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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Bernice Zimmer papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1932-2010
Creator: Zimmer, Bernice (1916-2012)
Extent: 1.00 linear foot.
Collection Number: IWA0876
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Diaries of an Iowa woman.

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. 1272) were donated by Patricia Gourley in 2011.

Preferred Citation: Bernice Zimmer 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

Bernadette "Bernice" Meyer Zimmer, wife, mother, and active member of the Catholic Church, was born in Le Mars, Iowa, on March 19, 1916. She was born prematurely and her mother, Ann Schlitz Meyer, died during childbirth. Her mother wanted to name her daughter Bernice, but the priest who baptized her did not approve because Bernice is not a saint's name and thus was baptized Bernadette. Because Zimmer's father Louis Meyer was a travelling salesman, she was raised by her grandparents Margaret and Peter Schlitz in Remsen, Iowa. Louis Meyer and Zimmer remained close throughout his life; she visited him and his new wife and family frequently in Le Mars and later went to see him in California.

Meyer graduated from St. Mary's Catholic School in May 1933 and first met her husband Louis "Lou" Zimmer from Le Mars that summer. She wanted to be a hairdresser, but stayed home to take care of her grandparents. Meyer enjoyed attending dances and watching local softball games where she and Lou Zimmer often met. They married on August 17, 1935, and lived with Zimmer's grandparents in Remsen. Zimmer and Lou Zimmer spent the first decade of their marriage practically apart because he had to commute to a job with Gamble Stores in South Dakota and then Sioux City and later he served in the US Army during WWII. The Zimmers moved around Iowa finally settling in Jefferson and opened up a paint and glass store in 1960. Zimmer was very involved in her husband's business and wrote frequently about tallying accounts and assisting him on several jobs. After Lou Zimmer suffered a heart attack in 1977, the two decided to travel extensively and from 1977-1982 they drove to Arizona, California, Idaho, and back to Iowa staying with friends and family. They spent the next five years back in Jefferson doing odd painting jobs together until Lou Zimmer died on September 22, 1987.

Throughout her life, Zimmer was devoted to her family and the Catholic Church. She died in 2010.

The Bernice Zimmer papers date from 1932 to 2010 and measure 1.00 linear foot. The bulk of the collection consists of diaries. Additional biographical information includes Zimmer's undated, handwritten autobiography, a notebook of songs, her handwritten high school graduation programs, a few photocopied photographs, and a letter to an anonymous person about her home life during World War II while Lou Zimmer was serving in the U.S. Army.

Zimmer's diaries are filled with records of events spent with friends and family and accounts of her faith. She wrote about playing cards late into the night with Lou or friends and who she had coffee with that day. She described whose hair she set, when she went to get a permanent, and other daily happenings. After her husband's death, she wrote more frequently about her activities and charity work at church.

Zimmer's 1932 to 1934 diary recounts her senior year of high school and a few years after.  It is mostly filled with who she socialized with and where and with whom she went dancing.  The diaries 1966 to 2006 diaries record Zimmer's life after her children married and left home. During this period, the only year she did not keep a diary was 1987, the year her husband died.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical information - 1950-2010
  • High School notebook - 1932-1933
  • Diary - 1932-34
  • Diaries (4 volumes) - 1967-70
  • Box 2: Diaries (16 volumes) - 1971-1988
    no diary for 1987
  • Box 3: Diaries (16 volumes) - 1989-2006