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Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Helen E. Focht Papers
Collection Dates: 1917-1983
0.25 linear ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

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Acquisition and Processing Information: These materials were donated to the University Archives from Helen E. Focht in August 1983. Guide created in February 2009.

Photographs: None

Helen Focht, assistant to Dean of Women, 1930s

Helen Focht, Assistant to Dean of Women, 1930s.

Photo from Everett E. Sterner Papers (RG02.09.09).

Scope and Contents

The Helen E. Focht papers include select correspondence during her 35 years of service to the State University of Iowa.  The majority of her service was in the Office of Student Affairs, and this correspondence documents her concern for the status of female students.  Ms. Focht retained a thin file of correspondence labeled "Letters regarding retirement -- I'll cherish these & will keep them always."  Her papers include one additional folder of correspondence, which is arranged in chronological order.  These papers also include certificates for service, newspaper clippings, and a history of Associated Women Students, a student organization she served as adviser to.   

Biographical Note

Helen Elizabeth Focht was born June 29, 1901, in Wilton Junction, Iowa, and was raised in Eagle Grove, Iowa.  She received her B.A. in mathematics, with a minor in chemistry, from Drake University in June 1923.  She took her M.A. in education from the State University of Iowa in August 1934.

After graduation she taught high school mathematics at several Iowa towns: Manson, 1923 to 1926; Hampton, 1926 to 1929; and Iowa City, 1930 to 1935.  She was employed at the State University of Iowa in 1935 as assistant to the Dean of Women, Mrs. Adelaide L. Burge.  This position put her in contact with the issues of female students living in dormitories and in the more economical cooperative dormitories. In 1942 she was named assistant director in the Office of Student Affairs, where she worked for the next 28 years.  This title was renamed counselor to women in 1947.  After retiring in 1967, Ms. Focht served as counselor to emeritus women, within the Office of Student Affairs, until 1970.

In a May 1962 interview with the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Ms. Focht related her many duties.  These included interviewing female students who applied for student loans; interviewing female students who wished to withdraw from incomplete courses; reviewing the policy governing female student's hours; providing general counseling; working with various committees; and serving as adviser to Associated Women Students.  By 1968, the general catalog identifies these duties as divided and performed by a number of staff, reflecting the growth of the University.  During this interview, Ms. Focht advocated for the empowerment of female students, suggesting they be allowed to request changes in policies governing their curfew, a move away from the source of proposed changes being the administration.  As counselor to women, she further recommended the elimination of penalties for violation of the women's curfew.  This newspaper article may be found in the Helen E. Focht Faculty Vertical File. Focht died March 24, 2001.

[D. Anderson; 02/2009]

Historical Note

Associated Women Students is a national organization that existed on college and university campuses.  On some campuses, all enrolled female students were automatically designated as members and the organizations were self-governing. The organization provided support and social functions for female students, as well as a voice in such policies as curfew for women.  The AWS was organized at varying times on campuses, from the 1910s through the 1950s.  Declining membership forced many campuses to dissolve their AWS organization during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  On some campuses, AWS was merged with general student government groups during this period of decline.  The organization remains active on some campuses.

Related Materials

Folder, "Focht, Helen E.," Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG 01.15.03)

Focht, Helen E. "Oral History Interview." University of Iowa Oral History Project, 23. 50 pp. 1976.

Papers of Everett E. Sterner (RG 02.09.09)

Records of the Associated Women Students (RG 02.03.03)

Student Guides and Handbooks Collection (RG 02.12)

Box Contents List

Box 1

Correspondence, 1917-1983

Employment, 1935-1967

Associated Women Students (AWS) letters of appreciation, 1965

Certificates of Service, 1943-1967

Clippings, 1945-1967

History of Associated Women Students, 1965

Associated Women Students membership list, n.d.