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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Otilia Gomez Savala papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1937-2014
Creator: Savala, Otilia Gomez (1937-)
Extent: 5.00 folders.
Collection Number: IWA0827
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Davenport woman raised in the Cook's Point neighborhood, whose parents emigrated from Mexico in the early twentieth century.

Alternate Extent Statement: Collection held in the Iowa Digital Library

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. 1281) were donated by Otilia Gomez Savala in 2014.

Preferred Citation: Otilia Gomez Savala 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

Otilia 'Tillie' Gomez Savala was born in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa, and grew up in the city's predominately Mexican neighborhood, known as Cook's Point. Her parents, Luz Salazar Gomez (1900-1956) and Peter Gomez (1900-1984) were both from central Mexico, and had emigrated to the U.S. separately in the 1910s. In Cook's Point, Luz Gomez managed the household, and Peter Gomez worked as a section hand on the Rock Island Railroad. They lived in a small, five-room house with no plumbing or electricity until 1951; that year, the City of Davenport razed the barrio, and the Gomez family moved to a new neighborhood.

Tillie Gomez graduated from Davenport High School in 1956, and married Richard Savala, a sand mixer at the John Deere plant, in 1960; their son, Richard Savala II, was born in 1975. In an interview recorded for the Iowa Women's Archives, Savala reflects candidly on the discrimination she experienced in school due to her ethnicity and economic status and the lack of encouragement she received from teachers and counselors when she expressed her desire to pursue further education. Following graduation, she began working as a typist at the Rock Island Arsenal. Over the course of her twenty-seven year career at the Arsenal, she served as a stenographer, secretary, and administrative officer before becoming a procurement analyst, a position she held until her retirement in 1988.

Following her retirement from the Rock Island Arsenal, Savala served the Davenport Community School District for seventeen years as a 1:1 special education aide and as a Spanish instructor. Regretting the lack of educational support she had received during her childhood, Savala has dedicated herself to furthering educational opportunities for others in her family and community. She has regularly volunteered at her granddaughter's elementary school and assisted in childhood reading comprehension programs.

The Otilia Gomez Savala papers date from 1919 to 2012. The collection consists of digital content held in the Iowa Digital Library. The correspondence dates from 1919 to 1979 and includes documentation of her father's naturalization application process, his employment on the Work's Progress Administration (WPA) during the Depression and at Riverside Foundry in Bettendorf. It contains notices from Catholic Charities, as well as a letter from an attorney representing the Gomez family to the Uchtorff Company; the letter addresses the eviction notice the family received in 1950, and asks that the family be permitted to remain in their Cook's Point home until 1951.

The Cook's Point folder contains Savala's hand-drawn map of Cook's Point with a list of the families who lived there and where they lived. It includes a Spanish song about life in Cook's Point with lyrics by Otilia Savala and music by her brother Joseph Gomez.

Many of the photographs are of family and friends taken in Cook's Point during the 1940s. The newspaper clippings date from 1938 to 1989 and include articles relating to the history of Cook's Point and reports of the death of the Vasquez brothers, Albert and Ralph, in combat during World War II.  An autograph book includes messages from school friends, and documents on Cook's Point include a list of residents, neighborhood plan, and poems about the neighborhood.

An oral history interview with Tillie Savala conducted by Laura Nelson in 2013 and preserved in the Mujeres Latinas Oral History collection.
Otilia Gomez Savala Oral History Interview-Mujeres Latinas Project.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1919-1965
    In digital library
  • Cook's Point
    In digital library
  • Newspaper clippings - 1938-2006
    In digital library
  • Autograph book - 1950-1952
    In digital library
  • Photographs - 1942-1953
    In digital library