Skip to content
print page header

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the C. Pauline Spencer papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920 -1985
Creator: Spencer, C. Pauline (1898 -1985)
Extent: 2.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0627
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: An outstanding athlete and the first woman to receive an athletic letter at the University of Iowa.She graduated in 1923.

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. 257) were transferred by the University of Iowa Department of Health and Sport Studies in 2000 and subsequent years.

Preferred Citation: C. Pauline Spencer 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

C. Pauline Spencer was born in DesMoines, Iowa, in 1898. She received her grade school education in Colorado Springs, and her high school diploma at WestDes Moines High School. Spencer majored in physical education at the University of Iowa (then known as the State University of Iowa), and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1923. She later received her Master's degree at Iowa State Teacher's College and also did some graduate work at Columbia University in New York.

During her undergraduate years at Iowa, Spencer excelled in athletics and was very active in the Women's AthleticAssociation (WAA). She served as president of the WAA for two years and was also elected as a delegate to the national convention. Spencer was the first female to win an athletic letter as a sophomore (an "I" sweater), and established another record by winning a second "I" before she graduated. After a particularly outstanding performanceat a track meet, one newspaper characterized her as "probably the most perfect girl at the State University of Iowa" and noted that her athletic record was one many men might envy. Her sister Helen was also very active in athletics.

Following graduation, Spencer taught at Iowa City Junior High School. The majority of her teaching career, however, took place at Omaha Technical High School in Omaha, Nebraska. She began her long tenure there as the director of physical education for girls, and later served as a counselor and then dean of girls. She retired from Tech High in 1963. Spencer received a number of honors and awards during her career including a nomination from her students for a national Best Teacher Contest in 1951.

In her leisure time, Spencer enjoyed traveling. She visited every state in the United States, went to Mexico a number of times, and also traveled abroad, visiting ten countries in Europe.

C. Pauline Spencer died at age eighty-seven in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1985. Her family established a scholarship for women physical education majors at the University of Iowa in her honor. To date, this prestigious award funds both undergraduate and graduate student recipients in the Department of Health, Leisure and Sport Studies, and also funds a graduate research assistantship at the Iowa Women's Archives.

The C. Pauline Spencerpapers date from 1920 to 1985 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The papers are divided into three series: Career, Family, and Photographs.

The Career series (1920-1985) includes materials from her days as a student at the University of Iowa and her careeras a physical education teacher. Newspaper clippings, memorabilia from sporting and social events, and a handwritten anatomy manual document her achievements as an athlete, a student, and an educator.

The Family series consists of three items pertaining to her sister Helen Spencer who graduated from the Universityof Iowa one year later: a commencement program, a letter of recommendation, and a photograph.

The Photographs series includes a portrait of Pauline Spencer as an undergraduate student and one taken later in her career, as well as photographs of classrooms and the university.
Universityof Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women records (IWA).

Browse by Series:
Series 1: CAREER
Series 2: FAMILY
Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS

  • Series 1: CAREER
  • Box 1:
  • University of Iowa - 1920-1923
  • Anatomy course notebook
  • Correspondence - 1923
  • Name tags
  • Social events - 1920-1923
  • Sport banquets - 1921, 1923
  • Newspaper clippings - 1920-1985
  • Series 2: FAMILY
  • Box 1:
  • Helen Spencer
  • Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 1:
  • Photographs