The Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs (IFWC) was organized in 1893, in Des Moines, Iowa. Eighty-eight delegates from thirty-seven state organizations, including literary societies and suffrage clubs, attended the organizational meeting. According to the organization's first constitution, the mission of the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs was to "bring into communication with one another the various Women's Clubs throughout the State, that they may compare methods of work and become mutually helpful." The volunteer service organization was nondenominational and nonpartisan. The Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs became the first state organization to join the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) when it was admitted in May 1893. The Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs was incorporated in 1914. By the 1920s, the organization had 810 clubs with over 40,000 members across Iowa. Dues-paying members supported a variety of civic projects, including raising money for public libraries, lobbying on behalf of child labor laws, sponsoring college scholarships for Iowa women, and promoting patriotism in public schools. Elected officers represented Iowa at national conventions of the Federation of Women's Clubs. The General Federation of Women's Clubs took a special interest in international issues; members participated in diplomatic missions to South America during the early 1940s. The GFWC elected an Iowan as its national president in 1950. Dorothy Deemer Houghton served in that role until 1952 and was inducted into the Iowa Women´s Hall of Fame in 1978. In the 1970s, the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs supported the state Equal Rights Amendment. By 1985, the GFWC was considered the largest and oldest non-denominational women´s group in the world. In 2010, members of the organization continued to volunteer on issues ranging from world peace and health promotion to the arts, the preservation of the environment, and civic engagement. More information on current activities can be found at http://gfwciowa.
The Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs records date from 1853 to 2006 and measure 12.75 linear feet. The collection is divided into ten series: History, Administration, Biennials and conventions, Publications, Yearbooks, Scrapbooks, County files, Club files, Photographs and Artifacts. The Iowa division was very active in the national organization, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, and the collection does contain materials pertinent to the umbrella organization.
The History series (1853-1978) contains both published and unpublished accounts of the federation. Of note are the reprints of photographs of the club presidents used in the 1987 historical book. Other publications by the IFWC and GFWC are located in the Publications series.
The Administration series (1893-1992) consists of minute and record books of the Iowa Federation. The title "minute book" or "secretary's book" appears to have been given to the same type of records and it is recorded both ways throughout the collection. The series also contains information on the scholarship fund that the IFWC still sponsors today.
The Biennials and conventions series (1901-2006) has flyers and records from biennial conferences held in cities throughout the state and statewide conventions. The official calls provide insight into the changing focus of the organization over time.
The Publications series (1880-2006) is divided up into three subseries: The Iowa Clubwoman, Creative writings and Other publications. The Iowa Clubwoman is the official organ of the IFWC and has been published from the early 1900s to today. From its beginning in the 1890s to 1927, it was known as the Iowa Federation News. The newsletter was published anywhere from two to five times a year and contains articles on topics such as meetings, the executive members of IFWC and literacy, citizenship and conservation campaigns. The advertisements within The Iowa Clubwoman provide insight into the changing fashions and appliances in the twentieth century. In 2008, publication moved online. Several publications fall under the Creative writing subseries. Stories, poems and memoirs of members from across Iowa are included. The Other publications subseries encompasses cookbooks, a memory book and a special centennial publication.
The Yearbooks series (1911-2006) consists of annually published yearbooks which list club officers, meeting agendas, and committees. Current yearbook or "Blue Book" information can be found online.
The Scrapbooks series (1893-1995) contains a wide variety of scrapbooks organized for individual members or to record activities of specific clubs. Of note is the 1893 scrapbook which has photographs of the original executive board members. The clippings detail activities ranging from executive board meetings to marriages to peace activism in the interwar period.
The County files series (1893-2006) is a combination of club records from federated women's clubs on the county level and individual clubs that were contained within the county structure. Minutes, record books and program activities make up the bulk of this series. The IFWC divided the state up into eight districts, which each encompassed several counties, and some of the district records are included in this series.
The Club files series (1902-1996) contains histories, programs, clippings and writings from various clubs that were not identified by county when the records were donated; although they may have been associated with county federations. In 1996, reportedly every member of the Laurens Federated Women's Club wrote a family history that was informally published. The GFWC and IFWC were also involved with Save the Children, an international non-profit organization. Materials on Save the Children can also be found in the Scrapbooks and Artifacts series.
The Photographs series (1918-1953) and Artifacts series round out the collection. The IFWC purchased carpet for the Terrace Hill governor's mansion circa 1977. A piece of that carpet and some sample boards are in the artifacts series.
When the collection was donated to the Archives, muslin was wrapped around the older materials. The cloth can be found at the end of the history series.
Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in boxes 1 and 38
One 16 mm film in Box 40
Access: The papers are open for research.
Use: Copyright held by the donor has not been transferred to the University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The records (donor no. 1028) were donated by the organization in 2006 and subsequent years.
Preferred Citation: Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs records, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.