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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Josie Thurston papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1893-1990
Creator: Thurston, Josie (1892-1991)
Extent: 1.00 linear foot.
Collection Number: IWA0514
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Journalist who worked for the Des Moines Register between 1947 and 1957 and was later a freelance writer.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 3

Access: The papers are open for research.

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

Acquisition: The records (donor no. 893) were donated by Margaret Carroll in 2003.

Preferred Citation: Josie Thurston 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

Journalist Josie Lucile Stout Thurston was born on April 1, 1892 in Canton, Minnesota, to John and Belle Stout. Both of Stout's parents were educators. John Stout was superintendent of schools in Forest City and president of Ellsworth College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, from 1901 to 1903. Belle Stout earned her undergraduate degree from Ellsworth during her husband's presidential term and taught arithmetic and grammar at the college from 1902 to 1925; she earned an MA at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in 1928.

Josie Stout graduated from Iowa Falls High School in 1909, and received a teaching degree from Ellsworth College in 1913. She taught at Lake Mills High School for two years, and then married Abe Thurston, a Forest City pharmacist, in 1915. The couple's daughter, Margaret, was born in 1917. The family moved to South Dakota in 1924 after the pharmacy failed so that Josie Thurston could teach. By 1927, they had moved back to Iowa where Thurston wrote for the Cedar Falls newspaper. The Thurstons moved to Des Moines in 1943 where Thurston wrote for the Des Moines Register and her husband managed a drug store. The couple divorced a year later due to Abe Thurston's drug addiction.

Thurston became the travel editor for the Des Moines Register in 1947 and the society page editor in 1951. She traveled all over the United States and Europe. She was on the inaugural flight of Air France in 1953. After her retirement in 1957, Thurston wrote publicity materials for the Des Moines YMCA until the late 1960s when she moved to Charles City to be near her daughter, Margaret. Thurston continued freelance writing, and learned and taught the Norwegian painting technique of rosemaling. Thurston died in Charles City in 1991 at the age of ninety-nine.

The Josie Thurston papers date from 1893 to 2002 and measure 1 linear foot. The papers are arranged in three series: Personal, Professional, and Photographs.

The Personal series contains many short stories Thurston wrote for a correspondence course she took through the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in the early 1930s. Many of these stories are based on the character of her great-grandmother, Lucy Des Mond. An encounter between Des Mond and a Civil War veteran who gave her a Civil War flag while staying at her boarding house, for example, was the inspiration for the story "The Patriot." Both the story and material pertaining to this flag--which Des Mond passed down to Thurston--can be found in this series. The series also includes correspondence with the instructor for the writing course, Professor John T. Frederick (Frederick was the editor of the literary magazine The Midland, which published essays, fiction, and poetry about the Midwest from 1915 to 1933); and correspondence with Mary Parker, the travel editor for Mademoiselle Magazine. Photos of Ellsworth College taken during John Stout's presidency, and pages of significance to the Stout family have been marked in Ellsworth College: A Pictorial History.

The Professional series includes several travel and society page articles Thurston wrote for various publications throughout her career. One article titled "The Battle of the Bulge" from 1948 evaluates the efficacy of exercising machines for losing weight, complete with photos of young women in bathing suits demonstrating their use. Thurston conducted extensive research on the Eugene Ellsworth family. The series includes a published article, "The Empire Builders of Iowa Falls," and her notes with historical background on the north central Iowa town of Iowa Falls and surrounding areas. The papers from Lake Mills High, where Thurston taught for two years before her marriage, include photos from the fiftieth reunion of the class of 1917, at which Thurston was a guest of honor.

The Photographs series includes an extensive collection of photos taken during Thurston's press tours, many photos of her as a young girl, and photos of her before she became a journalist. Her Iowa Falls Class of 1909 class photo is included.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: PERSONAL

  • Series 1: PERSONAL
  • Box 1:
  • Aunt Anna's story, undated
  • Certificates: Belle McLaughlin Stout - 1928
  • Certificates: General - 1909-1976
  • Civil War flag material - 1941-1985
  • Correspondence: Mary Parker - 1953-1957
  • Correspondence: John T. Frederick - 1931
  • Ellsworth College: A Pictorial History - 1990
  • Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels - 1961, 1969
  • Newspaper clippings - 1954-2002
  • Norwegian paintings - 1972
  • Obituary - 1991
  • Short stories (4 folders) - 1929-1932
  • Box 2:
  • Short stories (5 folders) - 1929-1932
  • Series 2: PROFESSIONAL
  • Box 3:
  • Correspondence - 1933-1991
  • Lake Mills High School yearbook - 1914
  • Lake Mills High School 50th reunions of classes of - 1917-1918, 1967-1968
  • Eugene Ellsworth family history
  • "The Empire Builders of Iowa Falls" - 1980
  • Correspondence - 1977-1980
  • Drafts, undated
  • Research, undated
  • Newspaper articles - 1948-1957
  • Notes for articles, undated
  • Notes for presentation, undated
  • Retirement - 1957
  • Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 3:
  • Personal (4 folders) - 1893-1979
  • Travel: Press tour of Kentucky - 1952
  • Travel: Northwest Airlines to Hawaii - 1957
  • Travel: Northern states - 1952
  • Travel: Southern states, undated
  • Travel: Western states - 1948-1956
  • Travel: Inaugural Air France trip - 1953