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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Blanca Vasquez Gaines papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1944-2009
Creator: Gaines, Blanca Vasquez (1918-)
Extent: 2.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0899
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Puerto Rican woman who served in the Women's Army Corps during World War II and trained at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.

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. 1334) were donated by Angela Gaines in 2014.

Preferred Citation: Blanca Vasquez Gaines 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

Blanca V. Vasquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1918. Vasquez joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II, and subsequently trained at Fort Des Moines, an army training school just south of Des Moines, Iowa. While stationed at Fort Des Moines, Vasquez met Harold Gaines of Buxton, Iowa, a predominately African-American coalmining town, which no longer exists today. The two married following the end of the war, and moved to Albia, Iowa; their daughter, Angela, was born in 1953.

Blanca Gaines returned to Puerto Rico with her daughter in 1956. There she taught English and American literature at the University of Puerto Rico and was regarded as an excellent teacher. Because Harold Gaines initially feared he would not be able to find work in Puerto Rico, he did not join the family until the 1960s. The three maintained a warm connection to Iowa, returning every summer to visit family in Albia and their Iowa farm.

The Blanca Vasquez Gaines papers date from 1944 to 2009. The collection mainly consists of photographs of Vasquez and her fellow WACs at Fort Des Moines, taken during the winter of 1944 to 1945. Before donating the papers to the Iowa Women's Archives, Angela Gaines wrote captions for the majority of the photographs; the captions identify the subjects of each picture as well as the location and date, if known. The collection  includes several newspaper clippings about Fort Des Moines and the Women's Army Corps.

Completing the collection is a World War II army flag belonging to Harold Gaines' brother, Donald Gaines, who served in the U.S. military and obtained the flag as salvage after the war while stationed in Italy.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Photographs - 1944-1990
  • Photographs - 1945
  • Newspaper clippings - 2004-2009
  • Series 2: ARTIFACTS
  • Box 2:
  • Army flag - 1945

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.