Skip to content
print page header

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Margaret Atherton Bonney papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1810-1992
Creator: Bonney, Margaret Atherton
Extent: 1.25 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0313
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Bonney's research files include Iowa suffragist Mary Jane Coggeshall, scientist Mary Louise Putnam, physician Jennie McCowen, and pioneer evangelist and minister, Abner Kneeland

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 429) were donated by Margaret Atherton Bonney in 1997 and 2002.

Preferred Citation: Margaret Atherton Bonney 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

Margaret Atherton Bonney was a historian and editor at the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Bonney conducted research on Mary Jane Coggeshall, Abner Kneeland, Jennie McCowen and Mary Louise Duncan Putnam.

Mary Jane Whitely Coggeshall (1836-1911) promoted women's suffrage for forty-one years in Des Moines, Iowa. Coggeshall was a charter member of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association in 1870 and served as the Association's president from 1890-1891 and from 1903-1905. She was editor of the Woman's Standard, the monthly newspaper of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, and was also active in the woman's suffrage movement on the national level, serving on the board of the National American Woman Suffrage Association for several years beginning in 1895. Carrie Chapman Catt called Coggeshall 'the Mother of Woman Suffrage in Iowa.' Nominated by Margaret Atherton Bonney, Coggeshall was inducted posthumously into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1990.

Abner Kneeland (1774-1844) was a pioneer evangelist and minister, advocating Universalism for a quarter of a century before ultimately being led beyond Christianity to Pantheism (the belief that God and Nature are synonymous). Kneeland advocated birth control and supported women's rights in social and marital relationships, and politics. After he left the Universalist fellowship, Kneeland became the last man to be convicted of blasphemy in the state of Massachusetts. Following his release from jail in 1839 Kneeland moved to Iowa and started a small community he named Salubria (near present day Farmington.) The purpose of the community was to provide a place where freedom of speech and freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution could be practiced freely. The community folded shortly after Kneeland's death in 1844.

Jennie McCowen (1845-1924) entered the Medical Department at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa in 1873 and graduated with honors in 1876. In 1875 McCowen became a staff physician at the Iowa Hospital for the Insane in Mount Pleasant, one of the first women in the country to be appointed to such a position. In 1880 McCowen relocated to Davenport, Iowa and variously served as secretary and president of the Scott County Medical Society, refusing a third term as president in 1885. In 1886 McCowen became one of the medical examiners at the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa). McCowen was elected to offices in several state, national and international medical societies. In 1887 she founded the Working Woman's Lend-a-Hand Club in Davenport, an unusual organization designed to promote sisterhood and mutual aid among employed women. McCowen was also connected to the Davenport Academy of Science (now the Putnam Museum) where she served as president for two terms. In 1892 McCowen founded the Woman's Hospital of Davenport.

Mary Louise Duncan Putnam (1832-1903) worked for the development of the Davenport Academy of Science, now the Putnam Museum, in 1867. She was the first woman member of the Academy and later became its president. In 1876 Putnam was responsible for publication of the first Proceedings of the Academy, which later gained worldwide circulation. Putnam became editor of the publication following the death of her son Joseph, the previous editor, in 1881. Highly committed to public education, Mary Putnam established programs for children and adults. School children were invited to study natural history at the Academy through her planning and effort. Upon her death in 1903 Mary Putnam left a trust for the care and preservation of and additions to the collection of entomology and for the continued publication and distribution of the Proceedings. Nominated by Margaret Atherton Bonney, Putnam was inducted posthumously into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1991.

The Margaret Atherton Bonney papers date from 1810 to 1992 and measure 1.25 linear feet. The papers consist of Bonney's research materials and are arranged in 4 series: Mary Jane Coggeshall, Abner Kneeland, Jennie McCowen and Mary Louise Duncan Putnam.

The Mary Jane Coggeshall series consists of the biographical material Bonney collected while preparing Coggeshall's nomination to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame, to which Coggeshall was inducted in 1990. Materials include a detailed biographical sketch and supporting documents. Also included in the series is correspondence regarding the research and nomination process, a copy of the acceptance speech given by Bonney at the ceremony, and a photograph of Coggeshall.

The Abner Kneeland series is the largest in the Bonney papers and consists of several sub-series: Biographical research materials, Contextual research materials, Correspondence, Grace Boler Forgrave, Research notes, Secondary Sources and Books. For the most part, the titles of individual folders match the original titles used by Bonney. The Biographical research materials consist of photocopies of Kneeland's daybook and his letters to the Boston Investigator in 1839 and 1840, genealogical material, newspaper clippings and a 1903 speech regarding Kneeland. There is also a photograph of the Kneeland home built in Salubria in 1840. The Contextual research materials consist of photocopies and notes regarding city directories, censuses, county records and maps. The Correspondence is between Bonney and those interested in her research. Grace Boler Forgrave was Kneeland's granddaughter and this sub-series contains a memoir in which she wrote about her grandfather and a handmade booklet of some of Kneeland's original hymns. The Research notes include biographical information and Bonney's handwritten records of the libraries and archives she visited and what they contained. There is also an interesting collection of Bonney's thoughts regarding John Cleland, the author of the 'infamous' book Fannie Hill, speculating on whether or not he and Kneeland were related. The Secondary sources sub-series consists of both original and photocopied articles regarding Kneeland spanning the years 1868 through 1950. The Book sub-series consists of original texts owned or written by Kneeland. These include his 1827 Key to the New System of Orthography, his 1836 National Hymns: Original and Selected and his 1823 translation of The New Testament.

The Jennie McCowen series consists of the materials Bonney collected while preparing her nomination of McCowen for the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame, including biographical information, articles by and about McCowen, newspaper articles, and Bonney's correspondence.

The Mary Louise Duncan Putnam series consists of the materials Bonney collected while preparing her nomination of Putnam for the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. The series includes a detailed sketch of Putnam's life and achievements, articles about The Davenport Academy of Science, newspaper articles, obituaries and memorial tributes for Putnam, and Bonney's correspondence.
Iowa Women's Hall of Fame records (Iowa Women's Archives)

Louise Noun papers (Iowa Women's Archives): Louise Noun did extensive research on Abner Kneeland. Noun's research materials on Kneeland are in Box 16 of her papers at the Iowa Women's Archives.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: Mary Jane Coggeshall
Series 2: Abner Kneeland
Series 3: Jennie McCowen
Series 4:

  • Series 1: Mary Jane Coggeshall
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information, undated
  • Correspondence - 1989-1990
  • Iowa Women's Hall of Fame award - 1990
  • Photograph, undated
  • Resources, undated
  • Series 2: Abner Kneeland
  • Sub-Series: General
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical research materials
  • "Abner Kneeland," an address given by Voltaire Paine Twombley - 1903
  • Archival materials - 1845 [photocopies]
  • Correspondence from Kneeland to John McAuley - 1843 [photocopy and transcription]
  • Daybook, undated [photocopy]
  • Iowa newspaper articles, undated [photocopies]
  • Kneeland information found among Celia Carr Bonney's possessions - 1966 and undated
  • Kneeland genealogy by Stillson Kneeland, undated
  • Kneeland letters to Boston Investigator - 1839-1940
  • Microfilm
  • Photocopies
  • Newspaper clipping, undated
  • Photographs, undated
  • Sub-Series: Contextual research materials [photocopies and notes]
  • Box 1:
  • Boston city directory, 1789 - 1789
  • Census notes, Van Buren County, Iowa - 1850 and 1870
  • County records-land and legal settlements - 1839-1845
  • History of Farmington, Iowa, undated
  • Maps, undated
  • Salubria or Gray Cemetery, undated
  • "Sketches of Iowa" by John B. Newhall, 1841 - 1841
  • Sub-Series: Correspondence - 1972-1998
  • Box 2:
  • Grace Boler Forgrave (Abner Kneeland's granddaughter)
  • Booklets, undated
  • "Fragrant Hearts" a memoir by Grace Boler Forgrave, undated
  • "Thoughts" poetry by Grace Boler Forgrave, undated
  • Sub-Series: Research notes
  • Box 2:
  • Notes from History and Archives (including suggestions by Louise Noun), undated
  • Notes from the Iowa State Historical Society, undated
  • Notes from the University of Iowa Libraries, undated
  • Notes on John Cleland, undated
  • Notes regarding Kneeland letters to Boston Investigator, undated
  • Sub-Series: Secondary sources
  • Box 2:
  • "Abner Kneeland: His Relation to Early Iowa History," by Mary Whitcomb, Annals of Iowa - 1904
  • "Abner Kneeland - Pantheist" by Ruth A. Gallaher, The Palimpsest - 1939
  • "American Home Missionary Letters from Iowa" by Walter R. Houf, undated
  • "Backwoods Utopias" by Arthur Eugene Bestor, Jr. - 1950
  • "Blasphemy in Massachusetts" edited by Leonard W. Levy - 1973
  • "The Blasphemy of Abner Kneeland" by Henry Steele Commager - 1935
  • "Doctor William Salter" by Reverend James L. Hall - 1911
  • "The Dreams of the American Dream" by Stewart H. Holbrook - 1957
  • "Founding Fathers" Chapter IV of The History of Gardner, Massachusetts 1785-1967 by Esther Gilman Moore, undated
  • Iowa Inside Out by Herbert V. Hake - 1868
  • "The Larger Hope" by Russell E. Miller, undated
  • "'Liberation From Man and God in Boston' Abner Kneeland's Free-Thought Campaign 1830-1939" by Roderick S. French, American Quarterly - 1980
  • "Pilgrims in Iowa" Chapter X of The Yankee Exodus by Stewart H. Holbrook - 1950
  • "The Pilgrims of Iowa" by Truman O. Douglass - 1911
  • "Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850" by Albert Post - 1943
  • Sub-Series: Books
  • Box 2:
  • The Farmer's Own Book - 1832
  • The Holy Bible - 1861 [inscribed by Lett
  • Box 3:
  • Hymns Composed by Different Authorsat the Request of the General Convention of Universalists - 1810
  • A Key to the New System of Orthography by Abner Kneeland - 1827
  • National Hymns: Original and Selected by Abner Kneeland - 1836
  • The New Testament transcribed by Abner Kneeland - 1823
  • Series 3: Jennie McCowen
  • Box 3:
  • Biographical information, undated
  • Correspondence - 1990-1992
  • Resources, undated
  • Series 4:
  • Box 3: Mary Louise Duncan Putnam
  • Biographical information, undated
  • Correspondence - 1990-1992
  • Iowa Women's Hall of Fame award - 1991