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Rural Life in Iowa: An Iowa Women's Archives Resource Guide: Home

A guide of collections held in the Iowa Women's Archives from and about rural life, farming, and agricultural labor, organized alphabetically.

An Introduction

Rural & Agricultural Life in Iowa

This LibGuide brings together the collections in the Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA) that contribute to our understanding of the history of rural life and agriculture in Iowa. The collections featured here are organized alphabetically.  The descriptions for each collection provide a brief overview of the individual or organization. A more detailed account of the collection and its relation to a particular topic, such as the 1980s farm crisis, farm life during the Great Depression, or six-on-six girls' basketball, is included in the finding aid in ArchivesSpace.  

Jessie Field Shambaugh with Goldenrod students in school garden, 1901. Jessie Field Shambaugh papers. Iowa Women's Archives.

The Iowa Women's Archives (IWA) at the University of Iowa Libraries has held the collections of rural and agricultural women and their communities since its founding in 1992. Inspired by IWA co-founder Mary Louise Smith and stewarded by inaugural curator Kären Mason, the IWA started the Rural Women in Iowa project in 1998 dedicated to expanding and preserving its holdings related to rural and agricultural Iowa. Project archivist Doris Malkmus led the initiative until 2002 to expand collections on this topic as she traveled across the state meeting donors, gathering documents, and recording oral histories to preserve this central aspect of Iowa history. 

As a result of this project, the Archives holds approximately 170 collections relating to rural and agricultural women in Iowa that span the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the University of Iowa and Iowa State University joint oral history project "Voices from the Land." The collections shine a light on the lives of farm women, agricultural laborers, radio homemakers, and rural teachers and nurses, including their organizations and advocacy work.

About the Iowa Women's Archives

Mary Louise-Smith and Louise Noun, Des Moines, 1996.


The Louise Noun – Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women’s Archives is named for its founders, who established the archives in 1992 as a repository dedicated to collecting the history of Iowa women. The Archives fulfills its mission by collecting and making available primary sources about the historical experience of Iowa women throughout the state and beyond its borders from the nineteenth century to the present, reflecting the diversity of Iowa women across race, class, ethnicity, and gender identity.  It undertakes a robust outreach program to gather and preserve the history of groups underrepresented in archives. Some of our collection strengths include materials relating to rural and farm women, women in politics, LGBTQ individuals, African American women, Latinas, and Jewish women.

Contact Information for the Iowa Women's Archives

The Iowa Women’s Archives is located on the third floor of the Main Library of the University of Iowa.

Open to Researchers: 

Tuesday-Friday, 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:00

Mailing Address:

Iowa Women’s Archives

100 Main Library

University of Iowa Libraries

Iowa City, Iowa  52242-1420

Campus Mail: 3094 LIB

Phone: (319) 335-5068


Social Media: Facebook

Guide Authorship

The content of the LibGuide was assembled and created by IWA Graduate Assistant Emma Barton-Norris in 2022.