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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Jane Burleson papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1956-1998
Creator: Burleson, Jane (1928- )
Extent: 2.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0340
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Teacher's aide, packinghouse worker, and union activist, Burleson was the first woman and first African American elected to the Fort Dodge City Council.
View Selected Items Online:African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1

Access: The papers are open for research.

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

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 468) were donated by Jane Burleson in 1997 and succeeding years.

Preferred Citation: Jane Burleson 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

Jane (Janie) Burleson, union activist, volunteer, and city council member, was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1928 to Octavia Bivens Jones Dukes and William Kelly Jones. She left high school to marry at age seventeen. After separating from her husband, she worked in a Chicago packing plant. In 1948 she returned to Fort Dodge to care for her ailing father and became employed by the Hormel plant. In her thirty-two years at Hormel, she was involved in union activities, serving as secretary for the Local 31, United Packinghouse Workers of North America. In 1954 she married Walter Burleson. Her son Charles, from her previous marriage, survived service in Vietnam but suffered a violent death in St. Louis in 1974. When the Hormel plant closed in 1981, Burleson began to work for the Fort Dodge school district as a special education teacher's aide. In 1981, Burleson ran for Fort Dodge City Council for the first time and was defeated. She ran again in 1983 and won, becoming Fort Dodge's first woman and first African-American city councilor. Burleson's other activities included serving as president of the Fort Dodge A. Phillip Randolph Institute, active involvement in the League of Women Voters and the Democratic Party, and service to her church, Coppin Chapel African Methodist Episcopal.

The Jane Burleson papers date from 1956 to 1998 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The papers consist primarily of photocopied items and comprise biographical material, awards and honors, material relating to Fort Dodge African-American history, Fort Dodge City Council material, and photographs.

The Biographical material (1956-1998 and undated) contains newspaper clippings, funeral programs for Burleson's mother and son, photographs of Burleson and her grandchildren, and a draft of Burleson's biography submitted to Who's Who Among African Americans.

The Awards and honors (1973-1996) include awards and certificates Burleson received for her work with the union, the city of Fort Dodge, and her church.

The material pertaining to Fort Dodge African-American history (1991, 1997, and undated) consists of images from a collection that documents Fort Dodge history (William Sayles Doan, A Book of Days, Fort Dodge Messenger, 1991.) It also contains an Iowa State Bystander article which Burleson wrote about the history of African Americans in Fort Dodge, and a program and other material from a 1997 celebratory event on the subject.

The Fort Dodge City Council material (1983-1997 and undated) consists of Burleson's certificates of election, speeches Burleson gave as a city council member, and campaign materials.

The Photographs (1931? -1997 and undated) feature Burleson with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, among others, and a photograph of workers at the Fort Dodge Hormel Plant.

Browse by Series:

  • Series 1: JANE BURLESON
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical material - 1956-1998
  • Awards and honors - 1973-1996
  • Fort Dodge African-American history - 1991, 1997
  • Fort Dodge City Council - 1983-1997
  • Photographs - 1931-1997