iowa women's archives


Donations often arrive at the Iowa Women’s Archives in cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, or mailing envelopes. Yesterday we received a donation in the trunk pictured above. 

The name painted on the front of the trunk refers to its owner–Myrtle Jane Hinkhouse–who spent decades in China as a medical missionary. Hinkhouse’s story might be familiar to you if you saw this earlier post about the artifacts she brought back from China.

The two final images show Hinkhouse’s hand-written list of the items she would keep in the trunk, and how she planned to arrange them. 


Myrtle Jane Hinkhouse papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

(These papers are being processed, and a finding aid will be available soon.)


Take a look at these artifacts from the Myrtle Jane Hinkhouse collection. The first two photos feature recognizable animals–a pair of boar and a goose. As for the final artifact, we’re not sure what it is… any internet/archives sleuths have an idea about the identity of this creature?

Hinkhouse served as a medical missionary in China from 1916 until March of 1943, when she was taken to an internment camp run by the Japanese military. She was released and returned to the United States in December of that year. The items pictured above are only a small sampling of what she collected during her travels. This collection is currently being processed and the finding aid will be available soon. 


Myrtle Jane Hinkhouse papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Long before the homemade vibes of food podcasts, there were folksy radio homemakers. These early 20th-century women offered recipes, life hacks and insights for the modern farmer’s wife. And just like podcasts today, their shows were often personal, off-the-cuff and straight from the kitchen table.

“We were just women who shared our lives,” says Evelyn Birkby. “We shared what we were doing with our families, what we were cooking, what we were eating.” Birkby began hosting Down a Country Lane out of Shenandoah, Iowa, 65 years ago on KMA radio.

Food Podcasts 1.0: These Radio Pioneers Had It Down 90 Years Ago

Photo: Courtesy of University of Iowa Women’s Archives/Evelyn Birkby Collection


It’s Women’s History Wednesday! This week, with the 4th of July approaching, we’re featuring some eye-catching political memorabilia from the Anna Cochrane Lomas papers.

 Anna Cochrane Lomas’ involvement in Republican party politics was inspired by her father’s time in the Iowa Legislature, and continued long after he left office in 1931. Lomas encouraged members of the public to become involved in politics, and she herself served as a delegate to the State Republican Convention for three decades, from the 1940s to the 1960s. From 1952-1964, Lomas was Iowa Republican National Committeewoman. 


Anna Cochrane Lomas papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Some of the largest collections in the Iowa Women’s Archives contain 200 boxes or more. That’s a lot of history and a lot of shelf space. Our smallest collections may measure an inch or less, and they are housed in the Small Collections Vertical File (SCVF, pictured above).

Like their larger counterparts, these collections contain everything from photographs and diaries to recipe books and memoirs. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I’ll periodically be featuring materials from these collections.  


Back in August we were visited by Linda and Richard Kerber Fund recipient Katie L. Irwin, a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “My research focuses on how rural women’s words and practices both affirm and challenge existing ideas about who rural women were during the 1920s,” Katie says. “There’s a common perception that rural women during the early 20th century weren’t involved in politics because they were always laboring, they were isolated from community centers, or they were just pure[ly] disinterested.”

Through her research, Katie found rural Iowa women to be actively engaged with the political issues of their time and appreciative of political history. “A common practice I noticed was beginning each meeting with a roll call that required each woman to provide a quotation from historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington,” Katie says.

As a Kerber Fund recipient, Katie made two separate trips to the Iowa Women’s Archives, where she worked with materials from seven rural women’s clubs. Katie will next travel to North Carolina State University to study materials from rural African American women’s clubs.