an avid student of science, history, philosophy, and poetry. In a letter to her sister Frances, she explains that she has been studying earlier that day about the formation of minerals. “I have little time to go to the library now,” she writes, “but I manage to keep one or two subjects on hand to think about – just to hang my thoughts on.” She adds, “I never was so driven in household matters” (November 9, 1869).

She established the Conversational Club of Dubuque in 1868 to promote access to education and ideas among women. Club meetings were held in the homes of members, and the topics discussed included education, local progress, political science and economy, mental and moral philosophy, the fine arts, political revolutions, belles lettres, ecclesiastical history, natural philosophy, and physical sciences.

Reflecting on the importance of the clubs to women’s lives, she writes to her sister, “Our literary clubs are getting along finely and their beneficial effects are already evident in society. When women have clubs for study then they will not be driven for amusement to make society a business. Any amusement made an occupation becomes dissipation. All dissipation ends in disease. No wonder our American women are so weak” (Letter to Frances Newbury Bagley, March 18, 1869).

In another letter, however, she attributes women’s weakness to a very different cause: the stress that comes from a very active life. Many women today can relate to Mary’s frustrations!

“I am not very well and then am driven by outside work – our literary club’s preparation for the opening of the Institute of Sciences and Arts. One doesn’t want to go and examine minerals when they know nothing of them[,] nor rocks when one can’t tell the difference between stratified and igneous rocks. Then the papers pile in and one keeps reading and taking notes & making scrapbooks so not to lose it before it is gone[.] Then the sewing, calls, church and one’s own body to care for. It’s no wonder American women are weak. They try to live ten lives in one and vote besides.” (Letter to Frances Newbury Bagley, April 26, 1868)

In 1866, Mrs. Adams became interested in women’s suffrage and did much to promote it through writing and speaking. She was a member of the Association for Advancement of Women, the American Historical Association, vice chairperson of Women’s Branch of the World’s Congress Auxiliary of the Colombian Exposition, and numerous literary societies. She was a founding member of the Northern Iowa Woman Suffrage Association.

Mary Newbury Adams, surrounded by seven grandchildren.

Mary Newbury Adams with grandchildren, circa 1898. Caption reads: [top row] Emily Goan, Adelaide Goan, Olive Adams, [bottom row] Percival Goan, Adele Adams (on lap), Harlow Adams.

She wrote a letter home to her children on October 27, 1898, from the National Council of Women meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, describing her busy schedule, meeting with many people, old friends and new. She writes of her “level headed practical friend by my side Maria P. Peck.” Peck was another prominent Iowa woman from Davenport and founder of the Davenport Women’s Club (see entry: “PECK, Maria Purdy,” Woman’s Who’s Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. ed. by John William Leonard. New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. pp. 633).

The Mary Adams letters give a peek into the day-to-day concerns of a prominent Iowa suffragist and intellectual during her most active period. Be sure to take a look at the letters in Digital Collections. You can also come in to Special Collections and take a look at the entire Adams Family Papers, MS-10. To see what is included in this collection, take a look at the finding aid.

And to find other important women you can research in Special Collections, check out our Women’s Collections subject guide.

We always look forward to seeing you in Special Collections–online or in person!


Curl up by the fire with a good book: Serendipity Club

For many students, winter break means a welcome vacation from books and reading, but for others, it is a long-awaited opportunity to crack open that new, juicy novel. If you belong in the latter category, and if you are looking for a new book to sink your teeth into, this post is for you!

Today we are taking a look at the Serendipity Club, an organization that was founded in Ames in 1936 by a group of women to promote reading and friendship. The fifteen founding members were the wives of Iowa State College professors and administrators. Among them was Mrs. Vera Friley, wife of the Charles E. Friley, president of the college from 1936-1953.

Serendipity Club members in 1963. Ames Tribune, April 9, 1963.

Serendipity Club members in 1963. Ames Tribune, April 9, 1963.

The name for the club was suggested by Mrs. George Godfrey, who discovered the word coined by Horace Walpole (1717-1797), an English earl and man of letters, when he referred in a letter to a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. Elizabeth Wilkinson, first chairman of the club, writes in the minutes from the meeting:

These princes in their wanderings were always discovering, either by chance or sagacity, desirable things which they did not seek.

Hence, the word has come to mean the art of acquiring something that is both pleasurable and profitable without any seeming conscious effort” (Box 1, Folder 1. Journal of Activities (Minutes), p. 6. April 30, 1936. The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library).

The ladies unanimously voted to adopt the name. They decided that, in order to vary the reading, each member would choose her own book to purchase through the club each year and that the books would be passed around amongst the members. At each monthly meeting, there would be no discussion of the books read; instead, the ladies would present information on the author of their chosen book.

Although the ladies did not review their books, there was no lack of lively discussion. At different times, letters would be read aloud that members had sent back from various exotic vacation spots, like California and Italy, or members would show off their souvenirs, such as the time Mrs. Buchanan brought “a most interesting display of textiles who [sic] had been woven in Egypt and it gave us a very definite idea of the garb worn by the shepherds” (Box 1, Folder 2. Journal of Activities (Minutes), p. 35. November 22, 1949. The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library).

At other times, the discussion would verge on news and scandals of the day, such as when

“Mrs. Buchanan entertained the group with an account of her visit to Father Divine, and his heavens in West Harlem N.Y.–how his obscure theological reasoning confounds his followers; how he manages the financial side of his enterprise and how the advent of one of Father Divine’s “heavens” in Harlem means a moral cleanup of the entire block.

“The description of his Peace Mission[,] a stone house of fifty rooms, his huge Duesenberg sedan, 22 ft in length[,] his numerous important angels, his habit of midnight banqueting and his Pinninah, the only one of his women followers who is permitted to sit beside him, was of interest to all of us” (Box 1, Folder 1. Journal of Activities (Minutes), p. 60. November 26, 1939. The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library).

The meetings always included refreshments and a social hour. Chairman Dorothy Elwood summed up one meeting: “We had a lovely noisy meeting–the kind Serendipity thoroughly enjoys” (Box 1, Folder 2. Journal of Activities (Minutes), p. 12. September 24, 1947. The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library).

Pages from Journal of Activities, showing Gone with the Wind at the top of the list. The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Pages from Journal of Activities, showing Gone with the Wind at the top of the list (left). The Serendipity Club Records, MS 358, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Each year, the members chose their new books from those that had been published in the previous year. It is interesting to see which books have had staying power and are still read today. One of the books chosen during the club’s first year, 1936-1937, was Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling Gone with the Wind (find it in the ISU catalog) which had just been published in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. Here is just a selection of some other well-known books and authors, chosen by Serendipity Club members throughout the years:

Now doesn’t that just make you want to curl up in front of the fire with a good book?

To learn more about the Serendipity Club, check out the finding aid for MS 358, The Serendipity Club Records, or come look at it in Special Collections.


Thanksgiving, Part 2

Since we already have several blog posts related to Thanksgiving items here in the Special Collections Department (available here and here), I had not intended to create a Thanksgiving blog post for this year.  However, I recently received a call from Iowa Public Radio asking me if I would like to speak on the Iowa Public Radio program Talk of Iowa.  I was one of three guests on the program last Wednesday morning, and I spoke about some items in our collections which are related to Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed being a part of the conversation, even though the hour’s program was far too short to share all of the recipes I had put together to speak about!

Did you enjoy last Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal?  Are you all ready to start planning for next year’s Thanksgiving?  If so, this is the post for you!  If not, hopefully you will find some of the recipes below interesting, and perhaps they will inspire you to remember them when planning for the 2013 Thanksgiving meal next fall.  Or you may even find a delightful holiday recipe to add some historical cuisine to your menu (holiday or otherwise)!

Below are some of the recipes I did not have a chance to talk about on last week’s radio program, including links to some recipes you can find online through Digital Collections:

The Suffrage Cook Book, published in 1915, was once owned by Carrie Chapman Catt (Iowa State graduate and suffragist).  The cook book contains a wide variety of recipes, including a nut turkey for Thanksgiving.  As the introduction explains:

“Now that we are entering upon an age of sane living it is important that home makers should be impressed with the fact that good health precedes all that is worth while in life, and that it starts in the kitchen; that the dining room is a greater social factor than the drawing room.”

What better introduction do we need to inspire us to create healthy recipes together in the kitchen?

The section under meats contains a chapter on “Nuts as a Substitute for Meat.”  The introduction to this chapter states that since the “soaring cost” of meat, many had been rationing or eliminating their use of meat.  However, as the chapter notes, nuts “contain more food value to the pound than almost any other food product known” and goes on to explain that peanuts have a significant amount of protein.

Interested in making a Nut Turkey (page 68) instead of the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving?  Below is the recipe from this interesting book – I recommend you take a look at it!  As the note found at the beginning of the cookbook states, the book includes notes and check marks made by Carrie Chapman Catt.  If you are not interested in the Nut Turkey, then peruse the digital version, and perhaps make a favorite of Catt’s instead!

Nut Turkey

One quart sifted bread crumbs

1 pint English walnuts (or any other kind of nuts “will go”)

1 cupful of Peanuts (“simply washed and dried”)

1 level tsp Sage

2 tsp Salt

1 T. Parsley

2 Raw eggs (not beaten)

“sufficient water to bind the mass together”

“Then form them into the shape of a turkey, with pieces of macaroni to form the leg bones.  Brush with a little butter and bake an hour in a slow oven and serve with drawn butter sauce.”

Another interesting cookbook which contains a turkey recipe (and this one for the actual bird!) is Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook.  Mary Welch was the wife of Iowa State’s first president, Adonijah Welch.  Mary Welch had many accomplishments in her own right, including helping start and acting as the first head the Department of Domestic Economy (now better known as Home Economics or Family and Consumer Sciences).  In addition to the recipes, the cookbook also contains explanations and experiments for learning the why of cooking.  For instance, the section on Soups, Meats, Poultry and Game tells the reader to thinly cut a piece of meat and then wash and boil it.  She explains the changes that are taking place to the meat, and why.  The recipes sometimes also contain references to this experiment at the beginning of the chapter in order to provide brief lessons within the recipe itself.

Mary B. Welch

Wondering how March Welch recommends making a turkey?  You can find the recipe online here on page 178-180.

Trying to figure out what to do with your turkey leftovers?  A recipe for turkey soup can be found here on page 154.

Interested in learning more about Mary Welch or Carrie Chapman Catt?  The University Archives also holds the papers of both.  The finding aid for the Mary B. (Mary Beaumont) Welch Papers can be found here, and the finding aid for the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers can be found here.


For Women’s History Month: Barbara Forker, Women’s Physical Education, and Title IX

Dr. Forker (at left) teaching a golf course February 19, 1957 (photograph from the Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10-7-13, box 25, folder 1).

Did you know that the first head of the combined men’s and women’s physical education department (now kinesiology) at Iowa State was a woman, Professor Barbara Ellen Forker?  Dr. Forker was a well respected advocate for women’s physical education throughout her career, and the list of her achievements here at Iowa State and nationally is quite impressive.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX on June 23, 1972.  With Title IX’s 40th anniversary approaching, Dr. Forker instantly sprang to mind as a wonderful faculty member to highlight for this year’s Women’s History Month.

Dr. Forker in 1955 (photograph from University Photograph Collection, 10-7-A, box 782). Wondering what books are on those shelves?  The titles include the expected physical education related books such as Physiology of Muscular Exercise but include others such as Essentials of Reading German, Roget’s Thesaurus, Giant, and The Show Must Go On.

After teaching high school and grade school physical education in her home state of Michigan, Dr. Forker served 22 months in Europe with the American Red Cross during World War II. Dr. Forker began her career at Iowa State College (now University) in 1948, eventually becoming Head of the Women’s Physical Education Department (1958-1974). When the men’s and women’s physical education department were combined to create the Department of Physical Education, Dr. Forker became the first Head (1974-1986). She contributed to the creation, in 1960, of a physical education  major for women here at Iowa State. Dr. Forker was an important part of student groups here on campus, including advisor for NAIADS (synchronized swimming) and “I” Fraternity (honorary for outstanding women athletes). In addition, she taught tennis, golf, swimming, badminton, and bowling.

Dr. Forker (second from left) with other physical education staff, taken around 1950. From left to right: Jane Carswell, Barbara Forker, Virginia Taylor, Germaine Guiot, Harriet Watts, Madge Bowers (photograph from Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10-7-13, box 25, folder 1).

In addition to her achievements listed above, Dr. Forker also worked with the United States Olympics (1975-1984). President Gerald Ford appointed Dr. Forker as a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports (1975-1977). She also was a United States Delegate in the Second Educationists Session at the International Olympic Academy, in Olympia, Greece (1977), member (1980-1984) of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Executive Board and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Education Council, and Chairman (1984) of the United States Olympic Committee Symposium at the Pre-Olympic Scientific Congress in Eugene, Oregon.

Passed on June 23, 1972, Title IX requires (with a few exceptions) gender equity in education programs and activities receiving federal funding (the contents of the law can be found here). Not surprisingly, Forker was concerned about the implementation of Title IX here at Iowa State.  Her papers (Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10-7-13) contain a written piece detailing reactions she received from a variety of Iowa State administrators during the early years of Title IX. In her words, she sought to receive these reactions “Because I have been frustrated on many occasions to get the show on the road at my university, I decided this would be a good opportunity to find out just exactly what selected members of the administration think has happened as a result of the first printing of Title IX and how do they foresee the future…”  This document is now available online.

In addition, we recently made available a couple speeches by Dr. Forker:  “The Government and Amateur Sports” and “Amateur Sports and the Federal Government”. Very similar in content, these speeches describe the establishment, background, and issues to be addressed by the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports (Dr. Forker was one of the 14 members appointed by the President to be on this commission).

In 1997, Iowa State University renamed the Physical Education for Women (PEW) Building the Barbara E. Forker Building in her honor. Forker is pictured above at the dedication.

As is the case with almost all of our collections, this blog post can only give you a very brief window into the life and work of Barbara Forker. Many of the other documents within the collection, in addition to those described above, will provide a glimpse into both the difficulties and accomplishments of a leader in women’s physical education during the 20th century. If you would like to learn more, please take a look at the finding aid/collection description for the Barbara Ellen Forker Papers. Interested in taking a look at some of the contents of the collection?   Then please come on up to the 4th floor of Parks Library and visit the Special Collections Department (open M-F, 9-4)!

Interested in learning more about women’s history here at Iowa State?  A selection of our collections are listed in our Women’s Collections Subject Guide. We also have a few archival materials available online through Scribd (such as the War Training for Women at Iowa State College) and Digital Collections. In addition, we contributed images of Carrie Chapman Catt’s suffrage buttons (the finding aid to her papers, RS 21/7/3, is located here) to the Women’s Suffrage in Iowa Digital Collection.


How Can You Celebrate Both International Women’s Day and National Agriculture Day? Come On Over to the Special Collections Department!

Today is both International Women’s Day and National Agriculture Day!  Since two of our main collecting areas are related to both agriculture and women, we just had to write up a quick post.  Interested in taking a look at our agricultural collections?  Then take a look at our Agricultural Collections Guide.  Interested in looking at our collections related to women?  We have a selection of these collections listed here, including links to other guides related to women.  This includes a link to the listing of our Archives of Women In Science and Engineering.

Wondering how to celebrate National Agriculture Day (March 8, 2012) or National Ag Week (March 4-10, 2012)?  If you’re interested in finding out more about the history of the day and how it was celebrated in the past, the Special Collections Department holds the National Agriculture Day Records, which contains records documenting the beginning of the celebration through the early 1980s.  More on this collection can be found in an earlier blog post.

Governor Anderson signing the 1974 proclamation for Minnesota Agriculture Day (photograph can be found in MS-66, Box 1, Folder 17).  Other items found in this folder include clippings, newsletters and photographs related to the 1973-1974 Agriculture Day activities of the North Central Chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).

In addition to National Agriculture Day, today is also International Women’s Day.  Women played vital roles in the history of agriculture, and the Special Collections Department has collections documenting this history.  This includes family collections, such as the Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers which contains diaries, 4-H record books and other items documenting the women and their contributions to the family’s century farm (an earlier blog post on this collection can be found here).  The Iva Verona Horton Papers includes Iva’s diary entries briefly noting activities on her family’s farm.  Interested other collections?  A selection of our manuscript collections related to women involved in agriculture can be found here.

The Iowa Master Farm Homemaker’s Guild Records contains a variety of records including scrapbooks documenting the activities of the women in this organization.  The Guild gives out the Master Farm Homemaker Award, which is meant to recognize the contribution that farm women make to the nation as homemakers and as voluntary community leaders. Pictured above is a scrapbook from the collections.  The page to the left contains clippings about Vera Shivvers, who was named Iowa Master Farm Homemaker in 1953.  She was the third woman elected to the Iowa Senate (1963).  The scrapbooks include clippings, programs, obituaries, correspondence and other materials about the Guild and the women awarded the Master Farm Homemaker Award (arranged by the year the women received the award).


Iowa’s Own Mushroom Expert: Lois Tiffany

Last week, some of you may have listened to Terry Gross interview botanist Nicholas Money on Fresh Air about his research of molds, mushrooms and other fungi. Did you know that Iowa State’s own Professor Lois Tiffany was highly regarded as an expert in mushrooms and other fungi here in Iowa?  The papers of Iowa native and long-time Iowa State University professor Lois Hattery Tiffany were processed last year, and the finding aid for the L. H. (Lois Hattery) Tiffany Papers is available online.

Lois Tiffany

Fondly called “The Mushroom Lady,” Tiffany specialized in mycology (the study of fungi) and taught botany at Iowa State for over fifty years beginning in 1950. Her research included studies of fungal diseases of native prairie plants in Iowa, a 10-year survey of Iowa’s morels, and a study of the fungus flora of Big Bend National Park in Texas. She also participated in the Midwestern mushroom aflatoxin studies of both corn and soybeans (aflatoxins are toxic substances produced by a certain kind of mold, and are most often found on certain types of grains). Her continuing commitment to research led to the naming of a recently discovered Iowa truffle in her honor. The fungus, named Mattirolomyces tiffanyae, was discovered in 1998 in several locations of Story County’s oak woods.

Tiffany also made significant advancement for a woman in the sciences, despite the significant challenges of being a female science professor during the early years of her career. She was the first woman president of the Iowa Academy of Science, the first woman president of the Osborn Club, and the first woman scientist in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be awarded the title of Distinguished Professor.

Tiffany dedicated her professional life to helping students. She advised hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students and was the long-time advisor of the Botany Club, taking students on field trips all over the country with her colleague George Knaphus. Tiffany also was a supporter of the Girl Scouts, and helped to found and advise a collegiate chapter at Iowa State. Her dedication to her students is evident in the number of her students who went on to careers in the botany field.

Louis Tiffany’s specimen satchel which she used to carry mushrooms and other specimens she collected during her research and other botany trips.

The collection (1940-2010) contains Tiffany’s professional papers. Starting with her own course notes and dissertation research, the collection spans her entire professional career. The collection contains field notes, conference proceedings, academic writings, departmental committee minutes, and many notes and photographs used in her teaching career. Dr. Tiffany was known for her work as advisor to the Botany Club, and included in the collection are photographs and diaries from over thirty years of annual Botany Club field trips all over the country. The papers also include notes from Tiffany’s many professional organizations, her many summers teaching at the Lakeside Laboratory, her participation in Campus Girl Scouts, and records from the Ten Year Morel Study conducted with George Knaphus.

Pictured above is Tiffany at the 2001 Adult Nature Weekend at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory (a field station for Iowa’s state universities located on the west shore of West Okoboji Lake in northwest Iowa).  Tiffany is speaking on Ocheyedan Mound, located about 25 miles northwest of the Lakeside Laboratory.  (photograph can be found in box 20, folder 23)

For more information on the Lois Hattery Tiffany Papers, please see the online finding aid:  http://archives.lib.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/finding-aids-RS/13-05-20.pdf.  (If you would like to look at any of the material in the Tiffany Papers, please contact our department in advance.  The materials are stored offsite, and we will need a few days’ advance notice to bring them to our Reading Room.)