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Bergmann, Leola Nelson, 1912-2011



  • Existence: 1912 - 2011


Scholar, writer, and artist, Leola Nelson Bergmann was born in 1912 in South Dakota. She grew up in small Midwestern towns settled largely by Scandinavians. As a high school student Leola Nelson was very involved in music, a passion she pursued as an English student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she was chosen to sing for the renowned St. Olaf Choir under founder and director F. Melius Christiansen. After completing her bachelor's degree at St. Olaf College, Nelson continued her graduate work at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) with a master's degree in English in 1939 and a PhD in 1942. She was the first student at the University of Iowa to receive a doctorate in American Civilization.

In 1943 Leola Nelson married Dr. Gustav Bergmann, a mathematician who had fled Vienna, Austria in 1938. Gustav Bergmann was a professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Iowa from 1941 to 1974. Gustav Bergman died in 1987. The couple raised one daughter, Hanna.

Bergmann's writing career of the 1940s and 1950s began with her dissertation Music Master of the Middle West: The Story of F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir, which was later published in 1944. Additional works were Americans from Norway, published in 1950, an article in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, 'The Negro in Iowa,NULL and an invitation by the State Historical Society of Iowa to write the forward for the book Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2000.

Bergmann shifted her attention to art in the early 1960s. She began her new passion with drawing and painting classes at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, and eventually took up printmaking. Under the guidance of her professors, Bergmann developed a unique monoprinting process. Her work has been heralded and displayed at art galleries throughout Iowa.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Leola Bergmann papers

Identifier: IWA0237

Scholar, writer and artist.

Dates: 1935-2004