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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Joann Weldon papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920-2003
Creator: Weldon, Joann (1931-2001)
Extent: 10.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0521
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: A resident of Davenport from 1962, Weldon publicly acknowledged her lesbian identity during the early 1950s.

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. 905) were donated by Sharon Rash and Gwyn Charleton in 2003.

Preferred Citation: Joann Weldon 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

Joann Faith Weldon was born in 1931 in Iowa City, Iowa. She was adopted as an infant by Ralph and Mary Weldon from the Annie Wittenmyer Home in Davenport, Iowa, and was raised in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ralph Weldon and Mary Loomis Weldon were married in 1928. Ralph Weldon was a typesetter for the Ottumwa Courier; he died in 1949. Mary Weldon taught school in Ottumwa; she died in 1974.

Joann Weldon graduated from Ottumwa High School in 1950. Following graduation, Weldon worked at the ammunition plant in Middletown, Iowa, until around 1953, when she was recruited to play field hockey for the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). Weldon dropped out of the University after one year. During the early 1950s, Weldon began to acknowledge publicly her lesbian identity, and adopted a style of dress and behavior that her friends described as masculine. After 1954, Weldon worked a series of jobs in Des Moines, Iowa, including work at an amusement park and driving a cab.

Weldon settled in Davenport in 1962. She worked as a cab driver until 1977, then as a Davenport city bus driver until 1987. She retired in 1987 due to disability. Weldon was a member of the Mattachine Society of Davenport. According to friends, she was an Ayn Randist, a supporter of the John Birch Society and the National Rifle Association, an avid chess player, a writer, a fan of classical music, a volunteer for the AIDS Coalition, and a mentor to young lesbians in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois.

Joann Weldon and Gwyn Charleton were partners for approximately seven years. The two remained friends until Weldon's death. Sharon Rash and Joann Weldon were united in holy union in 1988 in Davenport; they were partners for fourteen years. Joann Weldon died in 2001 from complications of diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

The Joann Weldon papers date from 1920 to 2003 and measure 10 linear inches. Weldon's writings constitute the largest portion of the collection. Weldon wrote about the experiences of coming out as a lesbian during the 1950s and participating in a gay pride march in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1988. Weldon also wrote poetry and short stories, and occasionally wrote journal entries.

Joann Weldon's partner at the time of her death, Sharon Rash, and friend and former partner, Gwyn Charleton, were interviewed by Kären Mason, the curator of the Iowa Women's Archives, in 2003. This interview can be found on the three audiocassette tapes in this collection. Much of the content addresses Weldon's experiences as a working class lesbian in Iowa from the 1950s through the 1990s.

The collection includes photographs from the 1940s until the 1960s, which document Weldon's childhood and high school years. Weldon's scrapbook contains photographs from elementary through high school; this collection contains both the original scrapbook and a bound reproduction. The original scrapbook is fragile. Artifacts include name tags, a chalk portrait of Joann Weldon, and an untitled drawing.

A 1920 biology notebook from Morningside College, which belonged to Joann Weldon's mother, Mary Loomis, completes the collection.
Ruth Scharnau papers (IWA): Scharnau also participated in the first gay rights rally in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1988.

Related Publications: A dissertation about lesbian subcultures in Iowa is shelved in the University of Iowa Main Library stacks - Rorbakken, Sharon Kay, "Bar Belles: An Exploration of Gender Identity." PhD dissertation, University of Iowa, 2000. T2000.R787

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Education - 1950-1988
  • Legal papers - 1932-1991
  • Writings (folder 1) - 1984-1987
  • Writings (folder 2) - 1984-1987
  • Writings: Religion, undated
  • Writings: "The Essence," undated
  • Writings: Camp diary reminiscence, undated
  • Writings: Fiction, undated
  • Correspondence with Sharon Rash, undated
  • Funeral - 2001
  • Box 2:
  • Mary Loomis's biology notebook - 1920
  • Artifacts, undated
  • Oral history preliminary transcript - 2003
  • Photographs: Photo album - 1950-1959
  • Photographs: General - 1930-1979
  • Scrapbook: photocopy - 1951
  • Scrapbook: original - 1951