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Leola Bergmann papers

Identifier: IWA0237

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Scope and Contents

The Leola Bergmann papers date from 1935 to 2004 and measure 12.6 linear inches. The papers are arranged in five series: Family history, Education, Publications, Art, and Photographs.

The program for the memorial service for Gustav Bergmann and a 21 minute biographical video, Leola at 85, are included in the Family History (1983-2004) series.

The Education series (1935-2004) contains two St. Olaf College yearbooks, St. Olaf Choir newspaper clippings and publications, and the St. Olaf College class of 1937 golden anniversary reunion booklet. Included from the University of Iowa are a Department of English newsletter and transcripts.

The Publications series (1942-1978)consists of Bergmann's published works. Included are manuscript drafts with revisions and editorial comments, reviews, newspaper clippings, and correspondence with publishers for her two books, Music Master of the Middle West and Americans from Norway. The typescript drafts of Americans from Norway were previously housed in Special Collections. Bergmann's genealogy of the Ibsen family is part of her work on Norwegian immigrants to the United States. "The Negro in Iowa," with reviews and a fan letter to Bergmann completes this series.

The Art series (1986-2003) is comprised of exhibit reviews, newspaper clippings, a journal article featuring self-portraiture in photography and one print.

The Photographs series (1936-1994) contains photos of the St. Olaf Choir, the choir director F. Melius Christianson, and of Leola Bergmann. Research photos and negatives of the Ibsen family include the gravestone of Nicolai Ibsen and a family portrait originally set in tintype. Bergmann's art pieces are featured in twenty three retrospective slides, identified photographs of Bergmann at work in print workshops and her standing next to framed prints, including a portrait at the May Brodbeck Library dedication.


  • Creation: 1935-2004


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

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

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.


12.60 linear inches

1 videocassette [V281], Photographs in Box 4 boxes

Language of Materials



Scholar, writer and artist.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 168 and 329) were donated by Leola Bergmann in 1950, 2002, and 2005.

Related Materials

The papers of Gustav Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

The papers of Louis Adamic, which contain correspondence with Bergmann are located in the University of Iowa Archives.

A letter from Harry S. Truman to Gustav and Leola Bergmann is located in the University of Iowa Archives

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2005.
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)