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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Leola Bergmann papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1935-2004
Creator: Bergmann, Leola (1912-2011)
Extent: 1.60 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0237
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Scholar, writer and artist.

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 videocassette [V281]
Photographs in Box 4

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. 168 and 329) were donated by Leola Bergmann in 1950, 2002, and 2005.

Preferred Citation: Iowa Women 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

Scholar, writer, and artist, Leola Nelson Bergmann was born in 1912 in South Dakota. She grew up in small Midwestern towns settled largely by Scandinavians. As a high school student Leola Nelson was very involved in music, a passion she pursued as an English student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she was chosen to sing for the renowned St. Olaf Choir under founder and director F. Melius Christiansen. After completing her bachelor's degree at St. Olaf College, Nelson continued her graduate work at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) with a master's degree in English in 1939 and a PhD in 1942. She was the first student at the University of Iowa to receive a doctorate in American Civilization.

In 1943 Leola Nelson married Dr. Gustav Bergmann, a mathematician who had fled Vienna, Austria in 1938. Gustav Bergmann was a professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Iowa from 1941 to 1974. Gustav Bergman died in 1987. The couple raised one daughter, Hanna.

Bergmann's writing career of the 1940s and 1950s began with her dissertation Music Master of the Middle West: The Story of F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir, which was later published in 1944. Additional works were Americans from Norway, published in 1950, an article in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, 'The Negro in Iowa,NULL and an invitation by the State Historical Society of Iowa to write the forward for the book Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2000.

Bergmann shifted her attention to art in the early 1960s. She began her new passion with drawing and painting classes at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, and eventually took up printmaking. Under the guidance of her professors, Bergmann developed a unique monoprinting process. Her work has been heralded and displayed at art galleries throughout Iowa.

The Leola Bergmann papers date from 1935 to 2004 and measure 1.6 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Family history, Education, Publications, Art, and Photographs.

The program for the memorial service for Gustav Bergmann and a 21 minute biographical video, Leola at 85, are included in the Family History (1983-2004) series.

The Education series (1935-2004) contains two St. Olaf College yearbooks, St. Olaf Choir newspaper clippings and publications, and the St. Olaf College class of 1937 golden anniversary reunion booklet. Included from the University of Iowa are a Department of English newsletter and transcripts.

The Publications series (1942-1978)consists of Bergmann's published works. Included are manuscript drafts with revisions and editorial comments, reviews, newspaper clippings, and correspondence with publishers for her two books, Music Master of the Middle West and Americans from Norway. The typescript drafts of Americans from Norway were previously housed in Special Collections. Bergmann's genealogy of the Ibsen family is part of her work on Norwegian immigrants to the United States. "The Negro in Iowa," with reviews and a fan letter to Bergmann completes this series.

The Art series (1986-2003) is comprised of exhibit reviews, newspaper clippings, a journal article featuring self-portraiture in photography and one print.

The Photographs series (1936-1994) contains photos of the St. Olaf Choir, the choir director F. Melius Christianson, and of Leola Bergmann. Research photos and negatives of the Ibsen family include the gravestone of Nicolai Ibsen and a family portrait originally set in tintype. Bergmann's art pieces are featured in twenty three retrospective slides, identified photographs of Bergmann at work in print workshops and her standing next to framed prints, including a portrait at the May Brodbeck Library dedication.
The papers of Gustav Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

The papers of Louis Adamic, which contain correspondence with Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

A letter from Harry S. Truman to Gustav and Leola Bergmann is located in the University of Iowa Archives

Browse by Series:
Series 1: Family History
Series 2: Education
Series 3: Publications
Series 4: Art
Series 5: Photographs

  • Series 1: Family History
  • Box 1:
  • Leola at 85 - 1999
  • Gustav Bergmann Remembrance - 1987
  • Correspondence - 1984-2005
  • Correspondence, May Brodbeck Memorial and Estate Matters - 1983-1988
  • Correspondence, Erwin Tegtmeier - 1994-2004
  • University of Iowa Library Catalog - 2004
  • Series 2: Education
  • Box 1:
  • St. Olaf College, yearbook - 1935
  • St. Olaf College, yearbook - 1936
  • St. Olaf College Choir - 1945-1986
  • St. Olaf College reunion - 1987
  • University of Iowa - 1997-2002
  • Willard L. Boyd, 'Never Too Brief: Commencement Remarks,' - 2004
  • Series 3: Publications
  • Sub-Series: Music Master of the Middle West, 1968
  • Box 1:
  • F. Melius Christiansen Dissertation with Editor's Notes - 1942
  • Box 2:
  • Reviews and newspaper clippings - 1942-1950
  • Correspondence with publishers - 1944-1968
  • Music Master of the Middle West: The Story of F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir - 1968
  • Sub-Series: Americans from Norway, 1950
  • Box 2:
  • Correspondence with Publishers - 1944-1978
  • Reviews and Newspaper Clippings - 1950-1952
  • Palimpsest - 1956, 1959
  • Ibsen Family History - 1957-1959
  • Ibsen Family History
  • Immigration in American History - 1960
  • Michigan History - 1961
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • Box 3:
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • First Typescript Draft- with Revisions
  • Second Typscrift Draft- with Revisions
  • Second Typscrift Draft- with Revisions
  • Printer's Copy- Carbon
  • Printer's Copy- Carbon
  • Box 4:
  • Sub-Series: The Negro in Iowa, 1948
  • The Negro in Iowa - 1948
  • Series 4: Art
  • Box 4:
  • Cathedral Prints - 1991
  • Exhibits - 1986, 1989, 2003
  • Portrait of Hanna Bergmann Weston - 1973
  • Portrait of May Brodbeck - 1983
  • Venice- Scola Internationale di Grafica - 1997
  • "Reflections of Self-Portraiture in Photography" - 1999
  • Series 5: Photographs
  • Box 4:
  • St. Olaf Choir - 1936, undated
  • Ibsen Family History - 1957, undated
  • Leola (Nelson) Bergmann - 1937-2001
  • Art Prints and Studio Action - 1986-1996
  • 1-23 Retrospective - 1994
  • May Brodbeck dedication - 1988