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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Elvira Houston papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1928-1984
Creator: Houston, Elvira (1901-1981)
Extent: 15.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0623
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Tama County, Iowa farmwoman who maintained the family account books for nearly fifty years. She ran for city council on the Women's Progressive Ticket in 1942.

Access: The papers are open for research.

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

Acquisition: The Elvira Houston papers (donor no. 167) were donated by Alyce Houston Schavone in 1998.

Preferred Citation: Elvira Houston 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

Elvira Irene Metz was born on February 19, 1901 in Tama County, Iowa. She married Clifford Allen Houston on March 19, 1924. The couple had two children, Allen Benedict, born in 1925 and Alyce Elvira, born in 1927. They were a rural family, living primarily near Chelsea and Tama, Iowa. In 1935, Clifford Houston lost everything and the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama to live with and work for Clifford Houston's well-to-do uncle, C.W. Wright. The Houston family returned to Iowa about a year or so later. A poor but self-sufficient family, daughter Alyce recalled that she never had a store-bought garment until she was fourteen years old. Her mother made most of the children's clothes from old coats and other used materials. In 1942, Elvira Houston ran for city council in Chelsea on the Women's Progressive Ticket. Houston also wrote poetry and often submitted it to be read on a local radio show. In her later years, Houston became an Avon representative. Elvira Houston died on January 24, 1981 in Spearfish, South Dakota.

The Elvira Houston papers date from 1928 to 1984 and measure 15 linear inches. The bulk of the papers consist of the Houston family's account books, kept by Elvira Houston from 1928 through 1984. Though Elvira Houston died in 1981, her daughter Alyce Schavone continued to maintain an account book from 1982 to 1984 to comfort her father, Clifford Houston until his death. Several of the account books are handmade and bound with string Elvira Houston took from old corsets. The series of books reveals the financial status of the Houston family through the nineteenth century, beginning just before the Depression, continuing through World War II, the "prosperous" 1950s, and on through the 1960s, 1970s and into the farm crisis of the 1980s. In addition to the account books, the Elvira Houston papers also contain bank notes and Tama County tax receipts for the years 1928 to 1932, and the assessment roll for the years 1929 to 1933, 1940 and 1941. There is also a 1941 application for the homestead tax credit. Also included in the collection is a 1942 newspaper article regarding Elvira Houston's run for city council and a sample ballot with the election returns recorded on it.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Houstons run for city council - 1942
  • Application for homestead tax credit - 1941
  • Assessment roll - 1929-1933, 1940-1941
  • Bank notes - 1928-1932
  • Tama County tax receipts - 1928, 1930-1932
  • Loose account book pages, undated
  • Account books (folder 1) [There is no 1936 or 1944] - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 2) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 3) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 4) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 5) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 6) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 7) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 8) - 1932-1948
  • Account books (folder 9) - 1932-1948
  • Box 2:
  • Account books (folder 1) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 2) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 3) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 4) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 5) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 6) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 7) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 8) - 1949-1965
  • Account books (folder 9) - 1949-1965
  • Box 3:
  • Account books (folder 1) [There is no 1981] - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 2) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 3) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 4) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 5) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 6) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 7) - 1966-1984
  • Account books (folder 8) - 1966-1984

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.


Personal Names:
Houston, Elvira, 1901-1981

Dates:
20th century

Topics:
Rural families
Rural women
Rural poor
Family life
Finance
Home economics
Political participation

Occupations:
Homemakers

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Tama County

Genre/Form of Materials:
Archives
Personal papers

Family Names:
Houston family

Browse:
Rural and Farm Women