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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Mary Elizabeth Wood papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920-1998
Creator: Wood, Mary Elizabeth
Extent: 2.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0262
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Social worker and the first African American woman in the United States to be named executive director of a greater metropolitan YWCA.

Alternate Extent Statement: Artifacts in Box 7
3 audiocassettes [AC364-AC366]
Photographs in Box 6

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. 365) were donated by Mary Elizabeth Wood in 1996.

Preferred Citation: Mary Elizabeth Wood 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
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Mary Elizabeth Wood, educator, certified social worker, and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) administrator, was born August 28, 1902, in Des Moines. Her parents were Emmett and Rose Wood, who instilled in their six daughters and three sons the importance of education. Every night when the family gathered for dinner, each had to describe something they had learned or done that day. "If you hadn't done anything or learned anything you were in hot water," recalled Wood (Des Moines Register, April 6, 1995).

Wood grew up in Des Moines and graduated from East High School in 1920 and Drake University in1924, the only African-American in her graduating class at each institution. With a teaching certificate from Drake she was offered a job at Houston College in Texas, where she taught for a year before becoming the director of the youth program for the African-American branch of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, YWCA. Wood received her M.A. in Community Organization from New York University in 1946. In 1949, Wood was one of six American YWCA leaders chosen to attend a six-week Leadership Training Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. Wood worked at YWCA branches in Denver, Newark and Philadelphia before her appointment as metropolitan executive director of the YWCA of Buffalo and Erie County, New York, in 1957. She was the first African-American woman to hold such a post. In 1968 she became metropolitan executive director of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, working there until her retirement in 1972. After her retirement Mary Wood served as a consultant to the National Board of the YWCA, helping the association assess the progress of branches in implementing "the one imperative: to eliminate racism." Throughout her life Mary Wood has received many honors and awards for her professional service and in 1996 she was inducted into the Iowa Wome's Hall of Fame.

The Mary Elizabeth Wood papers date from 1920t o 1996 and measure 2.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Personal information; Church, civic groups, and clubs; Honors and recognition; Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA); and Photographs. The bulk of the collection is related to Wood's work as an administrator at the Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh YWCAs.

The Personal information series (1941-1996) contains Wood's personal correspondence as well as some of her poetry, most of which was included in her annual Christmas letter. Of interest are a drawing and Lenten letter sent out by Wood after she had a near-death experience in 1992. There is also the transcript of an oral history interview conducted in1997 by the Iowa Women's Archives as part of the "Giving Voice to Their Memories: Oral Histories of African-American Women in Iowa" project.

The Church, civic groups and clubs series (1958-1996) contains files that reflect Wood's involvement in her church and community. The files related to the Health and Welfare Planning Association and the 1977 Conference on Aging indicate her concern for the elderly.

The Honors and recognition series (1920-1982) contains Wood's diplomas and many certificates and awards she received in recognition of her professional service to the community, as well as her church involvement and charitable giving.

The Young Women's Christian Association series (1941-1995) is divided into two subseries: Consultant and Director. The Consultant subseries contains materials documenting Wood's work as a volunteer for the national board of the YWCA after her retirement. The Director subseries chronicles Wood's professional career at the Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh YWCAs.

The Photographs series (1925-1996) illustrates events from Mary Wood's adult life. The Des Moines folder contains an undated group photograph of the Des Moines Junior NAACP chapter probably from the 1920s. Of interest are two panoramic photographs that document Wood's earliest work. One photograph features the students and staff of Houston College (Houston, Texas), where Wood was first employed after graduation from Drake University. The second panoramic photograph shows Wood and other attendees at the National YWCA Conference in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1926.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: PERSONAL INFORMATION
Series 2: CHURCH, CIVIC GROUPS AND CLUBS
Series 3: HONORS AND RECOGNITION
Series 4: YOUNG WOMENS CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
Series 5: PHOTOGRAPHS
Series 6: ARTIFACTS

  • Series 1: PERSONAL INFORMATION
  • Box 1:
  • Class assignment - 1945
  • Correspondence: General - 1936-1996
  • Correspondence: Drake University - 1961-1996
  • Creative writing class - 1991
  • Diary, undated
  • Funeral program - 1998
  • Graphology analysis - 1956-1957
  • The Impact of the War on College Women by Mary Elizabeth Wood, Journal of the National Association of College Women - 1941-1943
  • Insurance policy, drivers licenses and registration - 1932-1961
  • Monthly minder - 1991
  • Newspaper clippings - 1983-1997
    [oversized shelved in map case]
  • New York University - 1939-1943
  • Notes - 1975-1993
  • Oral history transcript: "Giving Voice to Their Memories: Oral Histories of African-American Women in Iowa" - 1997
  • Passport - 1978
  • Poetry - 1972-1996
    [including oversized shelved in map case]
  • Poetry group, undated
  • Resume - 1954
  • Undergraduate transcript, Drake University - 1924
  • University of the State of New York Bulletin - 1969
  • Series 2: CHURCH, CIVIC GROUPS AND CLUBS
  • Box 2:
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: 100th anniversary memorabilia - 1994
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: 100th anniversary newspaper clippings - 1994
    [oversized shelved in map case]
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: Administrative materials - 1982-1998
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: Correspondence - 1982-1996
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: Devotions - 1981
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: Program yearbooks - 1978-1995
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh: Television soap opera presentation - 1976-1977
  • Gertrude E. Rush Award Dinner - 1982
  • Health and Welfare Planning Association (HWPA): Area-Wide Model Project for Aging staff report - 1973
  • HWPA: Long-term care planning proposal - 1979
  • HWPA: Memoranda - 1977-1979
  • HWPA: Some Comments on Allegheny Countys Plan for the Replacement of John J. Kane Hospital - 1978
  • HWPA: Elderly Homeowners Association Project - 1978
  • HWPA: Health education - 1979
  • HWPA: Housing alternatives - 1979
  • HWPA: In-home care - 1977-1979
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance - 1989-1994
    [including oversized shelved in map case]
  • Miscellaneous, undated
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): Budget Manual - 1977
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Catalog - 1989-1990
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Cooperative Venture: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary - 1981-1994
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Church retreat - 1978
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Farewell tribute - 1993
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Installation service for Rev. Donald O. Clay Jr., undated
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Newspaper clippings - 1961, 1986
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Neighborhood census - 1970
  • Mount Ararat Baptist Church: Womens Day services - 1958-1975
  • 1977 Conference on Aging (Hershey, Pennsylvania) - 1977
  • Planned Parenthood Center of Pittsburgh, Inc. - 1977-1979
  • Series 3: HONORS AND RECOGNITION
  • Box 3:
  • Certificates - 1922-1996
    [including oversized shelved in map case]
  • Diplomas - 1920-1968
    [oversized: shelved in map case]
  • New York University commencement - 1946
  • Series 4: YOUNG WOMENS CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
  • Sub-Series: Consultant
  • Box 3:
  • Cincinnati, Ohio - 1976
  • Communications National Board - 1981
  • Correspondence - 1972-1977
  • Correspondence - 1984-1987
  • Eastern regional conference council of urban league guilds - 1974
  • Invitation to serve as a national volunteer on special assignment - 1974
  • Management function workshop Lexington, Kentucky - 1974
  • Mary Wood, Courier Page (Black Aged Special Edition) by Ron Suber
  • National board reports - 1973-1974
  • Notes, undated
  • One imperative YWCA action audit for change - 1973
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - 1976-1993
  • Report on redirecting programs and priorities at YWCA of Greater Cincinnati - 1976
  • Resource file - 1942-1992
  • Richness in Diversity, conference - 1981
  • Speeches - 1986-1988
  • Twenty-sixth national convention: Working design for cluster communities - 1973
  • Twenty-sixth national convention: : Women in the 70s fact book" - 1973
  • Box 4:
  • World YWCA: Correspondence - 1949-1994
  • World YWCA: Protest against South Africa apartheid - 1976
  • World YWCA: "Report on Bahamas Assignment, April 19-May 7" - 1977
  • World YWCA: World relations workshop, cluster meeting - 1977
  • Sub-Series: Director
  • Box 4:
  • Buffalo, New York: 125th-anniversary souvenir program - 1995
  • Buffalo, New York: Administrative papers - 1956-1959
  • Buffalo, New York: All-Girl weekend - 1968
  • Buffalo, New York: Annual reports - 1958-1967
  • Buffalo, New York: Board of directors dialogue group - 1968
  • Buffalo, New York: California and Pacific Southwest Recreation and Park Conference - 1965
  • Buffalo, New York: Camp Forty Acres - 1960
  • Buffalo, New York: Challenge for 1966-1967 staff orientation and Upper Manhattan Leadership Conference - 1966
  • Buffalo, New York: Correspondence - 1953-1966
  • Buffalo, New York: Correspondence - 1968, 1994-1995
  • Buffalo, New York: Executive directors reports - 1967-1968
  • Buffalo, New York: Good Neighbor Award program - 1959
  • Buffalo, New York: Memorials - 1959-1969
  • Buffalo, New York: Newspaper clippings - 1957-1968
  • Buffalo, New York: Reports - 1957-1968
  • Buffalo, New York: The Role of the YWCA in a Changing Era, National Board of the YWCA - 1960
  • Buffalo, New York: Sex: A Moral Dilemma for Teen Agers, conference - 1967
  • Buffalo, New York: Speeches - 1958-1966
  • Buffalo, New York: Professional evaluations - 1957-1968
  • Buffalo, New York: Programs, undated
  • Denver, Colorado: Correspondence - 1929-1937
  • Denver, Colorado: Job description and contracts - 1929-1937
  • Box 5:
  • Newark, New Jersey: Correspondence - 1937-1941
  • Newark, New Jersey: Contracts and date book - 1939-1942
  • Newark, New Jersey: Speech, The Impact of War on College Women - 1942
  • Notes: Sketchbook, undated
  • Notes: Speeches - 1949-1968
  • Notes: Speeches, undated
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Correspondence - 1942-1956
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Executive directors reports - 1949-1956
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Job description and contracts - 1942-1956
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute correspondence - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute newspaper clippings - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute notes - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute scrapbook (2 folders) - 1949
    [photographs in photograph series]
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute speeches - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute training materials - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Leadership Training Institute travel itinerary - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Membership Campaign kickoff speech - 1973
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Newsletter - 1949
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Newspaper clippings - 1953-1956
  • Box 6:
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia YWCA Replies to Charges of Communist Influence in the National YWCA - 1948
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Second Annual Forum on the Dynamics of Democracy - 1953
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: "The Walking Stick, reprinted by special permission of the Saturday Evening Post - 1945
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: What America Means to Me, Christian Herald - 1953
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Women of the Future speech - 1963
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Annual reports - 1969-1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: As I Heard It, The YWCA Magazine - 1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Correspondence - 1969-1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Documentation of Racial Discrimination at Camp (Epworth Forost)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Equal Employment Opportunities for Older Women
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Executive directors report - 1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Good Friday service - 1970
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Newspaper clippings - 1968-1973
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The One Imperative--to eliminate racism - 1971-1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Resource File - 1971
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Seminars and workshops on racism - 1968-1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Speeches - 1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Staff list - 1971-1972
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Tribute to Lois Jones retirement ceremony - 1969
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: Correspondence - 1929
  • Series 5: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 6:
  • Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh 100th anniversary - 1994-1995
  • Buffalo Urban League award presentations - 1958
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority - 1996
  • Des Moines [includes photograph of the Des Moines Junior NAACP] - 1926-1970
  • Family and friends - 1922
  • Houston College students and staff - 1925
    [oversized shelved in map case] [closed for conservation]
  • Needlepoint work and personal art collection snapshots, undated
  • Negatives, undated
  • Read Program Exchange speaking engagement Atlantic City, New Jersey - 1953
  • YWCA: Bahamas - 1974
  • YWCA: Denver - 1929-1932
  • YWCA: Leadership Training Institute scrapbook (2 folders) - 1949
  • YWCA: National YWCA Conference Frankfort, Kentucky - 1926
    [oversized shelved in map case] [closed for conservation]
  • YWCA: Philadelphia - 1945-1957
  • YWCA: Pittsburgh, undated
  • YWCA: Tulsa - 1935
  • Series 6: ARTIFACTS
  • Box 7:
  • Drake University Veritas medal, undated
  • Good Neighbor Award - 1958
  • Parting gift [sandal and poem], undated
  • YWCA Distinguished Service Award - 1987