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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Margaret Johnson papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1929-2001
Creator: Johnson, Margaret (1915-)
Extent: 2.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0369
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Farm woman, teacher, and recipient of the Master Farm Homemaker award in 1970.

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 audiocassette [AC935]
Photographs in boxes 2, 3 and 5

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has not been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 526) were donated by Margaret Johnson in 2002.

Preferred Citation: Margaret Johnson 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 Maurine Barkley was born on June 9, 1915 in Appanoose County, Iowa to Samuel E. and Mary Moore Barkley. Barkley graduated from Moulton High School in 1932 with a normal training certificate. Ineligible to teach until she reached her eighteenth birthday, Barkley worked in her uncle's law office. Barkley then taught in a one-room school in 1933 and 1934. During that time she managed to send money to her parents and set aside enough funds so that when she married Kenneth Paul Johnson in 1935 she was able to purchase four heifers. The Johnsons farmed in Davis County, Iowa. Johnson became a farmwife and homemaker, giving birth to four children: Carolyn May (born 1936), David Paul (deceased), Richard Gale (born 1945) and Roberta Diane (born 1952).

During the World War II teacher shortage, Johnson was asked to return to the classroom. For two years she taught at a rural school near her home. Her pupils included her eldest child, Carolyn. After the war Johnson's husband did custom work, having two of the earliest self-propelled combines and a bulldozer. At one time he followed the Kansas wheat harvest while Margaret Johnson and their children kept the Grade A Dairy and farm going. On March 13, 1964 Kenneth Johnson was killed in a bulldozer accident on the Johnson farm. His son Gale left his job with the Maytag Corporation in Newton, Iowa to return to the family farm where he did the heavy work while his mother Margaret Johnson did the milking chores. Realizing that she needed an easier way to make a living, Johnson enrolled at Centerville Community College, attending night classes at first. After earning her associate degree in 1968, Johnson enrolled at Northeast Missouri State Teacher's College (now Truman State University) in Kirksville, Missouri, receiving her B.A. in education in 1970. Johnson continued operating the dairy throughout her college career. In 1970 Johnson was honored for her outstanding achievements by being awarded the Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Award.

Johnson was hired as a first grade teacher in the Davis County Community School District in 1970. She taught for twelve years before retiring at age sixty-seven. Before retirement Johnson completed both the regular program and the master's program in writing for children offered by the Institute of Children's Literature, Redding Ridge, Connecticut. An avid writer of poetry, Johnson wrote and published numerous children's stories, poems, and various types of articles. Johnson sang at weddings, funerals, church events and other special occasions, both as a soloist and in duets, and won numerous ribbons for her quilting.

In her mid-eighties, Johnson wrote that her faith in God was the most important influence in her life. She raised her family in a small country church: Monterey Christian, Disciples of Christ. Johnson served as the church treasurer for many years, taught Sunday school for sixty years, sponsored youth groups, and hosted student ministers. In addition to her lifelong church membership, Johnson was active in the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Christian Women's Fellowship, Davis County Hospital Auxiliary, Welcome Neighbor Club, Iowa Poetry Association, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Society of Children's Book Writers, Davis County Farm Bureau Women and in 4H as a leader.

The Margaret Johnson papers date from 1929 to 2001 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Biography, Career, Fine Arts, Organizations and Photographs.

The Biography series begins with a short autobiography Johnson wrote in 2001. Johnson also wrote two short histories regarding her ancestors. The correspondence folder is limited, containing few personal letters. The education folder contains copies of Johnson's various college graduation certificates and certificates from the Institute of Children's Literature. There are also programs and lists for alumni banquets at Moulton High School. The bulk of the Biography series consists of Johnson's journals from 1984-2000. Johnson kept a daily record of the weather, her activities, meals and people she encountered. Newspaper clippings include her husband Kenneth Johnson's obituary and an article regarding his accidental death. There are also clippings regarding Johnson's literary awards, her teaching career and her involvement in various volunteer organizations.

The Career series focuses on Johnson's farming and teaching careers. The farming subseries includes record books Johnson maintained for the family farm from 1959 to 1963. The Farming subseries also contains information about Johnson's 1970 Master Farm Homemaker award, including a scrapbook that contains newspaper articles, photographs and letters of congratulation. The Teaching subseries consists of teaching certificates, evaluation forms, contracts, appreciation certificates and school handouts.

The Fine Arts series encompasses Johnson's talents in quilting, singing and writing. Included are programs from various quilting shows Johnson participated in along with several ribbons she earned for her quilting. The singing folder contains programs from various weddings and funerals where Johnson performed, along with many thank-you notes. There is also a cassette tape of four hymns recorded in the 1990s with Johnson's granddaughter accompanying her on the piano. The bulk of the Fine Arts series consists of Johnson's writings, including drafts of stories, articles and poems; assignments she wrote for the Institute of Children's Literature; and poetry journals in which Johnson was published. Though there are few acceptance letters in the papers, Johnson did maintain a large collection of rejection slips she received.

The Organizations series forms the bulk of Margaret Johnson's collection. Several subseries encompass the scope of Johnson's community involvement. The Church subseries contains several programs Johnson presented through her affiliations with the Methodist Episcopal Church, Monterey Christian Church and Moulton Christian Church. Included in the Moulton Christian Church folder is a 1929 brochure Johnson kept as a member of the Triangle Girls Organization. There are also several certificates Johnson earned through her various church activities including the Prison Fellowship. Johnson sponsored children through the Christian Children's Fund for thirty years. Photographs, biographies and correspondence of some of the children are included in this subseries. The Christian Women's Fellowship (CWF) subseries consists of Bible study booklets from 1989 to 1999 containing Johnson's handwritten notes. Also included are CWF yearbooks dating from 1959-1972 and assorted program brochures.

The Organizations series continues with programs and minutes for the Davis County Farm Bureau Women. There is also a 1975 annual report for the Davis County Hospital Auxiliary. Johnson was an active member of the Davis County Retired Teachers Unit and there are several programs and agendas covering the period 1984 to 1992. Johnson's participation in Delta Kappa Gamma included her membership in two chapters: Alpha Sigma and Beta Rho. The Alpha Sigma chapter papers include program brochures and a small notebook listing members, committees and other information. The Beta Rho chapter papers include a history of the founding of the chapter, programs, rosters and treasurer reports. Also included in the Delta Kappa Gamma subseries are programs from national conferences and conventions. The Iowa Retired Teachers Association subseries consists of several directories spanning the years 1988 to 1992.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood subseries contains the handwritten notes for several presentations Johnson gave and yearbooks spanning the years 1969 to 2000. Also included in the Organizations series is a folder of unidentified and undated notes for various speeches and presentations.

The Photographs series consists of one folder of photographs of Johnson, her children, and her grandchildren. Additional photographs can be found in the Master Farm Homemakers award scrapbook (1970) in Box 2.

Browse by Series:
Series 2: CAREER
Series 3: FINE ARTS

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHY
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information - 2001
  • Correspondence - 1982, 1992, 2001
  • Education - 1968-1986
  • Journals (folder 1) - 1984-2000
  • Journals (folder 2) - 1984-2000
  • Journals (folder 3) - 1984-2000
  • Journals (folder 4) - 1984-2000
  • Box 2:
  • Newspaper clippings - 1960-1996
  • Series 2: CAREER
  • Box 2:
  • Farming: Master Farm Homemaker award - 1970
  • Farming: Master Farm Homemaker award scrapbook - 1970
  • Farming: Master Farm Homemakers guild - 1973-1990
  • Farming: Record books - 1959-1961, 1963
  • Teaching - 1969-1980
  • Series 3: FINE ARTS
  • Box 2:
  • Quilting: Quilt shows - 1972-1995
  • Quilting: Ribbons, undated
  • Singing - 1967-1994
    [and audiocassette AC935]
  • Writing: Acceptances - 1998
  • Writing: Drafts, undated (folder 1)
  • Box 3:
  • Writing: Drafts, undated (folder 2)
  • Writing: Institute of Children's Literature - 1973-1976
  • Writing: Poetry award certificates - 1987-1998
  • Writing: Publications - 1987-1998
  • Writing: Rejection slips - 1975-1986
  • Box 3:
  • Certificates and membership cards - 1968-1991
  • Church: Devotional work - 1973-1998
  • Church: M.E. Church - 1982, 1989
  • Church: Monterey Christian Church - 1982, 1992
  • Church: Moulton Christian Church - 1929, 1989
  • Christian Children's Fund - 1971-2001
    [includes photographs]
  • Christian Women's Fellowship: Bible studies - 1989-1999
  • Box 4:
  • Christian Women's Fellowship: Programs, undated
  • Christian Women's Fellowship: Yearbooks - 1959-1972
  • Davis County Farm Bureau Women - 1960-1964
  • Davis County Hospital Auxiliary - 1975
  • Davis County Retired Teachers Unit - 1984-1992
  • Delta Kappa Gamma: Alpha Sigma Chapter - 1963, 1973-1974
  • Delta Kappa Gamma: Beta Rho Chapter (folder 1) - 1978-2000
  • Delta Kappa Gamma: Beta Rho Chapter (folder 2) - 1978-2000
  • Delta Kappa Gamma: National, General - 1973-2000
  • Box 5:
  • Delta Kappa Gamma: Conventions - 1979-1984
  • Iowa Retired Teachers Association - 1983-1992
  • P.E.O. Sisterhood: Programs - 1987, 1995
  • P.E.O. Sisterhood: Yearbooks - 1969-2000
  • Speeches, undated
  • Series 5: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 5:
  • Photographs - 1968-2001