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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the May Bennett Harshbarger papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1898-1993
Creator: Harshbarger, May Bennett (1880-1966)
Extent: 1.00 linear foot.
Collection Number: IWA0088
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Schoolteacher from eastern Carroll County, Iowa who managed the family farm after her husband's death in 1926.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 146) were donated by Laurence and Mary E. Harshbarger in 1993.

Preferred Citation: May Bennett Harshbarger 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

May Bennett, who became a schoolteacher and farmer, was born in eastern Carroll County, Iowa, on April 14, 1880. She attended the Laudenbach one-room school and upon completion of the eighth grade, began teachers training at the Normal Institute in Carroll, Iowa. In 1898 she began teaching in rural Iowa schools including the Dillavou school in western Greene county, the Hiron and Riedesel schools north of Glidden and the Banan school. While teaching, and for many years afterward, May Bennett published articles for newspapers and magazines, including the Des Moines Register and the Normal Instructor. She used the proceeds to buy books for rural schools.

May Bennett continued to teach until 1910 when she married Harry Harshbarger. They had two children: Helen Louise Harshbarger (b. February 2, 1914) and Laurence H. Harshbarger (b. April 3, 1921). Upon the death of her husband in 1926, May Harshbarger chose to stay on and continue working the 80 acre farm instead of moving to town as was the customary action by most widows. She wrote: "In 1926 I lost my husband and was left breadwinner as well as homemaker on our little farm." Keeping meticulous records of every expenditure and sale, and, with the help of a former student and the United States Agriculture Bulletins obtained from Iowa State University, Harshbarger learned the art of farming while running a household with two children.

May Bennett Harshbarger continued to advocate the advancement of rural schools and became active in two clubs of which she remained a member for many years. The Goldenrod Magazine Club originated December 7, 1901 with its goal being "the increase and diffusion of knowledge among its members and their families." Each member subscribed to a magazine, then bound it and sent it to the next member until it had circulated through the group. The Mothers' Club was organized in 1914 to provide an arena for women to exchange ideas about raising children. Its motto was "Not for ourselves, but for others."

May Bennett Harshbarger died July 15, 1966.

The May Bennett Harshbarger papers date from 1898 to 1993 and measure 1 linear foot. The papers are arranged in seven series: Clubs, Correspondence, Farm Account Books, Memorabilia, Scrapbooks & Newspaper Clippings, Writings, and Photographs. The bulk of the collection consists of farm account books, detailing sales and expenditures incurred while running the family farm. There is little biographical information except for a reminiscence written by May Bennett Harshbarger's son, Laurence H.Harshbarger, in 1993.

The first series, Clubs (1943-1960), consists of newspaper articles detailing the history of the Goldenrod Magazine Club and the Mothers' Club. Included is an outline for the Mothers' Club Yearbook for 1933 written by May Harshbarger.

Correspondence (1901-1947,scattered) is scant, consisting of a few letters to the editor by May BennettHarshbarger, an incoming letter from May Harshbarger's daughter Helen, and a letter "written to a cousin" from a serviceman stationed in Manila in1901. Included is a letter Harshbarger wrote in 1945 to the Farm Bureau Reading Project outlining her work on advancing the curriculum among rural schools.

The Farm Account Books series (1911-1950) is comprised of ledgers from both the farm and the household. The entries illustrate the duality of Harshbarger's life as farmer and homemaker. Included are mention of food, medical, clothing, fuel, insurance, taxes, veterinary care, rent, charity club donations, poultry business, labor, cattle and horse feed and machinery. "Harry's last expenses" detail her husband's burial in 1926.

Memorabilia (1906-1959)includes a booklet describing the Carroll County Normal Institute, articles of incorporation of the Farmers Cooperative Association, and ribbons and judging protocol of the 1940 Iowa State Fair. Also included are diplomas from Carroll County Rural Schools and the Normal Institute.

Scrapbooks and Newspaper Clippings (1898-1959) consist primarily of clippings either collected or written by Harshbarger. The bulk of these pertain to the promotion of rural schools. One of the scrapbooks (1898-1910), compiled while she was teaching school, includes games and learning exercises she used as part of her curriculum. Included among the loose items are a true story Harshbarger wrote for the Des Moines Register in 1934, and a poem she authored about the Louden back school picnic in 1949.

Writings (1942-1952, 1993) is comprised of 13 pieces written by May Bennett Harshbarger, primarily relating to reading and writing for children and adults. One short piece entitled "A Family History In Pictures"contains some autobiographical material.  Also included in this series is a piece written by Harshbarger's son, Laurence, in 1993 about his mother.

Photographs (1903-1960) include group photographs of the Goldenrod Magazine Club, the Mothers' Club, the Laudenbach school reunion, and May Bennett Harshbarger at 23 and 80 years of age.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: CLUBS
Series 6: WRITINGS
Series 8: DIPLOMAS

  • Series 1: CLUBS
  • Box 1:
  • Goldenrod Magazine Club - 1949
  • Mothers' Club - 1933, 1943, 1956, 1960
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1901, 1934, 1945, 1947
  • Box 1:
  • Farm account books - 1911-1914, 1919
  • Farm account books - 1924-1925
  • Farm account books - 1925-1926
  • Farm account books - 1926-1927
  • Farm account books - 1928-1929
  • Farm account books - 1930-1932
  • Farm account books - 1934-1935
  • Farm account books - 1937-1938
  • Farm account books - 1939-1940
  • Farm account books - 1940-1941
  • Box 2:
  • Farm account books - 1942-1944
  • Farm account books - 1945-1946
  • Farm account books - 1946-1947
  • Farm account books - 1948-1949
  • Farm account books - 1949-1951
  • Series 4: MEMORABILIA
  • Box 2:
  • Carroll County Normal Institute - 1906, 1911-1913
  • Diplomas - 1898, 1900, 1905
    [filed in Box 3]
  • Farmers Cooperative Association - 1948
  • Iowa State Fair - 1940
  • Miscellaneous - 1941, 1959
  • Box 2:
  • Volumes - 1898-1910
  • Volumes - 1908-1945
  • Volumes - 1910-1959
  • Loose items - 1934, 1949, 1956-1957, 1959
  • Series 6: WRITINGS
  • Box 2:
  • Writings - 1942, 1949, 1952, 1993
  • Series 7: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 2:
  • Photographs - 1903-1960
  • Series 8: DIPLOMAS
  • Box 3:
  • Diplomas