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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Mary Terronez papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1926-2009
Creator: Terronez, Mary (1918-2009)
Extent: 5.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0497
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Davenport area community activist and leader in its Mexican American community.

Alternate Extent Statement: Artifacts in box 2.

Access: The papers are open for research.

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

Acquisition: The papers (donor nos. 862 and 995) were donated by Mary Terronez in 2002 and subsequent years, and by Ernest Rodriguez in 2009.

Preferred Citation: Mary Terronez 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
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Maria (Mary) Ramirez Terronez was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1918 to Adelida Gutierrez Ramirez and Dionisio Ramirez, the third oldest of fourteen children. She was four years old when her father was recruited to work for the Rock Island Railroad in Davenport, Iowa. The rest of the family joined him one year later in 1923, when Mary Ramirez was five years old. They settled in the barrio known as Cook's Point near the railroad tracks in southwest Davenport. Ramirez attended Davenport schools where she completed the sixth grade after which she stayed home to help her mother cook, clean, and look after her siblings. In 1936 she married Felipe Bravo Terronez, a railroad worker, who was originally from Mexico and had grown up in Silvis, Illinois. The couple had six children: Virginia (born 1933), John (born 1938), Phyllis (born 1940), Irene (born 1944), Georgia (born 1949), and Randolph (born 1955). Mary Terronez became a U.S. citizen in 1962.

Terronez was a community activist most of her adult life. She served as an interpreter and liaison between the Spanish-speaking community and the schools, sheriff´s department, U.S. Immigration Service, business owners, medical doctors, and welfare agencies. She was a spokesperson for Cook´s Point residents during their forced relocation in 1952, when the barrio was closed down. She supported the grape boycott campaign by picketing local supermarkets and also cooked for a reception for Cesar Chavez in 1969 when he attended a grape boycott rally in Davenport. From 1971-1974 she was the job coordinator for the Area Board for Migrants; in this position she worked with the Spanish-speaking community in the Quad Cities, interviewing job seekers, contacting employers, and matching job seekers with job vacancies. Terronez later worked with the Muscatine Migrant Committee and served as a teacher´s aide for the Davenport Community School District where she raised funds for new playground equipment at Jefferson Elementary. In 1976 she completed her GED and continued her education at Palmer Junior College where she graduated with an AA degree in 1980; she was honored with a placement in Who´s Who Among American Junior College Students. Terronez was involved in many organizations including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican-American Committee on Education, and the Visiting Nurses Association. Terronez received recognition from institutions including the University of Iowa Chicano-Indian American Student Union, the American Institute of Commerce, and the State of Illinois. She was named KRVR radio´s "Quad-Citian for the Day" in April of 1983. In 1997, Terronez attended President Clinton´s second inauguration in Washington, DC.

Mary Terronez passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.

The Mary Terronez papers date from 1936 to 2009 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The biographical information folder includes copies of her birth certificate and certificate of naturalization, and resumes from different time periods in her life.

The Cook's Point economic survey conducted by Reverend William O'Connor and members of the Human Relations Club of St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, describes the living conditions and history of the settlement. This folder also contains a copy of a series of articles written in 1963 by Reverend O'Connor for the Tri-City Labor Times entitled, "Racial Injustice in Iowa." In No.15, O'Connor describes the speech Terronez made in defense of the Cook's Point residents.

The letters of recommendation include a letter from Sister Irene Munoz concerning Mary Terronez's work with the Muscatine Migrant Committee from 1977 to 1978.

The newspaper clippings include articles about the Terronez family, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) festivals, local activism related to the grape boycott campaign and migrant worker issues. A 1974 article entitled, "Reflections of a Mexican Heritage" describes the master's art project of Irene Terronez, daughter of Mary Terronez.

The materials pertaining to Mary Terronez's husband, Felipe Bravo Terronez, include photocopies of: a newspaper clipping about the Mexican All-Stars baseball team he played on in the 1920s. A 1936 seniority list for the Rock Island Line, Illinois Division, Maintenance of Way Department, which lists Mary Terronez's husband Felipe Bravo Terronez and her father Dionisio Ramirez, is also included.

The folder on John Terronez includes newspaper articles and memorial tributes. He served as state director of Iowa LULAC from 1968 to 1970, and also chaired the Quad City Grape Boycott Committee duirng that period. In 1970, he was recruited by the U.S. Department of Justice to work as a conciliator in its Community Relations Service. He received a distinguished service award in 1979 for his role the previous year in the "Longest Walk"-a Native American protest march from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. John Terronez passed away in 1997 at the age of 58.

The family photos date from the 1940s to 2004 and many of them are identified.

An embroidered, red LULAC Council #10 bowling shirt that belonged to Virginia Terronez completes the collection.
Oral history interview with Irene Terronez, artist and daughter of Mary Terronez.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Awards - 1976-1995
  • Biographical information - 1962-2009
  • d0063: "Selections from the Mary Terronez Video Archives," compiled by Freddie Fillers [her grandson] - 2009
  • Cook's Point survey - 1963
    [copied from Rusty Barcel's collection]
  • Correspondence: Letters of recommendation - 1975-1984
  • Correspondence - 1986-2006
  • Newspaper clippings (folder 1) - 1959-1997
  • Newspaper clippings (folder 2) - 1959-1997
  • Oral history: Transcript - 2003
  • Oral history transcript [AC939-AC940] - 2003
  • Terronez, Felipe Bravo [husband of Mary Terronez]
  • Terronez, John [son of Mary Terronez] - 1965-1997
  • Terronez, Irene [daughter of Mary Terronez]: "Dia de Los Muertos" altar by artist Irene Terronez in memory of her mother - 2009
    Preserved in Iowa Digital Library
  • Photographs (folder 1) - 1947-2004
  • Photographs (folder 2) - 1947-2004
  • Box 2:
  • Artifact: LULAC Council #10 bowling shirt - 1967