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Hilda Ellyson Allen papers

Identifier: IWA0371

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Scope and Contents

The Hilda Ellyson Allen papers date from 1884 to 1958 and measure 13.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in nine series: Correspondence, Hilda Ellyson Allen, George Allen, Sewell Allen, Philip Allen, Hermione Allen Baker, Miscellaneous, Newspaper clippings, and Photographs.

The majority of the Hilda Ellyson Allen collection consists of correspondence. The Correspondence series dates from 1907-1959. The early correspondence is primarily between Hilda and George Allen during their courtship and early in their marriage when they lived apart. From 1920 through the 1940's, Hilda Allen received letters from her sons while they were in law school and George while he was away on business. Many of these letters depict the financial situation of the Allens. A list of teacher positions and salaries accompanied one of Hilda's letters to George. Hilda also received responses to constituent concerns she expressed to several congressmen.

The 1940s correspondence is separated by letters from friends and family in the armed forces and correspondence between Hilda Allen and people in the states. These are largely political in nature; Sewell and Philip Allen wrote often about current events and the political and social implications of World War II, the draft, and the Roosevelt administration. There is an extensive collection of V-mail from Sewell Allen and from Dave and Agnes West while they served overseas depicting aspects of military life and concerns about happenings at home. Included in these are moving letters from Sewell to his mother Hilda Allen regarding the untimely and sudden death of his father George Allen in 1944.

Throughout the 1950s Hilda Allen corresponded frequently with a friend, George Richardson. These letters provide commentary on political issues including local Iowa legislation and presidential candidates. Hilda Allen also received several letters from Richard Morris during his military service in Japan. He wrote to Hilda and her high school students about his perspectives on Japanese culture and military life.

Several folders of undated letters have been filed separately. The majority of the letters to Hilda Allen from her sister Hermione Ellyson are located here. All of the undated postcards and greeting cards can be found here as well.

The Hilda Ellyson Allen series (1909-1944) provides insight into Allen's personal interests. Her writing career is documented in a collection of short stories, newspaper clippings, and correspondence with publishers. Hilda Allen's art sketches and notebooks can be found in the artwork sub-series. Hilda Allen was involved in a number of organizations such as the Camp Fire Girls, Onawa Woman's Club, Daughters of the American Revolution and American Red Cross. Her work with the Red Cross during World War II is documented in notebooks, correspondence and telegrams. The personal sub-series contains Hilda Allen's 1934 diary of a trip the family took with friends to Minnesota. Included with the diary is a letter written during the planning stages of the trip that includes the itinerary and photographs of where the families will be staying.

George Allen's educational, professional, personal, and political papers are found in the George Allen series (1909-1946). His involvement with the debate team and Delta Chi Fraternity at the State University of Iowa is reflected in correspondence with his fraternity brothers and newspaper clippings. George Allen's report cards and commencement program are also included. The professional papers cover George Allen's early work as a teacher and career as a lawyer. Correspondence with former classmates and law firms, business receipts, notebooks, and contracts provide insight into the establishment of the law firm Oliver and Allen, Attorneys at Law. George Allen's support for Democratic candidates is evident in his political papers, and a fairytale and journal entry offer a glimpse into his personal interests.

The Sewell Allen series is arranged in three sub-series: Biography, Professional and Correspondence. The Biography sub-series consists primarily of school papers from Sewell's youth, Compton Junior College in California and the State University of Iowa. Among the high school papers is A Prophesy for the High School Class of 1931 authored by Sewell, in which he predicts what each of his classmates will be doing 'twenty years hence.' The State University of Iowa papers include an impassioned letter Sewell wrote to then-president Walter Jessup in support of continuing the Campus Course taught by Dr. Shambaugh. Also included in the Biography sub-series are newspaper clippings, telegrams and papers concerning Sewell's World War II army enlistment. Included with the military papers is a 1942 book in which Sewell kept notes regarding military correspondence, payroll and service record regulations.

The Professional sub-series consists almost entirely of papers relating to Sewell Allen's tenure as an Iowa General Assembly Legislator in 1941. The legislative papers include correspondence between Sewell and his constituents and fellow legislators, papers referring to pending bills and committee work, and various informational materials Sewell read regarding agriculture, public schools, the petroleum industry and other areas of interest. The Professional sub-series also contains several undated and unidentified notes for lectures and presentations that may pertain to either Sewell's political or law career. An undated newspaper clipping that announces Sewell's appointment as Democratic County Chairman includes a photograph of the young attorney.

Sewell was an avid letter-writer and the Correspondence sub-series primarily consists of letters Sewell wrote to his parents and family spanning the years 1929 to 1958. The letters between 1942 and 1945 cover his enlistment in the Army during World War II and are filled with reflections and insights regarding the war, the homefront and military life. There is also a large number of letters that Hilda and George Allen wrote to their son between 1928 and 1944. Included in this family correspondence are several letters between Sewell Allen and Frannie Whiting, written both during their courtship and after their marriage. Also preserved with Sewell's correspondence is a letter Norman Whiting, Frannie's brother, wrote to her regarding her impending marriage. General correspondence from friends, fraternity brothers, and associates is also found in the Correspondence sub-series.

The Philip Allen series is arranged in three sub-series: Biography, Professional and Correspondence. The Biography sub-series consists of school papers and report cards from Philip Allen's youth, along with poems and stories he wrote. There is also a handwritten document regarding the exchange of clothes between Philip and his brother Sewell that is witnessed and signed by their mother Hilda Allen. The Biography sub-series also includes papers pertaining to Philip Allen's time at the State University of Iowa, including his acceptance into law school.

The Professional sub-series includes a 1942 radio script from when Philip Allen was working at KIDO in Boise, Idaho. There is also a newsletter announcing Philip's hiring with Central States Broadcasting out of Omaha, Nebraska in 1936, and a scathing draft of a letter Philip wrote after being fired from KGLO radio. Also included are letters written to the Montana radio station where Philip worked in 1939. Of particular interest is a 1951 letter Philip Allen wrote to the Governor of Nebraska, the Attorney General, members of the Legislature, the President of the University of Omaha, James Dalton of the F.B.I. and others protesting the requirement that he sign a loyalty oath in order to teach at the University of Omaha. In it he questions both the constitutionality and morality of the Nebraska loyalty oath law and composes an oath of reassurance that he wants all the recipients of his letter to sign as a condition of his signature on the loyalty oath.

The bulk of the Philip Allen series consists of correspondence, most of which is between Philip and his family. There are several letters that Philip wrote while attending the State University of Iowa. Also amongst the correspondence is a January 11, 1945 letter that Sewell wrote to his mother following his father's death in which he compliments both parents for their strengths. There is also a 45-page letter that Philip wrote to his grandmother, Ellen Ellyson, in 1950. Other correspondence includes letters between Philip and his wife Pauline, and general correspondence between Philip and friends and associates.

The Hermione Allen Baker series is arranged in two sub-series: Biography and Correspondence. The Biography sub-series includes Hermione Allen's 1917 baby book, school papers from grade school through the State University of Iowa, including a drawing book, her 1935-1936 diary, and the 1942 invitation for the wedding of Hermione Allen and Clarence Baker. The Correspondence is almost equally divided between family correspondence and letters from Hermione's admirers; several young men fell in love with Hermione during her college years. Hermione wrote her parents quite often. As with her brothers, Hermione Allen was an affectionate and thoughtful child and often thanked her parents for the sacrifices they were making to send their children to college during the Depression. In addition to letters from her parents, Hermione also received letters from her brothers addressed to 'The Kid.'

The Miscellaneous series is divided into three sub-series. The Collected Materials sub-series contains materials that cannot be attributed directly to any specific member of the Allen family. This sub-series includes calendars, dance cards, travel brochures and writings. Most of the writings are typed and provide no indication as to whether or not they are original works or transcribed from published texts. The Other Family sub-series contains autograph books from Redondo Union High School in California where Hilda Ellyson Allen's sister, Hermione Ellyson taught. Also included is an 1884 scrapbook belonging to Nellie D. Hill that consists of an indexed collection of articles that Hill collected, including a memoriam for Anna Christy Ellyson on page nineteen.

The Newspaper clippings series consists of articles clipped by members of the Allen family pertaining to local news events in Iowa, specifically Onawa and the State University of Iowa, nationwide political and war coverage, and other miscellaneous clippings. Included are book reviews, short stories, poetry and submissions to literary contests. The series also contains copies of the Onawa High School Breeze newspaper from 1927 through 1933.

The Photograph series contains formal portraits and cabinet photographs dating back to approximately the nineteenth century, photographic postcards, candid photographs and negatives of babies, children, friends and family members


  • Creation: 1884-1958


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research. Because most of this collection is housed at an offsite location, please allow at least two business days for retrieval and arrival to the main library.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Educator, writer, activist, Hilda Ellyson Allen was born in 1888 in West Branch, Iowa, to Emma and Sewell Ellyson. After graduating from West Branch High School, Hilda Ellyson completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1910 at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in Iowa City, Iowa. While in college she met her future husband, George Eugene Allen, a fellow student who received an AB in History, Political Economy and Political Science in 1909. Hilda and George Allen were married June 18, 1912 in West Branch, Iowa and enjoyed a brief honeymoon at the Palisades in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Following the nuptials George returned to Chicago and Hilda continued to live in Iowa. The couple would later have three children: Sewell, Philip and Hermione.

Following college graduation Hilda Allen taught English and Public Speaking at Osage High School in Osage, Iowa from 1911-1912. Allen's interest in English and literature extended to an active writing career in which she published numerous short stories and articles. Allen also read and extensively clipped book reviews. In addition to an interest in writing, Allen explored the Arts through her reading and personal sketches and was an active member of a number of organizations. She was involved with the literary branch of the Onawa Woman's Club and served with the American Red Cross during World War II.

George Eugene Allen (1887-1944) was born to May Jane and Philip Allen. While at the State University of Iowa, George Allen was a member of the debate team and the Delta Chi Fraternity. Allen maintained contact with his fraternity brothers beyond his college years as both a mentor to younger members and recipient of assistance and advice during his efforts to establish himself as a lawyer. George Allen pursued his law degree at the State University of Iowa Law School, but failed out in February 1910. He later completed his studies at the University of Chicago Law School. Upon graduating from law school George Allen practiced law in Sioux City, Iowa, Moville, Iowa, and in 1915 opened 'Oliver and Allen, Attorneys at Law' in Onawa, Iowa.

Sewell Allen, born in 1913, was the first child of George and Hilda Ellyson Allen. In 1931 Sewell graduated from Onawa High School where he had been active in drama, forensics, and the Order of Demolay for Boys. Following his high school graduation Sewell attended Compton Junior College in California before attending the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. While attending the University Sewell continued his interests in drama and forensics and was active with the Inter-Collegiate Civic League and Delta Chi fraternity. Sewell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1935, after which he went on to earn a law degree. Sewell Allen joined his father's law practice in Onawa upon passing the Iowa State Bar. In 1941 Sewell was elected to the Iowa General Assembly as a legislator despite his young age. Sewell enlisted in the army in 1942 and served in the European war theater during 1944 and 1945.

He married his high school sweetheart Frannie Whiting of Whiting, Iowa on March 17, 1943 while on furlough in Washington, D.C. where Frannie worked for the Federal Housing Commission. The couple had their first child, Stephen, in 1944. Stephen was eventually followed by a brother, Sewell, and a sister, Lisa. Sewell Allen returned to his law practice after the war (his father and law partner George Allen had died in December 1944). Following his return to Iowa, Sewell was named the Democratic County Chairman for Monona County.

Philip Allen was born in 1915. He attended Onawa Grade School where he served as cartoonist for the school paper (unfortunately, the only two copies of the paper in the collection do not contain any of his artwork). Phil Allen attended Onawa High School where he was on the State Champion debate team. After graduating from high school he attended the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. While attending the University he was active in speech and forensics, the Young Democrats, Delta Chi fraternity, and worked at the university's radio station WSUI.

Though Phil Allen talked about attending law school, upon graduation from the university he found immediate employment in the field of radio. Between 1936 and 1943 he worked at various radio stations in Nebraska, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wisconsin. In 1939 Phil Allen married a woman named Pauline. They had three children, George (born 1941), David (born 1944) and PJ. Drafted in 1944, Phil served in World War II in the Japanese theater of action. While working at WISN in Milwaukee in 1948 he took classes in Spanish and law at Marquette University. By 1951 he was teaching at the University of Omaha in Nebraska.

Hermione Georgette Allen was born on November 2, 1917 in Onawa, Iowa. Hermione Allen attended Onawa Grade School where she first demonstrated her flair for writing poems and short stories. During these early years Hermione was active in the Camp Fire Girls. While attending Onawa High School, Hermione, like her brothers, was active in forensics. Like her older brother Sewell, Hermione was also an honor roll student. She was a member of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls. After graduating from high school, Hermione Allen attended the State University of Iowa. She declared English as her major and speech as her minor with the intention of teaching English and speech after graduation. While attending the University Hermione Allen was active in debate, the Young Democrats Club, the Gavel Club and the Honors English Group. She earned extra money working as a postal clerk at Currier Residence Hall and was a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. She graduated in 1939. On February 5, 1942 Hermione married Clarence Potter Baker. They began their married life in Manhattan, Kansas. They had one child, Hugh, born in 1944.


13.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The papers consist largely of correspondence between Hilda and George Allen and their three children and cover a broad range of family, social and political issues.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 528) were donated by Joan A. Allen in 1998.

Nickol Himschoot, Jun-Nicole Matsushita, Natalie Moretz, and Lisa Mott, 2003.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)