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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1942-2002
Creator: Reger-Wilkinson, Mary Frances (1909-2006)
Extent: 5.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0501
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Social worker who worked for the American National Red Cross during and after World War II.

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. 869) were donated by Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson in 2002.

Preferred Citation: Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson 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

Mary Frances Reger was born in Davis City, Iowa in Decatur County to Georgia M. Rudibaugh and Francis A. Reger. An older brother, Charles Kenneth "Ken" Reger, rounded out the family. Mary Frances Reger spent the first fourteen years of her life in Decatur County on a small farm with her family. She describes her life as "simple but good." Her maternal grandparents, Orlena Jane Craig and Charles L. Rudibaugh lived nearby, while her paternal grandparents, Mary Olive Ellis and William A. Reger, lived thirty-four miles away at Mt. Ayr, Iowa in Ringgold County.

Mary Frances Reger began school a year early so that she could share the same bench and textbook with her brother. Anxious for their children to have a good education, Georgia and Francis Reger packed all their belongings in a freight car and moved the family to Iowa City, Iowa in 1924. Mary Frances and her brother graduated on the honor roll from Iowa City High School in 1926 and entered the University of Iowa the same year. Mary Frances Reger graduated from the University of Iowa in just three years. Though she had a teaching certificate in hand, there were no jobs available. However, the faculty at her high school knew the young woman´s capabilities and hired her to do various tasks, including teaching. In 1934, Mary Frances Reger married Bernard R. Wilkinson. A rule against married women teaching forced the young couple to keep their marriage a secret for two years. It was at this point that Dr. Ralph Ojemann saw potential in Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson and recommended her for a fellowship at the University of Iowa. The research area was in parent education and child development. Reger-Wilkinson received her M.A. in social work from the University of Iowa in 1939.

While her husband served in the South Pacific in World War II, Reger-Wilkinson joined the American National Red Cross, Military and Naval Welfare Department. Reger-Wilkinson served as the director of social and recreational programs both in the field and in hospitals. This duty took her from the Midwest to Washington and California. When her husband was released from the U.S. Army in 1946, Reger-Wilkinson was employed by the Long Beach American Red Cross Home Service as an Intake Supervisor working with veterans following World War II. Later she worked with the California Department of Social Welfare in Adoptions, resigning with the birth of her son, George Reger Wilkinson, in 1948. When her son George was old enough to attend nursery school, Reger-Wilkinson returned to social work, accepting a position with the Los Angeles County Protective Services. Reger-Wilkinson remained with the agency for over twenty-five years, retiring in 1974.

Following her retirement, Reger-Wilkinson divided her time between classes at Long Beach City College and her volunteer work at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. She also took organ lessons in 1983 at age 74. Reger-Wilkinson´s volunteer work at the hospital was a continuation of the volunteer service she began when her mother was a patient there. Reger-Wilkinson volunteered at the hospital for twenty-seven years. Through her course work at the college, Reger-Wilkinson became interested in genealogy. On her ninetieth birthday, she placed a copy of her completed Ancestral Record Book (Reger-Rudibaugh/Ellis/Craig and Those Who Joined by Marriage) in the Leon, Iowa Public Library in Decatur County.

Bernard Wilkinson, Reger-Wilkinson´s husband, died in 1962. Their son, George, died in 1993.

The Mary Frances Reger-Wilkinson papers date from 1942 to 2002 and measure 5  linear inches.  The papers are organized into several folders.

Biography includes an autobiographical essay Reger-Wilkinson wrote in 2002, a 1983 article about Reger-Wilkinson from California Senior Citizen and obituaries for Reger-Wilkinson's brother and sister-in-law, Charles Kenneth Reger and Marjorie Frazier Reger. 

The American Red Cross folder contains general information about the organization that Reger-Wilkinson collected between 1945 and 1997, including newspaper articles, brochures and The Red Cross Courier.  Also included are two small plaques Reger-Wilkinson received in appreciation for her service to The American Red Cross.

Camp Callan is a separate folder that Reger-Wilkinson labeled and organized before donating her papers.  It contains issues of The Range Finder, the Camp Callan newspaper, and other articles regarding activities at Camp Callan during Reger-Wilkinson's tenure there.  Reger-Wilkinson is featured in several of the newspaper articles.  Of special note is the program and an article regarding the memorial service the camp held following President Franklin Roosevelt's death. 

The Correspondence folder contains two items from the University of Iowa. One is a 1942 letter written to Reger-Wilkinson at Camp Haan by the head of the home economics department, Sybil Woodruff.  Newspaper clippings and articles contains items that Reger-Wilkinson saved, mostly pertaining to World War II veterans and women in war.

The bulk of the Reger-Wilkinson papers consists of her World War II diary and scrapbook.  In later life, Reger-Wilkinson would regret that she did not keep a detailed journal during the war years, however she did maintain a minimal record of her days in a diary titled "My Life in the Service," that was clearly designed for a male soldier.  She also saved newspaper articles and photographs.  From the 1970s through the 1990s, Reger-Wilkinson recounted her experiences during World War II in a series of essays and short reminiscences.  She combined these essays with the photographs and newspaper articles to create a scrapbook, "World War II--Mary Frances (Reger) Wilkinson and the American National Red Cross-Military and Naval Welfare."  Because of its fragile condition, the scrapbook was photocopied and photographs and artifacts were placed in separate folders.  The original pages of the scrapbook are in ten folders that follow Reger-Wilkinson's original order.  The photocopied scrapbook, the photographs, and the artifacts follow.  Of particular interest is information about the hospital program Reger-Wilkinson designed in her capacity as assistant field director with the American Red Cross, her memory of visiting a Japanese internment camp, descriptions of both her trip from Iowa City, Iowa to Los Angeles California via train and her husband Bernard Wilkinson's same trip via automobile on Route 66, and the final narrative report Reger-Wilkinson wrote upon dismantling Camp Callan in 1945.

Photographs consists of both personal and occupational photographs taken during World War II.  There are several of Reger-Wilkinson and her brother Charles Kenneth "Kenny" Reger, and Reger-Wilkinson with other family members and friends.  The only photograph of Bernard Wilkinson, Reger-Wilkinson's husband, was taken at their residence following the end of the war.  Apparently Reger-Wilkinson took the photograph herself. Many of the photographs are of American Red Cross staff and volunteers Reger-Wilkinson worked with at the various camps where she was stationed. 

Artifacts include American Red Cross buttons, badges and pins and Reger-Wilkinson's dog tags.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: BIOGRAPHICAL
Series 3: WORLD WAR II

  • Series 1: Correspondence
  • Series 2: BIOGRAPHICAL
  • Box 1:
  • General - 1983, 1999, 2001-2002
  • Series 3: WORLD WAR II
  • Box 1:
  • The American Red Cross - 1945-1946, 1996-1997
  • Camp Callan - 1945
  • Correspondence - 1942, 1999
  • Newspaper clippings and articles - 1995-2002
  • Diary - 1942-1947
  • Scrapbook: Table of contents and introductory material
  • Scrapbook: The trip to California - World
  • Scrapbook: Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Washington - 1942
  • Scrapbook: Camp Haan, Riverside, California - 1942-1943
  • Scrapbook: Port of Embarkation, Hospital, Los Angeles - 1943-1944
  • Scrapbook: Camp Callan, San Diego - 1944-1945
    1943-1944
  • Scrapbook: Camp Pendleton, Oceanside - 1945-1946
  • Scrapbook: Letters of Commendation - 1944-1945
  • Scrapbook: The War is Over
  • Scrapbook: World War II Experience-Reflections
  • World War II scrapbook [photocopy] - 1942-1946
  • Photographs - 1942-1946
  • Artifacts - 1940-1949