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Autobiographical Resources

The Iowa Women’s Archives holds a variety of autobiographical materials by Iowa women, including diaries, memoirs, and oral histories.  The following lists, which are by no means exhaustive, have been created to help researchers locate materials that might otherwise remain obscure.  For further information about these materials contact the Iowa Women’s Archives.


The diaries held in the Iowa Women’s Archives illuminate the daily lives of Iowans from a variety of social and economic backgrounds and occupations.  Dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, the majority of the diaries are preserved alongside other primary source materials within the manuscript collections of Iowa women and their families. Together, these documents provide a rich context for understanding and interpreting the past.


Over one hundred memoirs and reminiscences of Iowa women are preserved in the Iowa Women’s Archives.  The majority are unpublished or self-published works in formats ranging from books to binders, spiral notebooks, and looseleaf paper. They vary from just a few pages to several hundred pages in length and span the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The memoirs reflect a range of geographical locations within Iowa and beyond its borders, and their authors represent a variety of occupational, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

Oral histories

Many of the oral histories preserved in the Iowa Women’s Archives are found within larger manuscript collections or were conducted as part of oral history projects initiated by the Iowa Women’s Archives or other organizations.  Occasionally interviews resulted from the research of independent scholars that was later donated to the archives. The narratives encompass a wide range of topics from rural Iowa women to Iowa police women, artists, feminists, and civil rights activists.  Often they provide insight into aspects of Iowa history for which there is relatively little written documentation. For example, many of the interviews shed light on the history of previously marginalized populations in Iowa including African American and Latino women.