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Diaries, Memoirs & Oral Histories: An Iowa Women's Archives' Autobiographical Resource Guide: Manuscript Memoirs

From the Benita Allen papers

"Memoirs of Pre-Revolution Russia" (1981).

From the June Lundy Boyd papers

"Memoirs of a Middle Child" (2002).

From the Charla Ann "Toot" Boyle papers

"Toot's Eye View" (undated).

From the Rosa Knutson Gangestad papers

"History of the Helge Knutson Family" (undated).

From the Nellie Gerbers papers

"They Called her Ned" (1994).

From the Margaret Alton Herr papers

"My Journey Through Life" (2001).

From the Judy Heron Hoit papers

"My World has Access Now" 

From the Alice McMurry papers

"Eight Decades on the Prairie" (1993).

From the Elena Skrjabina papers

"Leningrader Tagebuch" ("After Leningrad") (1988).

From the Rosemary Tharp papers


"The Spring of Our Lives" (1994).

From the Martina Vallejo papers

"La Obra de Una Mama" (1958).

The Memoir of...

Allen, Benita (1911-1983). “Memoirs of Pre-Revolution Russia,” 1981, 130 pp. A Russian immigrant recalls her Russian childhood, World War I, and the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

Anderson, Ruth Bluford (1921- ). From Mother’s Aid to University Professor, 1985, 136pp. The biography of an African American social worker and teacher from Oklahoma who moved to Sioux City, Iowa, with her family in 1928.

Auer, Amy Sophia (1900- ). “Memoirs,” 1993, 141pp. The daughter of Norwegian immigrants who settled in Kensett, Iowa, in the 1880s.

Autobiographical Sketches of Rural Farm Women. Brief reminiscences of twelve Iowa farm women.

Block, Marjorie Jean (1920- ). “My Story,” 1993, 9 pp. Block describes growing up as an identical twin in Spring Valley, Minnesota, and her married life on a farm near Iowa City. “Nursing Experiences, 1942-1998,”  1998, 5pp.

Blom, Nancy (1907- ). “My Story,” 1984, 129pp. The autobiography of a Dutch immigrant details childhood in the Netherlands and farm town life in western Iowa in the early twentieth century. [Shelved in printed works collection, 99-372]

Boyd, June Lundy (1922- ). “Memoirs of a Middle Child,” 2002, 67pp. Descriptions of growing up in Nebraska and rural Iowa, the Sidney rodeo, teaching career, World War II, and marriage.

Boyle, Charla Ann ”Toot”. “Toot’s Eye View,” undated, 32pp. Boyle writes about her mother, Winifred Duffy, born in 1878 in Wilbern, Kansas, who, in 1921, moved to Fort Madison, Iowa, where she raised a family and ran a “confectionary” store.

Braverman, Rosalie Richman (1910- ). “Youthful Journeys in Poland and Germany,” 1999, 79pp.

Brindle, Effie Hadley (1876- ). “Memoirs: Effie ‘Hadley’ Brindle,” 1972, 64pp. Family history and memories of farming with her husband, John Brindle in Hardin County, Iowa, at the turn of the century.  John Brindle, served in the Iowa House of Representatives in 1941 and 1943.

Brinton, Ada Mae Brown (1891-1988). “Sunshine and Rain in Iowa: Reminiscing through 86 years,” 1977, 70pp. A farm woman who lived near Stuart, Iowa, describes her childhood and married life on a farm during the turn of the century.

Buckley, Irene Coleman (1904-2006). “A Handful of Rain: The Life of Irene Buckley,” 1998, 63pp. The author reflects on her life as a teacher, wife, mother, librarian, and volunteer.

Cano Family. “Leno and Maria, a Success Story,” 1985, pp. A history of the Cano family and the emigration of Magdaleno and María Cano to the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1920s compiled by Vincent Cano.

Cech, Annette Marie (1922- ). “Scenes of My Childhood,” 1993, 39pp. Vignettes of growing up in Chicago, and the influence of the author’s father and grandparents. “Recollections of Nobelfest, 1989,” undated, 15pp. A look back at the year Annette Cech’s son, Professor Thomas R. Cech, received the Nobel prize jointly with Professor Sidney Altman “for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA.”

Christensen, Esther Downs (1895-1987). “Our Heritage,” 1987, 66pp. Christensen describes her childhood and married life as a farm woman near Keokuk, Iowa, and her mother’s childhood. It includes an autobiographical statement by her father about his Civil War experience.

Corothers, Margaret Strang (1871-19xx). “Family History of the McDowall-Wilson, Strang-McDowall, and Corothers-Strang Families,” 1934, 68pp.

Cox, Louise. “One Facet of a Mother’s Life by One of Her Children,” 1973, 2pp. Cox writes about her mother, Ida Louise Grilet, who was born in Exira, Iowa, in 1878.

Cruikshank, Esther Flower (1841-1929). “The Covered Wagon: a reminiscence of the migration of the Flower family to Iowa from their Vermont home in 1857,” 1927, 26pp.

Daum, Charlotte Christine. “Railroad Widow,” 1936, 13pp. The pioneering experiences of Charlotte Daum, the wife of a railroad section hand.  Daum was the mother-in-law of Iowa state legislator Minnette Doderer.

Dix, Dorothy Unmack (1908-1997). “My Autobiography,” 1982, 13pp.

Edgar, Louis (1922- ). “The Life of Lois Eleanor Edgar,” undated. Memories of growing up poor on an 80-acre farm near Clarinda, Iowa.

Elliott, Selma Leckness (1902-1990). “Glimpses of Selma Leckness Elliott, an Autobiography,” second edition, 2002,116 pp. Elliot describes her childhood in Hardin County, Iowa, and life in Hayfield, Minnesota, during the Depression.

Emmert, Martha Atkins (1923- ). Common Clay, 1997, 344pp. This memoir depicts the life of a Muscatine farm girl who became a missionary in Africa where she worked with her husband for thirty-five years.

Engstrom, Doris. “There is a Time…,” 1985. Engstrom describes how her family left their farm south of Sioux City, Iowa, to become missionaries in Nigeria.

Ettleman, Margaret Bobbitt (1877-1984). “Memoirs of Margaret Bobbit Ettleman,” 1951, 40pp. Vignettes of nineteenth-century Iowa include homesteading near Sidney, Iowa, teaching in a one-room country school, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Farnham, Almira Ames (1800-1896). “Grandmother Farnham’s 96 Years of the Nineteenth Century,” Leslie Dunn, undated,  4pp. A glimpse into the life of a pioneer woman from New England who settled near Morley, Iowa, in 1859.

Fatherson, Editha Phillips (1835-1925). “Pioneer Pieces: Recollections of Early Trails and Early Days in Southeastern Iowa,” 1915, 20pp. Fatherson’s memories of Van Buren County, Iowa, where her family settled in 1839, include descriptions of Indian trails, the “border war” with Missouri, the Civil War, and the arrival and expulsion of the Mormons.

Ferns, Grace (1909-2005). “One-Room Rural School: Memories and Anecdotes,” 4pp, undated. The story of a country schoolteacher who became the Rural School Supervisor for Johnson County, Iowa, in 1950.

Fuller, Ruth Beard (1907-2008). “Memories of a Long Life,” 2001, 117pp. Fuller describes her childhood in Mt. Ayr, Iowa, and her married life in Centerville where she owned and operated a small farm implement factory with her husband. She reflects on her political involvement and on realizing her dream of flying when she became a pilot in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

Gangestad, Rosa Knutson (1867-1943). The reminiscences of Gangestad give insight into the nineteenth century life of a Norwegian family in Humboldt County, Iowa.

Gebers, Nellie. “They Called her Ned,” ed. Don Gebers, 1994. Artist from Ira, Iowa, who studied with Grant Wood.

Giddings, Marie H. (1908- ). “History of the Harris Family, 1898 to approximately 1930,” 1980, 135 pp. Detailed account of early twentieth-century family, farm, and rural community life in Kossuth County, Iowa.

Gilmore, Blanche Basye (1873-1970). “Recollections,” 1970, 53pp. This memoir describes the author’s life in Iowa City after her husband, Eugene Gilmore, was appointed President of the University of Iowa in 1934.

Girard, Madge (1904-2000). “Memories of Madge Clark Girard,” 1972-1991, 155pp. In this handwritten account, a Blackhawk County farm woman describes growing up in rural Iowa.

Glick, Mary Bell (ca. 1907- ). “Adolph Gfeller Family: A Pictorial History of a Pioneer German Swiss Farm Family in Kansas,” 1978, 36pp. Glick writes about her grandparents and her father who was a blacksmith. “Our 64 Years: 1932-1996,” 101pp. Glick describes married life in Chicago, Nebraska, New England, and Iowa City.

Grow, Esther Mae Christensen (1891-1993). “Esther Mae Christensen Grow’s Writings,” 1993, 38pp. Reflections on growing up in western Iowa and Nebraska include the author’s experiences of student life in country school, college, and as a teacher.

Hadley, Zelinda Griffith (1841-1937). Zelinda (Griffith) Hadley Story, 1933, 9pp. Hadley describes family life in Harveysburg, Ohio, including the year her family survived smallpox, ca 1843, and the 1852 move to Iowa, where they purchased a farm in Warren County.

Hagen, Mary Doebel (1922- ). Untitled memoir, undated, 52pp. Hagen reflects on her childhood on a north Iowa farm.

Hanson, Gina Josephine (1886-1989). Jennie: Memoirs, ed. Barbara Hanson Bulman,1996, 339pp. The memoirs of Jennie Hanson, who was born in Webster County, Iowa, to a family of Norwegian ancestry. The Knut J. Hanson Heritage: “This I Remember,” compiled by Gina “Jennie” Hanson, original, 1958, revised, 1981, 252pp. The Johannes K. Hanson Heritage, Gina (Jennie) Hanson, 1981, 231pp. The John Hanson Heritage, Something More: The History of Norwegian Immigrant Families that Came to Iowa, Barbara Hanson Bullman and Robert L. Lillestrand, 1982.

Herr, Margaret Alton (1917- ). My Journey Through Life, ca. 2001, 209 pp. Herr tells of growing up in Iowa City, the Depression, marriage, World War II, and life after her divorce in 1986.

Hoit, Judy Heron (1945- ). My World Has Access Now, 1992, 52pp. Raised on a farm south of Coon Rapids, Iowa, Hoit writes about her life after contracting polio in 1949, and her later advocacy for disability access and awareness.

Houghton, Dorothy Deemer (ca.1890-19xx). Reflections, 1968, 84pp. Houghton gives insight into growing up as the daughter of a judge in Red Oak, Iowa, and her later travels abroad as the president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Hull, Judith Yarger (1936- ). “Discovering My World, 1936-1958,” 2001, 192pp. Hull provides glimpses into growing up in a variety of Iowa towns including Greenfield, Iowa Falls, Massena, Osage, and Waverly, and describes her college years at Iowa State University.

Jefferson, Jacquelyn Fishbaugh (1930-  ). “The Nearness of Youth:  A Collection of Childhood Memories,” 2003, 77 pp. Vignettes of growing up on a farm near Shenandoah, Iowa, provide insight into school, childhood games, and high school jobs.

Johnson, Elaine Rexroat. Sunshine and Shadows – Three childhoods: Father, Mother and Daughter, 1902-1946, 2010, 179pp. A series of vignettes provides insight into family life in Iowa and Kentucky from the turn of the twentieth century to the end of World War II.

Kaiser, Elsie Baker. “Things I Remember,” 1980, poems. Reminiscences through poetry of an Iowa farm woman and artist from Blackhawk County.

Karbula, Marie Hay (1936- ). Footpaths of My Life, A Memoir, 2007, 93pp. Vignettes about her parents, her childhood on a farm near Otho, Iowa, and her two brothers who served in the Second World War.

Knopp, Lisa (1956- ). Flight Dreams: A Life in the Midwestern Landscape,1998, 286pp. Knopp was raised in a working-class family in Burlington, Iowa, and pursued a career as a writer, receiving her PhD from the University of Iowa.

Koppenhaver, Della Tenley (1904- ). “On the Farm in the 1920s,” 1958, 9pp. “This is How I Remember Alice on her 73rd Birthday, February 15, 1981,” 1981, 7pp. Brief reflections of an Iowa farm woman describe growing up on farms in eastern Iowa.

Lage, Gladys Moeller (1912- ). “I Remember,” 1992, 61pp. Lage’s descriptions of early twentieth century farm life in Scott County, Iowa, include music, holidays, chores, and attending one-room country school.

Lynch, Elizabeth (1908- ). “A Trunk and its Chips,” 1991, 166pp. The memoir of a Dubuque County farm woman of Irish descent who became a rural schoolteacher and taught special education.

Lutz, Olga Cornelius (1909- ). “Thanks Lord! Stories from my Life,” ca. 1997, 52pp. Lutz, the daughter of German immigrants, looks back at family life in Jackson County, Iowa.

McCown Family. “The Roads of History: A Chronicle of My Life,” by Robert McCown, ca. 2005, 49pp. The author of this family history describes growing up in Sioux County, Iowa, where his father owned a hardware store.

McMurry, Alice (1908- ). “Through the Years,” ca. 1989, 60pp. “Eight Decades on the Prairie,” undated, 95pp. Vignettes of life in Promise City and Sioux Rapids, Iowa.

Merritt, Gretchen Kuever (1915- 2005). “Gretchen Merritt, 1915-2005: A Remembrance,” compiled by Bruce Merritt, 2005, 93pp. The life of Gretchen Merritt, a graduate of the State University of Iowa in 1938, who married the editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Iowan, in 1937, and raised two sons.

Messenger, Ruth Perkins (1899-2000). “Memories,” ca. 2000, approx. 150pp.

Mirich, Pearl (1910- ). “An Account of Marie Rumble’s Life and Her Family,” 2002. This description of family life includes the homesteading experience of the author’s sister, Marie Rumble, in Wyoming, Colorado, and Washington State.  It was written by Pearl Mirich, when she was 92 years old.

Morris, Esther Hasson (1916- ). “Grandpa’s Legacy: Short Stories of My Life,” undated, 49pp. Morris describes the general store that was owned and operated by her grandparents in College Springs, Iowa, and her childhood after the death of her father in 1922.

Neff, Ortha (1915- ). “Memoirs,” 2005, approx 100pp. Neff writes about farm life, Girl Scouts, World War II, and religion.

Nelson, Jacqueline Person (1929- ). “Childhood Memories,” ca. 2000, 13pp. “Greencastle Airport and how it came into being,” ca. 2000, 5pp. In these two brief reminiscences, Nelson describes growing up during the Depression in Burt, Iowa, and starting a new business, known as Green Castle Aviation, Inc, with her husband, in 1976.

Parsons, Mary Jane (1842-1938). “The Patchwork Quilt: Memoirs of the Pioneer Life of Mary Jane (Mrs. Byron) Parsons (1842-1938) as told to Myrtle Parsons,” 1935, 179 pp. A detailed account of nineteenth-century life in Wisconsin and Iowa including descriptions of homesteading and the impact of the Civil War.

Peterson, Cordelia Maring (1872-19xx). Answering the Call: My Life Story, ca. 1940, 48pp. Born and raised in Chillicothe, Iowa, Peterson writes of how she became a preacher.

Pieper, Dora Ann Walker (1911-1991). “School Day Memories,” and other reminiscences, 1980s, 24pp. Pieper tells of school, family, and the town of Donnan in Fayette County, Iowa, where she was born.

Place, Dorothy J.  (1921- ). “The War Years 1938-1945: the Story of how World War II Shaped my Life” 1993, 70pp. An account of teaching and living on military bases during WWII, based on Place’s diary. “Dorothy’s Writings,” 2000, 46pp. Twenty-six brief reminiscences on a wide range of topics draw on her experiences in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

Rigney, Viola Holthaus (1913- ). “Tall Corn Tales: Recollections of an Iowa Farm Girl, 1912-1939,” 2005, 138pp. The memoir includes descriptions of her German immigrant grandparents who settled in Colesburg, Iowa, in 1869, and her own experiences of country school, farm chores, and the seasonal aspects of family and farm life.

Rosik, Miriam Newsom (1896- ). “My Life Story,” 1981, 59pp. The story of the life of Miriam Newsom Rosik as told to her daughter, Shirley Rosik, details Newsom’s childhood on a 77-acre farm in Kentucky, and her move to Somers, Iowa, in 1914. “Memories of Mother: Miriam Newsom Rosik,” 1981, by Helene Rosik Tracy.

Ruff, Henrietta. “Remembering 35 Years of Teaching,” 1996, 7pp. A description of teaching high school in the Amana Colonies from 1941 to 1974. “I Remember, I Remember,” 1985, 10pp. Memories of the Amana High School as a student, teacher, and volunteer from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Scanlan, Winnifred Hiatt (1909-1997). “Once Upon a Long Ago,” 1996, 122pp. Scanlon describes growing up in Stockport, Iowa, where her father owned a drugstore.

Schallau, Elsie Boddacker (1913-1997). “My Life in the 20th Century,” 1998, 58pp. Schallau reflects on farming and family life in two Iowa counties–Iowa and Benton.

Scheetz, Helen (1921- ). “Beside the Still Waters,” 1988, 54pp. The memoir of a Johnson County housewife and secretary who describes growing up in DeSoto, Iowa, during the Depression.

Schumacher, Florence Krogman (1919- ). “My Iowa Farm Memories,” 2000, approx. 150pp. Vignettes of growing up on the “Sunnyside Stock Farm” in Plymouth County, Iowa, include descriptions of animals, farm machinery, and barn dances.

Schutte, Lois McIntyre (1928- ). Hearts, 1991, 236pp; Times Change,1993, 106pp.

Skramstad, Anna Margaret (1921-2001). Untitled memoir, undated, 20pp. Skramstad reflects on her childhood and education in North Dakota.

Smith, Laura Gibson (ca.1890-ca.1973). “Almost Pioneers,” 1983, 179pp. Gibson recounts her 1913 to 1916 homesteading experience in Wyoming.

Smith, Marcella Henley (1909- ). Confetti, 1999, 154pp. The author reflects on her childhood on a Monroe County, Iowa, farm, and her family’s move to the town of Albia.

Sprout, Edith (1895-1979). “Memories,” 1978, 27 pp. Reminiscences and photographs of Edith Sprout’s childhood home near Kingsley, Iowa.

Teeple, Velma Skott (1913- ). “Buckhorn, a Memoir,” 2001, 70pp. Teeple writes of growing up in the rural community of Buckhorn, Iowa, farm chores, butter and cheese making, blizzards, children’s clothing, and the Depression.

Tharp, Rosemary Fleming (1921-1994). “The Spring of Our Lives: the War years,” 1992, 32pp; untitled memoir, 1992, 44pp. The first memoir describes Tharp’s experience as a WAVE during World War II; the second describes her childhood and family life in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where her father was a rural mail carrier.

Thornhill, Esther (ca. 1915- ). “My Memories,” 1986, 31pp. The author reflects on growing up near Mapleton, Iowa, raising her family, and how she managed when her husband was in the military during World War II.

Trimble Family (1883-1999). “My Life Story,” and “Memories of Mom,” by Marie Trimble Jeffers, 1998 and 1999, 8pp. “Stories told by Gladys,” 1989, 5pp. Two sisters, Gladys Trimble Leith and Marie Trimble Jeffers, reminisce about their childhood on a farm in western Iowa.

Vallejo, Martina Morado. “The Labor of a Mother,” 1951, pp. Reminiscence/diary translated into English and transcribed by her daughter, Florence Vallejo Terronez. Morado reflects on her migration from Mexico to Kansas with her mother in 1914 and her later experiences in the Midwest.

Van Haaften, Mabel Korver (1902- ). Untitled reminiscence, 1932-1990s. 27pp. A farm woman from the Pella, Iowa, area recalls her childhood.

Van Horn, Ernella (1932- ). Untitled reminiscence, 2001, 3pp. Recollection of her family’s participation in early women’s basketball in Iowa.

Van Kley, Jeanne (1915- ). “A Family Together,”1987. 100pp. A memoir of adolescence, courtship, marriage, and raising a family through and after the Depression on a farm in northwest Iowa.

Visser, Virginia Schuyler (1922- ). “Through the Years, 1940-1945,” 2003, 289pp. The daughter of a pharmacist in Danbury, Iowa, describes her training to become a nurse and her experience as an officer in the U. S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II.

Wessel, Doris (1924 – ). “My Life as an Iowa Farm Woman,” 3pp. Wessel recalls her childhood on a small farm near Maquoketa, Iowa.

Winchell, Clara Woodmansee (1854- ). “Stories of my Childhood,” undated, 101 pp. This glimpse into the life of a family that settled in Amity, Iowa, in 1857, describes setting up house, farming, the death of a younger sister, and abolitionist acitvities in Iowa during the Civil War.

Wicker, Maxine. “My Life in the Midwest,” undated, 2pp. A reminiscence of life near Sioux City, Iowa, during World War II and the author’s subsequent teaching career.

Wolfe, Zelda Babcock (1901-1995). “Memoirs of Zelda Babcock Wolfe,” undated. 50pp. A Riceville, Iowa, mother, homemaker, and teacher recalls growing up on a farm in north central Iowa, illness, and family events.

Wookey, Faye Elsie Tomlinson (1916-). “Life on a Montgomery County Iowa Farm,” 2000, 30pp. Wookey describes growing up on a farm near Red Oak, Iowa.

Yelland Family. “Yelland Family Memoirs,” 2000, 48pp. A collection of the memoirs of Yelland family members who farmed near Clear Lake, Iowa, starting in the late nineteenth century.

Zimmerman, Doris. An untitled memoir of Zimmerman’s participation in civic activities in northwest Iowa.