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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Bertha Korn Tucker papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920-1999
Creator: Tucker, Bertha Korn (1908-2010)
Extent: 2.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0434
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Writer and life-long student who was active in the Sisterhood (Jewish aid society) at the Beth El Jacob Synagogue in Des Moines and Hadassah, a national organization aiding disadvantaged Jews, primarily children.

Alternate Extent Statement: 3 reel-to-reel audiotapes
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. 637) were donated by Bertha Korn Tucker in 1999.

Preferred Citation: Bertha Korn Tucker 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

Bertha Korn Tucker is a writer and life-long student who has lived in Iowa for almost her entire life. Bertha Ida Korn was born in Des Moines, Iowa on April 25, 1908. She was the youngest of five children born to Shana Ethel Hoffman and Samuel Koen, who had emigrated from Lithuania just a few years before her birth. Growing up in the "Jewish ghetto" of Des Moines, she faced a great deal of prejudice. She graduated from North High School in1926 and completed her two-year Certificate in Education from Drake University in Des Moines two years later. Throughout her life, she has held a variety of jobs including kindergarten teacher, typist, and secretary.
In 1937, she married Isadore Tucker, an Oelwein businessman in the automobile salvage industry. After living briefly in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Petersburg, Virginia, she settled back in her hometown with her family. Tucker had two children and is a devoted parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent. She has been involved in the Sisterhood (Jewish aid society) at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines and served as program director for Hadassah, a national organization which aids disadvantaged Jews, primarily children. She has also been an active member of the Yiddish class at Bethel Jacob, for which she translated dozens of songs, poems, and short stories. Tucker has always been deeply committed to Jewish culture and history.
Tucker re-enrolled at Drake University and was awarded a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis on English, in 1969. She continued to take courses at Drake over ten years after her graduation, well into her seventies. Since elementary school, her true love has always been writing. Over the years, she has amassed an impressive body of work, having composed over forty short stories and poems in both English and Yiddish.

The Bertha Korn Tucker papers date from 1920 to 1999 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Personal life, Creative writing, Academic papers, Writings and translations in Yiddish, and Jewish-theme writings.

The Personal life series (1971-1991) primarily contains correspondence from family and friends. Most of the letters and postcards come from her daughter, Janey Tucker, from college and while abroad in Europe and Israel. The series contains photographs from all stages of Bertha Tucker's life (1913-1999). Personal mementos of important life events, such as her college graduation and son Yale's bar mitzvah are included. Tow issues of the Olwein High School yearbook (1927-28) are also included in this series.

Tucker's interest in writing began in elementary school. The Creative writing series (1924-1970 and undated) contains short stories written in English. A few poems and plays are included. She has written short stories throughout varies stages of her life: elementary and high school, college, career, parenthood, and retirement. Always a perfectionist, Tucker completed several drafts of each of her stories, many of which are included. As a result, it is difficult to assess the precise year in which she wrote each piece. With the help of her niece, Ethel Pollack (neé Jacobson), Tucker adopted the pen name of "Byrt" because it was more creative than "Bertha."

Education was always a priority for Tucker and she was a gifted student. She received her Certificate in Education from Drake University in 1928 and returned to Drake in 1960. After completing her bachelor's degree in 1969, she continued to take courses until approximately 1982. The Academic papers series (1960-1974 and undated) contains primarily papers for her English literature classes.

Tucker has been active in her Yiddish class at the Beth El Jacob synagogue in Des Moines from approximately 1951-1999. The Writings and translations in Yiddish series contains translations from English to Yiddish done by Tucker for her class. An original short story (undated) written in Yiddish is included.

Jewish culture and history have always been important to Tucker. The Jewish-themed writings series reflects her passion for her heritage. This series contains short stories written in English (1926 and undated) and academic papers (1972 and undated.

Browse by Series:

  • Series 1: PERSONAL LIFE
  • Box 1:
  • Samuel Korn's (father) immigration papers - 1920
  • Isadore Tucker's (husband) high school diploma - 1930
  • Isadore Tucker's (husband) membership certificate for Nobles of the Mystic Shrine - 1943
  • Letter about Yale Tucker's (son) bar mitzvah - 1961
  • Mortgage certificate - 1962
  • Drake University Commencement announcement - 1969
  • Tuckers Auto Parts closing announcement - 1969
  • Drake University Alumnae Association banquet - 1994
  • Korn Family Tree - 1999
  • Biographical material and timeline - 1999
  • Correspondence - 1971-1974
  • Correspondence - 1991
  • Correspondence, undated
  • Photographs - 1912-1919
  • Photographs - 1928-1938
  • Photographs - 1945-1960
  • Photographs - 1999
  • Yearbook: "The Ghost" - 1927-1928
  • Series 2: CREATIVE WRITING IN ENGLISH (5 folders)
  • Box 1:
  • Folder one
  • "Untitled (Becky Simon)," short story - 1924
  • "Margaret," short story - 1924
  • "What're They Doing to Twila?" short story - 1936
  • "Had I Been Mrs. Shakespeare or Had Mrs. Shakespeare Been Me," short story - 1960
  • "My Own Pilgrimage," short story - 1969
  • Folder two
  • "The Other Side of the Measuring Stick or How Things Been Turnin' Aroun' Here," short story - 1970
  • "Just Wait and See," play, undated
  • "Why Call it Care Free Years?" short story, undated
  • Folder three
  • "A Return to Market Street," short story, undated
  • "Fraid to Die or Scared, Really Scared," short story, undated
  • "(Eaves-droppings) from The Golden Age Retirement Home," short story, undated
  • Folder four
  • "It Had to Be Me," short story, undated
  • "Say it Without Flowers or Fiddler Off the Roof," play, undated
  • "The Hiatus of Clare Baker," short story, undated
  • Box 2:
  • Folder five
  • "Molly Mendelson and the Volunteer Visitor," short story, undated
  • "Dinner in Sweet and Sour," play, undated
  • "The Party," poem, undated
  • "Nothingness," poem, undated
  • Undated Writings
  • Unfinished Writings - 1963-1996
  • Box 2:
  • Folder one
  • "Why Are We Moved by Willy Loman?" English - 1960
  • "Significance of the Title - 'Golden Boy,'" English - 1960
  • "My Reaction to Richard II," English - 1960
  • "'Camino Real' by Tennessee Williams," English - 1960
  • "'Our Town' by Thornton Wilder," English - 1960
  • "Comparison of Women: Laura from 'The Father' by Strindberg and Regina from 'The Little Foxes' by Hellman," English - 1960
  • "Examination of Characters: Regina, pastor Manders, and Engstrand from 'Ghosts' by Henrik Ibsen," English - 1960
  • "'Fijan Village' by Buell Quain," Sociology - 1961
  • "An Essay of a Kind of Dramatic Poetry," English - 1968
  • "Poetic Diction in Wordworth's Theory and Practice," English - 1969
  • "A Letter to Jonathan Edwards," English - 1969
  • "Hawthorne and Faulkner," English - 1970
  • Untitled (Dos Passos), English - 1970
  • "The Genius of William Faulkner," English - 1970
  • Folder two
  • "An Interview With Bertha Tucker," English - 1972
  • "Comparison: Snyder and Carruth," English - 1972
  • Untitled, English - 1972
  • "Proverbs," English - 1972
  • "Early American Folk Heroes," English - 1972
  • "Why Study Folklore," English - 1972
  • "Is There a Folk in the City?" English - 1972
  • "Joyce's 'Dubliners,'" English - 1973
  • Mid-Term Exam, English - 1973
  • "Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers,'" English - 1973
  • "Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover,'" English - 1973
  • "Greene's 'The Power and the Glory,'" English - 1973
  • "Woolf's 'Mrs. Dalloway,'" English - 1973
  • "Ford's 'The Good Soldier,'" English - 1973
  • Final Exam, English - 1973
  • "A Mystifying Mystic," English, undated
  • "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," 1955 and 1978, Film Studies, undated - 1955 and 1978, Film Studies,
  • "The Three of Them" Changed to "The Two of Them," Film Studies, undated
  • "Autumn Sonata," Film Studies, undated
  • "How Do Indian Tales Differ From White Hero Tales?" English, undated
  • "Question No. 2: Cooper and Poe," English, undated
  • "Question No. 4: Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Poe's Narrator of 'Ligeia," English, undated
  • Box 2:
  • Folder one
  • "Untitled (Mameh and Yosel)," original short story, undated
  • "Ah Pawrtret foon Sally Priessand," translation, undated
  • "The Bond" by Sylvan Karchmer', translation, undated
  • Untitled (Abraham), translation, undated
  • "A Treasury of Jewish Folklore," translation, undated
  • Box 2:
  • Folder one
  • "Untitled (Father)," short story - 1926
  • "Yiddish Folk Music," English paper - 1972
  • "A Folk Riddle" English paper - 1972
  • "Heard Melodies Are Sweet," English paper - 1972
  • "The Other Side of the Fence," short story, undated
  • Folder two
  • "At the Cradle, From "Voices of A People" by Ruth Rubin," English paper, undated
  • "The Immigrant Jew and the American Dream," English paper, undated
  • "Adaption of 'The Washerwoman,'" English paper, undated
  • "Adaption of 'Anne Frank," The Spirit of Brotherhood," English paper, undated
  • "The Bobie," poem, undated
  • Undated writings