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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Edith Neal papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1931-1997
Creator: Neal, Edith (1916-2007)
Extent: 7.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0660
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Known as the Vietnam Mail Lady, Neal corresponded with servicemen stationed in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in boxes 1-2

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. 797) were donated by Cindy Duwa in 2001.

Preferred Citation: Edith Neal 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

Edith Neal was born in Tillman County, Oklahoma, April 11, 1916. At the age of thirteen, Neal moved with her family from Oklahoma to Iowa. After attending school in North Liberty for five years she moved to Iowa City and later settled in Cedar Rapids. Neal was married to Maurice Keefer with whom she had three sons, Marvin, David Lee, and Steven James (Jimmy) Keefer. She was later married to Henry Neal, a metal polisher.

Neal dedicated her time and resources to a number of organizations and causes. She was an active member of the Salvation Army for fifteen years, and a contributor to organizations such as the American Indian Youth Support. Neal's charitable work came to the forefront during the Vietnam War. She spent eight hours a day, six days a week coordinating mailing lists, writing letters and wrapping gifts to send to servicemen stationed in Vietnam. Fondly known as the "Vietnam Mail Lady," Neal advertised through newspapers, radio and television for women who wished tocorrespond with servicemen. Her "Servicemen's Name Clearing Bureau" provided mail for over one thousand soldiers, of whom she personally kept in contact with some 200, until her failing eyesight forced her retirement. Edith Neal passed away on October 11, 2007.

The Edith Neal papers date from 1931 to 1997 and measure 7.5 linear inches.  The papers are arranged in two series: Biographical and Vietnam War.

The Biographical series (1931-1997) consists of a memoir started by Neal in 1983, in which she recalls her childhood in Oklahoma and reflects on her Thanksgiving and Christmas activities.  Included are religious, charitable and educational certificates, a detailed cash expenditure log, and directory of the Geneva Tower Residence in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The series is completed with a family photograph album, loose portraits and snapshots of Edith Neal and family members.

Neal's work corresponding with servicemen stationed in Vietnam is reflected in the Vietnam War series (1966-1969).  The series is comprised of letters and cards written by servicemen stationed in Vietnam who fondly refer to Neal as their "adopted Mom."  A scrapbook contains newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, and other memorabilia that provide insight into Edith Neal's work as the Vietnam Mail Lady.  The photographs consist of servicemen, Vietnamese, and Vietnamese street and village scenes.  Letters and cards glued into the scrapbook have been removed from their envelopes and placed in a separate folder.  Photocopies have been made of newspaper clippings pasted within the scrapbook.

Browse by Series:

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL
  • Box 1:
  • American Indian Youth Support - 1994, 1996
  • Cash Expenditures - 1976-1981
  • Educational Certificates - 1931, 1938-1939, 1958
  • Family Photo Album: Original - 1942-1976
  • Family Photo Album: Photocopy - 1942-1976
  • Geneva Tower Residence - 1981-1991
  • Memoir- My Early Years (As I Remember) - 1983-1988
  • Photographs - 1942-1988
  • Religious Affiliations - 1976-1997
  • Series 2: VIETNAM WAR
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1966-1968
  • Correspondence [Items removed from scrapbook] - 1966-1969
  • Miscellaneous, undated
  • Newspaper Clippings [Life magazine clippings in Box 2] - 1967-1969
  • Photographs - 1966, 1968
  • Box 2:
  • Oversize: Vietnam Mail Lady Scrapbook - 1966, 1968