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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Edith Reed Atkinson papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1935-1997
Creator: Atkinson, Edith Reed (1919- )
Extent: 2.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0251
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Singer and radio-script editor from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Atkinson performed in a song-and-dance act with her brothers Wallace and Cecil Reed from 1935 to 1944.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 351) were donated by Edith Atkinson in 1996.

Preferred Citation: Edith Reed Atkinson 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

Edith Reed Atkinson, a classically trained singer and former editor of instruction books, bids, proposals, and production scheduler, was born May 24, 1919, in Davenport, Iowa. She was the youngest of eight children. Her family settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when she was a toddler. As a child, she studied voice for fourteen years and from 1935 to 1944 performed in the Gold Flashes dance trio with her brothers, Wallace and Cecil Reed. In 1939, Edith Reed enrolled in Coe College to study foreign languages to further develop her operatic phrasing. She left college in 1940 to marry Robert Atkinson, with whom she later had two children. For thirty years, she served as the choir director at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids.

Beginning in 1943, Edith Atkinson had a radio show on local station WMT for a time, during which she sang requests. She also performed for such celebrities as Nat King Cole during the dinner hour. In 1952, Atkinson began working as a typist of Spanish instruction books in the editing department of Collins Radio (now part of Rockwell International). She retired as a production scheduler in 1981. Since her retirement, Atkinson has continued to teach people about African-American history through her music. In 1997, she received a Woman of the Year Award in celebration of Linn County Women's Equality Day.

The Edith Reed Atkinson papers date from 1935 to 1997 and measure 2 linear inches, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1986 to 1997. The papers consist primarily of biographical information and correspondence, along with a few performance programs and announcements, a badge and ribbon, a small amount of material relating to the 1997 Woman of the Year Award (Linn County Women's Equality Day), and a photograph.

The biographical information consists of newspaper clippings and publications, most of which include feature articles about Atkinson. Correspondence consists primarily of letters and cards of thanks that Atkinson received from individuals following her performances and lectures. Two feature profiles about Atkinson, one of which appeared in a 1940 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, may also be found in this material, accompanying the June 22, 1990 letter from writer James De Long to Atkinson.

A badge and ribbon indicating Atkinson's participation as a speaker in a 1992 Senior Issues Conference is included in the collection. Materials documenting Atkinson's receipt of a 1997 Woman of the Year Award as part of Linn County Women's Equality Day are comprised of an award-notification letter, a newspaper clipping that previews the event, and a flyer. The event commemorated the 77th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. A photograph dated 1935 of Edith Reed Atkinson performing with her brother, Cecil A. Reed, constitutes the remainder of the collection.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: Personal Information and Artifacts

  • Series 1: Personal Information and Artifacts
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information - 1989-1996 and undated
  • Correspondence - 1940, 1986-1997 and undated
  • Performance programs and announcements - 1983-1990
  • Badge and ribbon, Second Annual Senior Issues Conference - 1992
  • Woman of the Year Award (Linn County Women's Equality Day) - 1997
  • Photograph of Edith Reed (Atkinson) and Cecil A. Reed - 1935