Helen Lee Hensleigh was born in rural Page County, Iowa on November 21, 1922 to Eula Fern Bair Hensleigh and Albert "Bert" Hensleigh. She was the third of four children, each born two years apart. Helen Lee Hensleigh and her family moved several times, residing in Missouri, Texas, and Kansas. The Hensleigh family ultimately returned to Iowa, first with a stint in Hamburg, followed by a move to Iowa City. In Iowa City, Hensleigh completed her high school education at City High. She then went on to attend the University of Iowa in 1940. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa three and a half years later.
Hensleigh became engaged to her freshman botany instructor, William Fox, when she was twenty and married him the following year. The couple lived in Delray Beach, Florida from 1944-1945, where Helen Lee Fox obtained her first teaching job. The couple then lived in Pullman, Washington until Bill Fox was offered a job in the Botany Department at North Carolina State College in Raleigh. The Foxes resided in Raleigh for seven years and had a son, Steven William Fox, in 1948. While in Raleigh, Helen Lee Fox became involved with the League of Women Voters and worked as a lobbyist for various social causes.
After Bill Fox was killed in an accidental shooting, Helen Lee Fox and her son Steve moved back to Iowa City. Shortly thereafter, Helen Lee Fox married Mustafa Inci and moved to North Carolina and then Illinois. However, after ten years of enduring physical abuse by her husband, Helen Lee Hensleigh Inci and her son fled Mustafa Inci and moved to California. In California, Helen Lee Hensleigh taught at the University of Redlands. She resigned her teaching position to marry Howard Wenger, a lawyer from her home town of Hamburg, Iowa in 1969. Helen Hensleigh and Howard Wenger began their retirement embarking on travel overseas. They became involved in the movement to abolish apartheid in South Africa, and in aiding Jews wanting to flee Russia, referred to as "Refusenik" Jews. Helen Hensleigh Wenger and Howard Wenger eventually moved to Iowa City. Helen Hensleigh Wenger passed away on July 20, 2006.
The Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger papers date from 1922 to 2006 and measure 19 linear inches. The papers are arranged in four series: Biographical information, Correspondence, Scrapbook files, and Photographs. The collection documents Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger's life from her early childhood to her retirement years.
The Biographical information series includes an autobiography Hensleigh wrote in 1982, her resume, a chronological listing of all the places she called home throughout her life and a series of surveys Hensleigh filled out between the 1990s and 2001 that detail memories of her life: her childhood and family, high school, and her first marriage. Also included are a 1940 Iowa City High School yearbook and University of Iowa yearbooks for 1944 and 1945. Remembrances of friends complete the series: these include a 1995 celebration of one of Hensleigh's Iowa City high school teachers, Elizabeth Winbigler, organized by Hensleigh Wenger and a former classmate; and an essay about the friendship Hensleigh Wenger and her husband shared with Genieve and Wayne Salsor, and Alice Thompson.
The Correspondence series consists primarily of general correspondence from friends, former students and work associates. There is one letter written by Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger's son Steve Fox in 1966, in which he thanks her for her patience and understanding in raising him. There is also a series of letters written by Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger's former high school biology teacher, Edna P. Flesner, written when Flesner was in her nineties. The series concludes with copies of several letters to the editor written by Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger between 1990 and 2001. These letters range in topics from gun control to wildlife preservation.
The Scrapbook files series provides the bulk of the collection. This series consists of scrapbooks that were compiled and later disbound by Hensleigh and filed in folders. Included are typed memoirs, color copies of photographs, and memorabilia. Original photographs have been moved to the Photograph series. The folders are arranged chronologically for the most part, as organized by Helen Lee Hensleigh Wenger. Many of the pages have been photocopied for preservation purposes; originals have been retained with the copies in some instances for their artifactual value. Additional folders have been added to this series to make sense of additional materials in the collection. For example, the bridal book for Hensleigh's marriage to William Fox has been placed immediately following Scrapbook Volume V which includes their wedding.
Scrapbook Volume I- Parents, includes the 1987 eulogy Hensleigh wrote for her father, Albert Dales Hensleigh; and a typed transcription of a diary kept by Helen Hensleigh's mother, Eula Fern Bair Hensleigh, from 1929 to 1932, while she was living in Seneca, Kansas. Eula Hensleigh's husband "Bert" was superintendent of schools at the time and refereed ballgames at night to earn extra money. Volume II-Early childhood, concerns family life in rural Page County, Iowa; Kingsville, Texas; Tarkio, Missouri; and Seneca, Kansas and includes photographs of Hensleigh and her family. Volume III contains photographs and memorabilia of Hensleigh's grade school and teenage years in Hamburg, Iowa and Volume IV represents her final year of high school in Iowa City. Also included is a blank book in which Hensleigh copied down some of her favorite poems during her senior year.
Volume V -- College years, consists of photographs and memorabilia from Hensleigh's years at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. This volume includes newspaper articles and photographs depicting the summer Hensleigh served as a waitress on board the S.S. North American, as well as her courtship and marriage to William B. Fox. Hensleigh's bridal book is included with this volume. Volume VI depicts Hensleigh's life during her marriage to Fox. It includes correspondence between Hensleigh and various family members and photographs of Hensleigh and Fox's son, Steven. Volume VII documents Hensleigh's professional career from 1944 through 1979. It includes information about Hensleigh's teaching experiences in Florida, Washington, North Carolina, Illinois, California and Iowa.
Volumes VIII-X document Hensleigh's third marriage to Howard Wenger. Volume VIII consists of information and photographs regarding Hensleigh Wenger and Wenger's private life. It is followed by Christmas letters Hensleigh Wenger wrote from 1969 to 1999 describing their life, and the 1968-1969 courtship letters Hensleigh wrote Wenger from California. Volume IX documents the couple's interest in Asian architecture, their participation in the Council for International Visitors to Iowa City and their dedication to abolishing apartheid in South Africa. Volume X documents the couple's commitment to aiding Russian Refusenik Jews and their numerous overseas trips. Several examples of Hensleigh Wenger's newspaper column, "Wengers' Wanderings" in The Hamburg Reporter, describe both the couple's trips and their political views. The Scrapbook files series concludes with "A Remembrance of Elizabeth Winbigler," a 1995 celebration of one of Hensleigh's Iowa City high school teachers, organized by Hensleigh Wenger and a former classmate. There is also a bound scrapbook that covers 1940-1943.
Pages of some of the scrapbooks have been photocopied for preservation, the originals have been retained in a file at the end of the collection.
The Photographs series consists of original photographs. Though most of the photographs were pulled from the original scrapbooks for preservation purposes, there are also photographs that do not appear elsewhere in the collection. The photographs are arranged in four folders. Childhood, 1922-1940 includes photographs of Hensleigh and her siblings as children, and family members including their parents. It also includes several photographs of Hensleigh's grade school classes and candid shots taken during high school, both in Hamburg and Iowa City. College years, 1940-1944 consists of photographs taken at the University of Iowa and on the S.S. North American. Adult life, 1944-1992 includes photographs of Hensleigh with her first and third husbands, William Fox and Howard Wenger; Hensleigh and her son Steven, and Hensleigh teaching. Snapshots, 1987-1996 show Hensleigh, family and friends in candid moments during various celebrations and get-togethers. The miscellaneous folder includes photographs of Hensleigh's 1969 wedding to Howard Wenger, travel, and cats owned by the family in the 1980s and 1990s.