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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Marion Carson papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1962-2004
Creator: Carson, Marion (1927- )
Extent: 5.00 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0132
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Graduate of Ministry at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, where she was the first Unitarian Universalist student.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has beentransferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no.197) were donated by Marion Carson in 1994 and succeeding years.

Preferred Citation: Marion Carson 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

Marion Collins Carson was born to parents Jackson and Erema Collins in Chicago, Illinois in 1927. After graduating from high school in Knoxville, Iowa, she enrolled at MacMurray College for Women in Jacksonville, Illinois for two years. She went on to receive a B.A. in Secondary Education in 1949 and an M.A. in English in 1952, both from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She earned a second M.A. in American Civilization in 1954 from the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). In 2004 Carson received a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Iowa.

Marion Collins married Joseph Carson in 1949. In 1955 they had their first child, Joseph, followed by Samuel, Henry, and Emily in 1957, 1959, and 1963 respectively.

Continuing her education at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary where she was the sole Unitarian Universalist student, Carson earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1987. For her thesis, she wrote a novel about faith transformations occurring in the wake of a mysterious death at the normally tranquil (fictional) Mainstream Seminary. A central character in the novel is a Unitarian Universalist of Humanist belief.

A long-time resident of Marion, Iowa, Carson delivered many sermons to Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout Iowa and occasionally presided over memorial services and wedding ceremonies for members and friends of this denomination. She served for a number of years as a Counselor for the American Humanist Association. Eventually Carson became a certified Adjunct Leader representing the American Ethical Union of which she was a member for many years. In 1997 she became the president of the Iowa Ethical Union, serving in this post until 2001.

In addition to her lifelong study of belief systems, Carson was committed to children's welfare, pacifism, and civil liberties. In the 1960s, she and her oldest son created a neighborhood club, New World Finders, for children. Carson also designed a Well-Wisher Project in the 1970s to give young people a private forum in which to address their concerns. She also participated in the Cedar Rapids Area Women's Peace Inquiry and Action Group.

The Marion C. Carson papers date from 1962-2004 and measure 5 linear inches. The papers are arranged in four series: Education, Religious Fellowships, Social Activism, and Artifacts. The collection focuses on the activities of a regional woman minister of the late twentieth century and her interest in religion and politics. The majority of the collection consists of the texts of Carson's sermons, 1982-1995.

The Education series (1979-2004) consists of a number of papers written and projects completed for courses at both the University of Iowa and the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Included in this series are seven items relating to Carson's disquisition.

The Religious Fellowships series (1982-1995) consists primarily of the texts of sermons written and delivered before Unitarian Universalist congregations in Ames, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque. The majority of these sermons were delivered at The Peoples Church in Cedar Rapids. Included with some sermons are letters, programs of the service, and notes of acknowledgment. Also included in this series are clippings regarding the Well-Wisher Project (1973-1979) at the Peoples Church in Cedar Rapids, which invited the youth of the congregation to submit pseudonymous written concerns. These ranged from questions about school work and sibling rivalry to issues of pregnancy and homosexuality. Carson founded the project and wrote an individual reply to each concern submitted. In addition, this series includes the script, related papers, and photographs of a theater piece entitled, "Notes On a Lonely Calling: A Revue." Based on Cynthia Grant Tucker's book Prophetic Sisterhood, the revue picks up the theme of women who acted as Unitarian ministers on the frontier in the 1880s to 1930s.

The Social Activism series (1962-1998) consists of a booklet and papers relating to the Cedar Rapids Area Women's Peace Inquiry and Action Group; correspondence, forms, and other materials descriptive of New World Finders, a neighborhood club for children in the 1960s in Marion, Iowa; a booklet entitled, "The Quality Circle: Embattled but Unstoppable" written for the Chaplain's department of St. Luke's Hospital, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and papers Carson wrote for meetings of the Iowa Ethical Union.

The Artifacts series consists of one box with a cover labeled "Look Inside." The box contains eight pins printed with peace and nuclear disarmament slogans. It was used as a display and circulated in the Cedar Rapids area by the Women's Peace Inquiry and Action Group in the early 1960s.

Carson's doctoral disquisition, Producing a Novel about Faith Transitions (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, 1987), has been separately catalogued and is housed in the printed works collection of the Iowa Women's Archives (call number 94-598). Carson's M.A. thesis, "Henry Adams' Novel of Democracy" (University of Iowa, 1954) is housed in the University Archives and in Main Library storage at the University of Iowa(call number T1954 .C321).

Browse by Series:

  • Series 1: EDUCATION
  • Sub-Series: University of Iowa
  • Box 1:
  • "A Very Special Observance: Religion Encountering Joy, Fear, Pain, Death, and Grief in the Hospital Room" December 19 - 1979
  • "High Achiever Meets Destructo" March 17 - 1988
  • "Facing the Frown of Misfortune" July 5 - 2003
  • Sub-Series: University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
  • Box 1:
  • "My Brief Affair with Alexander Schemann" November 14 - 1985
  • Freethought Opinion booklet, "Christian Worship: Creampuff or Steamroller?" November 23 - 1985
  • Bulletin of Japanese Spirituality, Issues 1-7 - 1986
  • Items relating to disquisition - 1986
  • "Epic Missions" (10 reading reports) - 1987
  • Sub-Series: Knoxville High School, Class of '44
  • Box 1:
  • 60th Year Reunion Newsletter - 2004
  • Sub-Series: Ames
  • Box 1:
  • "Hanging Tough in a Soft Society," Ames - 1983
  • "Take a Chaplain to Lunch," Ames - 1992
  • Sub-Series: Cedar Rapids
  • Box 1:
  • Well-Wisher Project - 1973-1979
  • Sermons
  • "Acknowledging Our Mystical Inclinations" July 14 - 1982
  • "Facing the Interim without Dread" September 20 - 1983
  • "Prepare the Surface" May 6 - 1984
  • Sermons
  • "Is There an Afterlife For Us?" January 27 - 1985
  • "Improvisatores in Search of a Melody Line" March 24 - 1985
  • "When Ungraciousness Helps" October 27 - 1985
  • Sermons
  • "Is Ministry Possible?" April 10 - 1988
  • "Unspeakable Sermons" October 16 - 1988
  • "The Unreturning Tide" December 31 - 1989
  • Sermons
  • "Turn on the Heat, Will You?" January 12 - 1992
  • "Another Look at the Buddha Billikin" September 27 - 1992
  • "Life without Coatracks" May 28 - 1995
  • "Notes on a Lonely Calling" (Revue) - 1991-1992
  • Notes on a Lonely Calling' (Revue), script and papers, photographs - 1991-1992
  • Sub-Series: Dubuque
  • Box 1:
  • "Is There a Humanist in the House?" April 14 - 1985
  • "Humanism in Four-Letter Words" April 20 - 1986
  • Sub-Series: Miscellaneous
  • Box 1:
  • "The Gospel" with alternative verses October - 1985
  • "Pastoral Dispatches" booklet, December - 1987
  • Box 1:
  • Cedar Rapids Area Women's Peace Inquiry and Action Group, New World Finders - 1962, 1965-1967
  • St. Luke's Hospital - 1987
  • Iowa Ethical Union - 1997-1998
  • Series 4: ARTIFACTS
  • Box 1:
  • "Look Inside" Box - 1963