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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Lemme Family papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1970-1998
Creator: Lemme Family
Extent: 5.00 items.
Collection Number: IWA0260
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Traces the family history of Helen Lemme, a civil rights activist who was named Iowa City's first Woman of the Year in 1955.

Arrangement: One folder, shelved in SCVF.

Access: The papers are open for research.

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

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 362) were donated by Lawrence Lemme in 1996.

Preferred Citation: Lemme Family 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

Frances Helen Renfrow Lemme, known as Helen Lemme, a civil rights and community leader in Iowa City, Iowa, was born on February 25, 1905 in Grinnell, Iowa. She was a research technician in the Department of Internal Medicine at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) and was active in many organizations, including the League of Women Voters of Johnson County and the Iowa City Area Council of Churches. During the 1930s and 1940s, she and husband Allyn Lemme opened their home to African-American male students (and occasionally to African-American female graduate students) when they were not allowed to live in University of Iowa dormitories. In 1955, Helen Lemme was elected the first Woman of the Year in Iowa City. Lemme died in a house fire on December 15, 1968. The Helen Lemme Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa is named in her honor.

Helen and Allyn Lemme had two children, Lawrence and Paul.

The Lemme Family papers date from 1970 and 1998 and consist of five items: an undated genealogy of the family; two newspaper clippings; an article in Everybody magazine regarding the opening of the Helen Lemme Elementary School in 1970; and questions and answers concerning Helen Lemme.  The questions relating to Helen Lemme were addressed to the Lemme family by students at Lemme Elementary School on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the school's founding.
League of Women Voters of Johnson County records (IWA): Helen Lemme actively participated in this organization during the 1940s and 1950s. Throughout those decades, she held various positions of leadership, including serving as chair of the Education Department, as a member of the Board of Directors, as local program chair, as second vice-president of the local league, as a delegate to the League of Women Voters' National Convention, as director of Voters Service, and as chair of the Speakers Bureau. For documentation of her involvement, see, for example, annual reports, 1941-1955; Board of Directors files, 1941-1980; and membership lists, 1944-1967.

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