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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Thelma B. Lewis papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1947-1967
Creator: Lewis, Thelma B. (1904-1988)
Extent: 4.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0022
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Iowa City mayor in 1961; served on the city council from 1958 to 1963.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs scattered throughout the collection.

Access: The papers are open for research.


Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 24) were donated by Thelma B. Lewis in 1975.

Preferred Citation: Thelma B. Lewis papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason

Thelma B. Lewis was born May 23, 1904 in Hamilton's Fort, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah. Lewis came to Iowa City in 1931, where her husband Donald Lewis was a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa (then the State University of Iowa). During World War II, Lewis lived in Washington, D.C., and worked as an aide in the State Department for the Division of German-Austrian Economic Affairs. In 1947, she accompanied Secretary of State George C. Marshall on his mission to Moscow, where she served as an information specialist during the drafting of the Marshall Plan.

Afterwards, Lewis returned to Iowa City where she was active in local politics during the 1950s and 1960s. She was a leader in the campaign to develop a council-manager plan for city government. From 1958 to 1963 she served on the City Council. She was mayor for one year in 1961. Lewis died on October 1, 1988 in Ontario, California.

The Thelma B. Lewis papers date from 1947 to 1967 and measure 4 linear inches. The papers are divided into two series: Moscow Trip and Iowa City Politics. These papers document Lewis' trip to Moscow in 1947 and her involvement in Iowa City politics in the 1950s and 1960s.
Early material in this collection consists of mementos of Lewis' Moscow Trip, including a letter officially confirming her State Department appointment, a Norwegian visa, and an Iowa City newspaper article about her experiences. Several typed manuscripts, probably written from 1949 to 1950,describe Lewis' experiences in and impression of Moscow, including an account of her sighting of Stalin at the opera. In some of these accounts, Lewis compares Moscow to the pioneer Utah ofher childhood. These manuscripts, then, also contain descriptions of early twentieth century Utah and the persecution of the Mormons.
Lewis' involvement with Iowa City politics and council-management government in Iowa City is evidenced in handwritten notes on the campaign for the plan, an article she wrote describing the plan after its adoption in 1950, and a 1962 manuscript describing the 1961 election in which voters challenged control of elections by the Council-Manager Association. This manuscript is rich in its descriptions of Iowa City political disputes. The correspondence folder includes letters of congratulation upon Lewis' election as mayor. Other letters relate to City politics and other civic activities. A letter from Governor Herschel Loveless and one from Congressman Fred Schwengelare included. The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings and correspondence concerning Lewis'position on the city council and as mayor, as well as some photographs. Many items refer to her role as "Lady Mayor."
A framed photograph of Thelma Lewis and other city council members is included.
The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, also holds Thelma Lewis papers.

Browse by Series:
Series 3:

  • Series 1: MOSCOW TRIP
  • Box 1:
  • Manuscripts
  • Mementos - 1947
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1957-1967
  • Notes on the campaign for the council manager plan
  • "The Politicians Lose Again, "National Municipal Review" 39 (Sept. 1950), 389-394
    [article and manuscript]
  • Observations on the 1961 city election in Iowa City
    [typed manuscript]
  • City Council of Iowa City
  • Box 2:
  • Scrapbook [includes city council elections] - 1957, 1961
  • Series 3:
  • Sub-Series:
  • Box 34:
  • Media relations, undated