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Release: Immediate

UI Libraries celebrates Mary Louise Smith, Iowa Women's Archives

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Libraries will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Iowa Women's Archives with a reception to pay tribute to

Mary Louise Smith, co-founder of the archives. The reception will be Monday, Nov. 10 in Des Moines and will recognize the importance of the archives and Smith's role in developing it.

Smith became active in local politics in Eagle Grove, Iowa, in the late 1940s, serving on the school board and doing the grassroots work of party politics -- stuffing envelopes and canvassing door to door. She rose through the ranks of party politics to become chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1974-1977, the first and only woman to hold this position. She served as vice chair of the United States Civil Rights Commission from 1981-1983 and was appointed by President George Bush to the board of directors of the National Peace Institute in 1990.

In the spring of 1990, Smith and Louise Noun discovered a mutual interest in preserving a record of the accomplishments of Iowa women. Over the next two years, they worked together to raise funds and secure a home for an archival collection at the UI. Their vision became a reality in October 1992 when the Iowa Women's Archives opened in the UI Libraries.

At the Nov. 10 reception, several speakers will reflect on Smith's life and celebrate her accomplishment of the Iowa Women's Archives. Speaking at the reception will be Mary Sue Coleman, UI president; Sheila Creth, university librarian; Louise Noun, co-founder of the Women's Archives; Denise O'Brien, a farm activist from Atlantic, Iowa; Barbara Barrett, a Des Moines lawyer who worked with Smith and Noun on the Chrysalis Foundation board; and Karen Mason, curator of the archives.

The Iowa Women's Archives collects the personal papers of women in Iowa and of native Iowa women who have lived elsewhere as well as the records of women's organizations in the state. These letters, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks document the lives of farmers, legislators, writers, teachers, artists, homemakers, athletes, journalists, and others. In its first five years the Iowa Women's Archives has acquired the papers of 225 women and of 60 organizations. The archives holds exceptionally strong collections representing twentieth-century women in politics and African-American women in Iowa. More than 600 researchers have used the collections since the Archives opened.

The anniversary reception is by invitation only. Reporters wishing to attend should call (319) 335-5068. The Iowa Women's Archives is located on the third floor of the Main Library at the UI. For further information, contact Kären Mason, the curator, at (319) 335-5068.