Guide to the Ruth Schaefer papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1956-2002
Creator: Schaefer, Ruth (1909-2002)
Extent: 2.10 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0746
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: A Latin teacher who served as friend and mentor to Vietnamese refugees in the Iowa City community.

Administrative Information

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. 736) were donated by Helen Ryan in 2001.

Preferred Citation: Ruth Schaefer 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

Biographical Note

Pioneer, educator, advisor, volunteer, Ruth Schaefer was born in Colchester, Connecticut in 1909to Harriet and Arthur Stebbins. Schaefer attended Middlebury College in Vermont after which she taught in the Norwich, Connecticut, school system. Married to Charles Schaefer of New York City in 1935 the couple moved to Alaska three years later to live as pioneers until 1963. In Matanaska Valley, Alaska, Schaefer was an active educator, 1955-1963, and mother of four children, Elizabeth, Patricia, Helen, and Charles Schaefer. Schaefer later moved to Iowa City in 1963 and pursued a Masters of Arts degree at the University of Iowa. Upon graduating in 1967 Schaefer taught Latin at City High and West High School until 1976.

An active friend and advisor to members of the Vietnamese refugee community in Iowa City, Schaefer assisted families and students. She opened her home to provide living accommodations, assisted in the daily needs of immigrant families and tutored students. In response to her kindness and support numerous families welcomed Schaefer to share their family celebrations and maintained correspondence with her after moving away from Iowa City. She was honored for her work as the recipient of the State of Iowa Governor's Volunteer Award in 1984 and the Vietnamese Friendship Award of the Vietnamese Association of Cedar Rapids in 1987. Schaefer died at the age of 90, as a result of breast cancer.

Content Description

The Ruth Schaefer papers date from 1956to 2002 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: biographical information, correspondence, University of Iowa, newspaper clippings, photographs, and artifacts.

The Biographical Information consists of Ruth Schaefer's obituary and newspaper clippings featuring Schaefer's work with refugees.

The Correspondence series ( 1956-2000) is comprised of letters and postcards written by her daughter Elizabeth (Schaefer) Childress, dated 1956-1965. Later correspondence, dated 1970-2000, is a collection of letters, cards, drawings, birth, graduation and wedding announcements, invitations, and photographs from friends of the Vietnamese community who fondly refer to her as Mrs. Ruth, Mother, and Grandma.

Schaefer's involvement in the local Asian refugee community of Iowa City is documented in the University of Iowa series (1987, 1989, undated). Included are the University of Iowa Vietnamese Student Association Directory and pin. Papers and poetry written by Vietnamese students Hoa and Binh Huynh are also included.

The Newspaper Clippings series is rich in information about the Southeast Asian refugee crisis of the1980s. Articles include the plight of refugees awaiting sponsorship in camps throughout Asia, as well as the lives of recent immigrants to Iowa and their struggles and dreams upon reaching theUnited States.

The Photographs series consists of a portrait of Ruth Schaefer in 1968, numerous candid and posed images of Schaefer with Asian families, including some in which she is wearing the traditional Vietnamese Au Dai (Long Dress), and numerous school portraits f children, weddings, graduations, and birth announcements, many with messages written on the backs.

Three Artifacts make up the final series: the State of Iowa Governor's Volunteer Award, the Vietnamese Friendship Award of the Vietnamese Association of Cedar Rapids, and a wood mounted poem of thanks written by the Duong Families.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Browse by Series:


This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Schaefer, Ruth, 1909-2002
Childress, Elizabeth (Schaefer)

Corporate Names:
University of Iowa

20th century

Women in education
Immigrant families

Latin teachers

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Iowa City
United States -- Alaska -- Matanaska Valley

Genre/Form of Materials:
Personal papers
Cultural artifacts
Drawings (Visual works)

Teachers and Teaching