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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the May Tangen papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1961-1982
Creator: Tangen, May (1905-1983)
Extent: 1.00 linear inch.
Collection Number: IWA0895
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: University of Iowa librarian who moved to Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement.

Arrangement: Three folders, shelved in SCVF.

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. 1233) were donated by Joetta and John Stanley in 2010.

Preferred Citation: May Tangen 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

May Tangen (1905-1983) worked as a librarian at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) for nineteen years beginning in the late 1940s. Upon her retirement from the University of Iowa in 1967, Tangen accepted a position at Rust College, a historically black college in Holly Springs, Mississippi with which the University of Iowa had an affiliation. There she became an active member in a local Methodist church with a predominantly African American congregation. She left her position at Rust in 1975 to travel in England and Norway, but returned to Mississippi after two and a half months. She moved back to Iowa in 1978 when she could not find a racially integrated retirement home near Holly Springs. She lived in Fort Dodge until her death in 1983.

The May Tangen papers date from 1961 to 1982 and measure one linear inch. They consist of annual Christmas letters written to friends along with notes written specifically to John and Joetta Stanley, who donated this collection.

In her annual Christmas letters, called the "Tangen Tribune," May Tangen discussed everything from her unsuccessful attempts to write a novel, to her time teaching Sunday school in Iowa. As the war in Vietnam progressed, Tangen wrote about her participation in peace vigils and her strong commitment to pacifism and civil rights. Initially, she thought she might go to Vietnam to teach but an "urgent need" for librarians at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi changed her plans. While living in Holly Springs, Tangen attended NAACP meetings in the community and was active in the Asbury United Methodist Church, where she was a Big Sister to two children in the congregation. Tangen's letters from Holly Springs reflect her commitment to living in a racially integrated society. The collection contains one letter from Joetta and John Stanley, written in 1963.

The later letters concern her travels to Norway and England, and her subsequent life in Fort Dodge.

The collection contains one photograph of Tangen with her Sunday school class at St. Mark's Church in Iowa City in 1961. One folder of duplicate materials from the University of Iowa Archives concerns RILEEH Rust, Iowa, LeMoyne for Expanding Educational Horizons, a partnership between the University of Iowa and two historically black colleges formed in the early sixties. The University of Iowa Archives holds additional materials about RILEEH.
Lois Muehl Papers, IWA, Box 3: "Mississippi Comes to Iowa: Reaching out for Civil Rights in the Sixties," 2006.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Christmas letters - 1961-1974
  • Christmas letters - 1975-1982
  • RILEEH, undated

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.