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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1998-1999
Creator: Iowa Women Artists
Extent: 1.25 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0628
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Oral histories and transcripts. Collection of 77 oral histories of Iowa women artists conducted by Jane Robinette in 1998-1999.

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 CD [d-001]
144 audiocassettes [AC669 - AC812]

Access: The tapes and transcripts are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by Jane Robinette has been transferred to the University of Iowa. Copyright to the accompanying materials, such as artwork images, artist statements, and other materials from the artists, is retained by the artists/authors.

Acquisition: The tapes and transcripts (donor no. 829) were donated by Jane Robinette in 2001.

Preferred Citation: Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project, 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

Jane Robinette launched the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project in the first half of 1998. Names for the original mailing were gathered from several sources, including the Iowa Arts Council artists' directory, recommendations from artist friends and relatives, lists from galleries, and art exhibits. This letter, sent to over 100 women, stated general criteria for the interviewees, namely women visual artists who were age 30 or older, who had lived in Iowa for at least the past five years (or who previously lived in Iowa for several years and recently returned), and who considered art their major activity or vocation (including the teaching of art).

As the interviewing progressed, many of the artists also suggested more names, which resulted in further mailings. While the initial hope was to interview nearly all women visual artists in Iowa, it quickly became clear that this would be impossible-even when limiting the types of artwork included. In the end, seventy-nine women were interviewed. Two artists later withdrew from the project after receiving copies of their transcripts.

Those interviewed represent a fair cross-section of artwork, location, and age, but regrettably racial and ethnic diversity is limited. Some of this is inherent in the makeup of Iowa's population; some is due to interviewee self-selection (not responding to or declining the invitation to participate); some is due to the project's limited resources, time, and ability to locate artists.

Jane Robinette was born and raised in Des Moines, living most of her life in Iowa. She grew up surrounded by art and art-making, as her mother and aunt were visual artists. She began writing poetry and prose and enjoying visual creative activities as a young child.

After earning a B.A. in social work from the University of Northern Iowa, Robinette was coordinator of two community-based organizations in Iowa, and was an editorial assistant and copy editor at a small press in Michigan. She received her J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, and in 1990, she began her employment as a law clerk, and later staff attorney, for the federal district court in Des Moines. She left her law job in April 1998 to begin the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project and to do more creative work on her own.

In the 1990s, Robinette began creating "poem-paintings"-works on paper combining watercolor or acrylic paint and her poetry. In her travels, she saw first-hand the gender gap still present in the collections of many museums-this reinforced her belief in the need for projects like the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project. She has a long-time interest in oral history, believing that the telling and recording of life stories can be a meaningful and illuminating experience for both the narrator and the interviewer.

The Iowa Women Artists Oral Histories date from mid-1998 to September 1999, and measure 1.25 linear feet. The interviews cover childhood, education, development as an artist, artwork, creative process, and influences. They vary in length, but the average interview was one and one-half hours. The interviews usually took place in the artist's home or studio. The interviewer, Jane Robinette, traveled over 5,800 miles to thirty-three towns and cities, collecting seventy-nine interviews on 148 tapes, resulting in 1,830 transcript pages. The transcripts are arranged alphabetically, preceded by individual biographical abstracts and Jane Robinette's notes about the interview.

An additional impetus of the Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project was the construction of a website,, which features sound bytes from the interviews, text clippings from the transcripts, updates of recent exhibits, short biographical sketches of each artist, and a small sampling of each artist's work.
The papers of artists preserved in IWA include: Jean Berry, Gretchen Coy, Virginia Myers, and Robbie Steinbach.

Browse by Series:

  • Sub-Series: Tapes and transcripts
  • Box 1:
  • Audiocassettes AC671-672: Adams, Vicki (Urbandale) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC690-691: Annin, Marilyn (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC782-783: Berry, Jean (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC794: Bloom, Isabel (Davenport) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC688-689: Briggs, Nancy (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC707-708: Brown, Sara Slee (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC741-742: Bruene, Barbara (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC697-698: Burns-Knutson, Sharon (Cedar Rapids) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC775-776: Chavenelle, Gail (Dubuque) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC699-700: Coleman, Susan (Mt. Vernon) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC781: Cook, Marie (Cedar Falls) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC718: Cox, Marvel Kohlhoff (Sioux City) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC754: Coy, Gretchen Greta (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC745-746: Dennis, Pam (Ogden) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC738-739: Ekstrand, Rebecca (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC694-695: Ellinwood, Sheryl (Lake Red Rock) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC734-735: Fitzsimmons, Betty (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC701-702: Gilmor, Jane (Cedar Rapids) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC729-730: Grant-Hutchison, Sarah (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC763-764: Hall, Laurie Elizabeth Talbot (Council Bluffs) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC736-737: Heinicke, Janet (Indianola) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC790-791: Herdman, Susan (Davenport) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC705-706: Hettermansperger, Sue (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC809-810: Hovey, Anne (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC731: Ingham, Vicki (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC761-762: Jensen, Jill (Royal) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC676-677: Jester, Peggy (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC805-806: Joffe-Bouska, Marcia (Dubuque) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC757-758: Johnson, Lynn (Sioux City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC732-733: Johnston, Peggy (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC692-693: Jones, Brenda (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC801-802: Kabel, Melinda (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Box 2:
  • Audiocassettes AC777-778: Kames, Louise (Dubuque) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC674-675: Lacina, Alesia (Grinnell) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC811-812: Lilligren, Ingrid (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC799-800: Lohr, Christine Elena Kelly (Churdan) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC779-780: Macomber, Carol (Cedar Falls) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC721-722: Martin, Emily (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC678-679: Mast, Loret (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC767-768: Merkel-Hess, Mary (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC673: Miller, Elizabeth (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC740: Momberg, Lilly (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC703-704: Morales, Concetta (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC680-681: Moss, Barbara Robinette (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC719-720: Muller, Mary (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC788-789: Myers, Virginia A. (Solon) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC750-751: Myers-Walker, Jo (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC765-766: Nilausen-K, Barbara (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC743-744: Pate, Monika (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC714-715: Prusa, Carol (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC725-726: Purington, Nancy Lee (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC792-793: Quinn, Kristin (Davenport) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC669-670: Robinette, Laurayne (Urbandale) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC807-808: Robinson, Ellen (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC711: Rohrer, Lila (Victor) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC682-683: Rolfe, Wendy S. (Monmouth) - 1999
  • Box 3:
  • Audiocassettes AC748-749: Sage, Priscilla Kepner (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC709-710: Schedl, Naomi Kark (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC716-717: Seamonds, Maureen A. (Webster City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC686-687: Shotwell, Jan (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC771-772: Siddens, Jo (Waterloo) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC795-796: Steele, Priscilla (Marion) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC727-728: Steinbach, Robbie (Bettendorf) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC752-753: Stewart, Mari (Arnolds Park) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC712-713: Streed, Crit (Cedar Falls) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC803-804: Thomas, Sheena (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC755-756: Thompson, Dolie (Westfield) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC684-685: Vaske, Barbara (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC786-787: Verna, Gelsy (Iowa City) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC797-798: Vitale, Joan (Indianola) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC723-724: Wagener, Ellen (DeWitt) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC759-760: Waldo-Semken, Laura (North Liberty) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC773-774: Ward, Nina de Creeft (Cedar Falls) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC747: Weber, Gretchen (Ames) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC784-785: Whipple, Judith (Des Moines) - 1999
  • Audiocassette AC696: Wormhoudt, Sarah (Pella) - 1999
  • Audiocassettes AC769-770: Zirkle, Merle (Grinnell) - 1999
  • Sub-Series: Release Forms
  • Box 3:
  • Release Forms
  • Sub-Series: Newspaper clippings
  • Box 3:
  • Newspaper clippings - 2002-2005

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Robinette, Jane


Twentieth century


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa

Genre/Form of Materials:
Oral histories (Document genres)
Sound recordings

Autobiographical Resources: Diaries, Memoirs and Oral Histories
Latinas and Their Families