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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Lois Laughlin papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1939-2007
Creator: Laughlin, Lois (1925-2008)
Extent: 2.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0184
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Papers of an activist from West Branch, Iowa, include correspondence and newspaper clippings relating to her husband's status as a conscientious objector.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 6;
One audiocassette [AC1299].

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. 264) were donated by Lois Laughlin in 2003 and in subsequent years.

Preferred Citation: Lois Laughlin 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

Lois Lucile Wood Laughlin, activist, librarian, and volunteer, was born in 1925 in Berkeley, California, to Anna Lucile Kersey and Herbert Ross Wood. She married Donald Eugene Laughlin in 1945, and the couple had six children, David, Janet, Martha, Ruth, Naomi, and Roger. In 1946, Laughlin earned a BA in history and a teaching certificate from Whittier College in Whittier, California, and moved with her husband to West Branch, Iowa. Laughlin taught English and drama and was the school librarian at Scattergood Friends School, a private Quaker boarding school in West Branch, intermittently from 1946 until the late 1960s. In 1949, Don Laughlin was sentenced to serve eighteen months in federal prison for refusing to comply with the Selective Service Act; he was released after serving six months of his sentence. During this time, Lois Laughlin raised their infant son, David. Don Laughlin was pardoned by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

During the 1960s, Lois Laughlin attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, to earn an Iowa teaching certificate. From 1968 to 1974, she worked as a high school librarian in Tipton, Iowa. She subsequently worked at the registration center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. She earned an MA in library science at the University of Iowa in 1970. Laughlin served as a clerk for Society of Friends monthly meetings, president and treasurer of the Tipton, Iowa, branch of the American Association of University Women, and a board member of the Scattergood Friends School Committee. In 1986, Laughlin's daughter, Ruth, died in Pennsylvania. Another daughter, Janet, died of lung cancer in 2004 in Iowa. Laughlin has been committed to world peace and involved in the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Lois Laughlin died in 2008.

The Lois Laughlin papers date from 1939 to 2007 and measure 2.5 linear feet. This collection consists largely of Laughlin's personal material. It contains forty volumes of diaries, which date from 1953 to 2007. Laughlin wrote about parenting, marriage, books, health, dreams, and lectures she attended. Lois Laughlin compiled a spiral bound collection of newspaper clippings and correspondence concerning her husband's status as a conscientious objector, Don Laughlin: Fragments from a Life, 1948-1974; included in this book are copies of his FBI file and a pardon from President John F. Kennedy.

This collection includes correspondence between Laughlin and her friends and family. Most of the correspondence written between 1938 and 1949 was damaged in a fire, including personal letters between Lois and Don Laughlin written in 1949, while Don served a prison term for refusing to comply with the Selective Service Act. Lois Laughlin prepared an index of the damaged letters; she recorded the content of the burned letters to the best of her recollection. This collection also includes information related to the deaths of daughters Janet and Ruth. Photographs of the Laughlin family complete the collection.
Ruth Laughlin papers (IWA): Ruth was the daughter of Lois Laughlin.

Browse by Series:

  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information - 1999-2008
  • Diaries (18 folders) - 1953-1987
  • Box 2:
  • Diaries (10 folders) - 1985-1998
  • Box 3:
  • Diaries (12 folders) - 1998-2007
  • Box 4:
  • "Anniversary: 1970" by Dave Laughlin - 1970
  • Death penalty testimony - 1993, 1997
  • Don Laughlin: Fragments from a Life - 1948-1974
  • Janet Laughlin Cook
  • Ruth Laughlin (2 folders)
  • AC1299: Ruth Laughlin memorial service audiocassette
  • Writings (4 folders)
  • Box 5:
  • Indices of letters and reflections on burned letters
  • Correspondence (14 folders) - 1939-1944
  • Box 6:
  • Correspondence (8 folders) - 1945-2007
  • Photographs (2 folders) - 1953-1986