Guide to the Laura F. Hutchison Davis papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1880, 1918-1993
Creator: Davis, Laura Hutchison (1916-1993)
Extent: 8.75 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0075
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Social worker in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from the 1930s though the 1960s.

Administrative Information

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 132) were donated by Joyce Nielsen in 1994.

Preferred Citation: Laura F. Hutchison Davis 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

Biographical Note

Laura Francis Hutchison Davis, social worker and community volunteer, was born in Webster County, Iowa, on October 26, 1916, one of eleven children. Her formal education began in 1922 in a rural public school and ended when she became the first graduate of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) School of Social Work in 1950. In the field of social work, Davis held positions as case worker, case consultant, instructor and program planner.

Laura Hutchison received her undergraduate education at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earning her bachelor's degree in 1938 before starting to work for the Linn County Relief Department. She married Lloyd L. Davis, a Linn County road engineer, in 1942. They had no children. As the first child welfare worker in the county in 1943, she established daycare centers for mothers employed in war plants during World War II.

President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty brought a change in how assistance to the needy was provided, including the creation of community action programs that encouraged low-wage earners to become involved in the effort to end economic hardship. Davis began to work as a case consultant for the Linn Economic Action Project (LEAP) in 1965. She was promoted to program planner in 1968 when LEAP merged with the Johnson County Community Action Program and was renamed the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP).

Volunteer service characterized Davis's contribution to others. She served on the Board of Directors of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) (1962-1965), United Community Service (1963-1964), the Geneva Corporation and Foundation (1965-1979) and the Family Services Agency (1959-1965), all in Cedar Rapids. On the state level Davis served on several Governor's commissions, most notably the Iowa Commission for Senior Citizens (1960-1962). Davis chaired the Social Services Committee of this commission and was a delegate to the 1961 White House Conference on Aging.

Content Description

The Laura H. Davis papers date from 1880 to 1993 and measure 8.75 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Social work; Clubs, church and civic groups; Education; Personal; and Financial records. This collection provides a glimpse of one woman's role in social welfare from Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s to the period following Johnson's war on poverty of the 1960s.

Davis's professional life is illuminated through the Social work series (1942-1985 and undated). The series documents her role in various positions, from paid caseworker to her voluntary membership on community boards and task forces. Davis worked to start a Family Service Agency in Cedar Rapids and this effort is documented by a report in 1956 and through her involvement with the committee that hired the first director of the agency. The topical speeches and notes provide insight into Davis's views on child welfare, the elderly and the community's role in the life of all individuals. The series also contains Davis's notes and the policy statement she wrote for the 1961 White House Conference on Aging.

Davis was involved in her community through volunteer activities that closely corresponded with her professional social work. The Clubs, church and civic groups series (1880-1989 and undated) documents her connection with the Red Cross, YWCA, Quota Club and the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Cedar Rapids. Through her church, Davis volunteered as the secretary of the Board of Directors of the Geneva Corporation and Foundation which built the thirteen-story retirement apartment building, Geneva Tower, in downtown Cedar Rapids. The series includes three booklets entitled Topics for Prayer Meetings that date from 1880s.

The Education series ([1928]-1993 and undated) contains records of Davis's education from primary school to the graduate level, with notes and papers she wrote for grade school through her master's degree in social work. The series also includes the outlines and lecture notes Davis used for the classes in community organization and sociology she taught at Mount Mercy College and St. Luke's School of Nursing located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Davis was interviewed by the University of Iowa School of Social Work in 1988 as part of an oral history project. The transcript of this interview provides insight into the changing public view of social work from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Davis's domestic and married life are represented in the Personal series (1918-1993 and undated), which includes extensive correspondence with family and friends. This series also includes papers and letters to and from Lloyd Davis during World War II. There is one folder of victory mail (V-mail), used to minimize the bulk of mail delivered and to expedite delivery during the war. The series has many photographs of Davis and family members. The photograph album of Davis's maternal aunt, Bessie C. Thompson, depicts Thompson's life as a young school teacher in 1918 in Iowa and Wyoming.

The Financial records series (1891-1993) contains Laura Lloyd Davis' personal tax records and estate papers of relatives. This series is closed to researchers.

Related Materials

Mrs. Lloyd (Laura) Davis Collection, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Browse by Series:


This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Davis, Lloyd L.
Davis, Laura Hutchison, 1916-1993

20th century

Women and war
Women in community organization
Women in public life

Social workers
Volunteers in social service

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Cedar Rapids

Genre/Form of Materials:
Photograph albums
Personal papers
Oral histories (Document genres)

Women in Wartime
Women and War