Mary Parden, secretary to five University of Iowa presidents, was born in 1915 in George, Iowa. She graduated from University High in 1932 and from the University of Iowa in 1936. Parden taught commercial classes in Manson, Iowa, after finishing her studies at the University. She then taught at the American Institute of Commerce in Davenport, Iowa, until 1942. Her next position, which she held from 1943 to 1945, was with the pre-flight program at the University of Iowa. Parden worked at Spiegel's in Chicago until 1947 and then returned to the University of Iowa to work at the graduate school. In 1948, she became the secretary to the University's president. In this capacity, she served Presidents Hancher, Bowen, Boyd, Spriesterback (acting president), and Freedman. Parden retired from the University in 1984.
Parden was an active volunteer with the Girl Scouts, American Association of University Women, University Alumni Association, and the Iowa City and Coralville Public Libraries. Parden received recognition for her speech "New Perspectives for Future Secretaries," which she presented at the 6th Professional Workshop in Business Education in 1966. Parden was a lifelong member and supporter of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Iowa City. Parden died in Iowa City in 1999.
The Mary Parden papers date from 1929 to 1999 and measure 5 linear inches. The papers are arranged in five series: Biographical, Education, Employment, Community Activities, and Photographs.
The Biographical series includes miscellaneous items from Parden's childhood and information about her family's history.
The Education series contains publications from the University of Iowa, including booklets for prospective students about the conditions and prices of residence halls, sororities, and fraternities. One of the booklets is specifically written to recruit members of the armed forces. The series also includes information about University High including correspondence about reunions, commencement booklets, a copy of University President Bowen's speech at the 50th anniversary celebration in 1966, and information on the school's closing in 1972. The events folder contains two photographs of students in a drama performance; the students are identified in the photos.
The Employment series includes informational booklets from the American Institute of Commerce and the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School, a transcript of Parden's speech "New Perspectives for Future Secretaries," and newspaper articles that describe the highlights of Parden's secretarial career at the University of Iowa.
The Community Activities series includes miscellaneous papers regarding Parden's work with the American Association of University Women and the Manville Heights Club. The Iowa City memorabilia folder includes a booklet on Old Capitol published by the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in 1928, a menu from the Princess Café (featuring liverwurst sandwiches for 15 cents), and an undated promotional booklet on Iowa City that was published by chamber of commerce when the University of Iowa had 9,000 students. This booklet contains many photos of Iowa City that show what the city looked like when it was much smaller. This series also includes papers related to Parden's service on the Iowa City Public Library Planning Committee from 1987 to 1988, which consist of meeting minutes and attachments, a copy of the final plan, and articles the committee read on the function and future of public libraries. This planning process resulted in a major expansion of the library including the construction of a new facility on South Linn Street.
The Photographs series includes photographs of University of Iowa presidents Parden served, American Association of University Women members, and assorted miscellaneous personal and professional photographs.
Three books on shorthand are shelved in the printed works collection of the Iowa Women's Archives: 5,000 Most-Used Shorthand Forms (1931) compiled by Dr. Ernest Horn; Direct-Method Materials for Gregg Shorthand (1933) by Ann Brewington and Helen I. Soutter; and Gregg Shorthand Manual for the Functional Method (1936) by Louis A. Leslie.
Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1
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. 607) were donated by Dorothy and Charles Smith in 1999.
Preferred Citation: Mary Parden papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.