Guide to the Constance Frick Irwin papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1918-1995
Creator: Irwin, Constance Frick (1913-1995)
Extent: 12.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0208
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Author, librarian, and professor of library science who was a WAVE during World War II.

Administrative Information

Alternate Extent Statement: Artifacts in boxes 29 and 30.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has not been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The Constance Frick Irwin papers (donor no. 289) were donated by  William A. Irwin in 1995.

Preferred Citation: Constance Frick Irwin 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

Author, librarian and university professor, Constance Henrietta Frick was born in Evansville, Indiana, in 1913 to Herman and Wilhelmina (Minnie) Lauenstein Frick. She grew up in a large household and enjoyed life as a young child playing with her brother and cousins or accompanying her grandmother on errands in a horse drawn carriage.

In 1930 Frick earned a scholarship to attend Indiana University (IU). Because of financial hardship she missed one semester, but by finishing three semesters work in two she graduated with her class in 1934. During the economic depression Frick had difficulty finding a job until she was hired as bookstore clerk in Evansville. Frick obtained a position as a librarian and journalism instructor in an Indianapolis suburb high school. She eventually landed the same position in her hometown of Evansville. In 1942 after taking summer classes she earned her M.A. in English literature and began writing. Frick's first book was her master's thesis The Dramatic Criticism of George Jean Nathan published by both the Cornell University Press and Oxford University Press in 1943 (Box 13: Writings, For adults, Books, Published). Frick volunteered for the Women's Naval Reserve on the day its organization was announced in 1942. Lieutenant Frick served on active duty until December 1945. She spent a year earning a library science degree from Columbia University in New York before returning to her previous employment in Evansville in 1947.

In 1954 Constance Frick Irwin married William R. Irwin, a State University of Iowa (later University of Iowa) English professor. In Iowa City Irwin continued her writing and also taught for four years at the Library School from 1963 to 1967. Irwin died in 1995 at the age of 82.

Content Description

The Constance Frick Irwin papers date from 1918 to 1995 and measure 11.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: Biographical information, Librarianship, Writings, United States WAVES, Photographs, and Artifacts.

The Biographical information series (1921-1995) provides insight into Irwin's interests apart from her professional work. One of her interests was ceramics. She helped found the Hoosier Craft Guild (Box 1: Biographical information, Clubs and organizations, Hoosier Craft Guild). Irwin's autobiographical sketches tell of the importance of her family and education in shaping the writer she became. Irwin's personal correspondence comprises the bulk of this series, containing mostly family letters in the earlier years and fan mail from her readers in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Librarianship series (1934-1967) documents Irwin's work as a high school librarian in Indiana and her professorship at the State University of Iowa Library School.

The Writings series (1927-1991) is the largest series in the collection. The series contains Irwin's lifetime of literary works. She wrote for both children and adults. The topics ranged from legends to the news of the day. In addition to manuscripts the series includes correspondence.

The United States WAVES series (1942-1954) chronicles Irwin's life in the Navy during World War II. The correspondence with family and friends provides a personal view of the period. Stationed in Washington, D.C., Irwin was an eyewitness to life in the capital. Her vivid descriptions in letters to her parents are full of sights and sounds of Washington during the war years.

The Photographs series (1918-1970) contains portraits and snapshots of Irwin from childhood through adulthood and pictures from her travels to New York, Mexico and Europe.

The Artifacts include a WAVES hat and numerous small pins, medals, and awards Irwin received.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Browse by Series:


This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Irwin, Constance H. Frick, 1913-

Corporate Names:
State University of Iowa
United States Naval Reserve, Women's Reserve

20th century

Women and literature
Women and war
Women in education
Women in library science
World War, 1939-1945

College teachers

Geographic Names:
United States -- Indiana -- Evansville
United States -- Iowa -- Iowa City

Genre/Form of Materials:
Cultural artifacts
Personal papers

Women in Wartime
Women and War