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Gladys Conn papers

Identifier: IWA0225

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Scope and Contents

The Gladys Conn papers date from 1868 to 2001 and measure 12.7 linear inches. The papers are arranged in six series: Biographical information, Correspondence, Diaries, Social work, Trailer family album, and Travel scrapbook.

The Biographical Information series (1868-1975) contains a biographical information sheet written by Conn, obituaries, genealogical papers that trace the Trailer ancestry to 13th century France and a "History of Grandfather Trailer's Life." Conn's activities at Atlantic High School are evident in drama programs, clippings and a bound 1927 edition of the newspaper, The Needle, for which she was the editor-in-chief.

The Correspondence series (1908-1968) consists of greeting cards written by Gladys Conn's children, Chris and Meredith, and letters and postcards from her aunt Grace Trailer MacAvoy, her brother William Trailer, and her father Frank Trailer. Included are letters and notes written by Frank Trailer during his courtship with Elma Graves Trailer and later letters home to his wife and children. A series of Christmas cards by Jerome Young, an acquaintance Conn met in Chicago, completes the series.

The Diaries series (1929-1955) contains two bound diaries detailing the active social life of a university student, dated 1929-1932. The diaries for 1947-1949 and 1955 are written in the style of a five-year diary, with each page containing entries for the same date over several years: in these diaries Conn recorded her daily activities as a mother and community member. In entries dated 1941-1942, Conn provides a detailed account of the birth of her son Chris and his early childhood development.

Conn's training and later employment as a social worker in Iowa and Chicago are documented in the Social Work: Education and Employment series (1931-1969). Included are university transcripts and correspondence regarding her course requirements, the Social Service League annual reports dating 1938-1943, and case studies.

The Trailer Family Album series (1908-1975) consists of newspaper clippings, correspondence, and numerous candid and posed images of the Trailer family on their homestead in Marne, Iowa. Inserts include Conn's baby book, her first letter, and wedding, death, and birth announcements. The album was disassembled for preservation purposes.

Conn's trip to Europe with her daughter Meredith in 1961 is detailed in the Travel Scrapbook series (1961-2001). The scrapbook contains printed travel brochures, itineraries, and postcards. Conn's travel notes, photographs, and correspondence with acquaintances made during their travels provide a personal account of the trip. Gladys and Meredith Conn's presentation notes and outlines complete the series.


  • Creation: 1868-2001


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

Social worker Gladys Trailer Conn was born in 1910 in Marne, Iowa to Frank Holcomb and Elma Graves Trailer. She was eleven when her father Frank Trailer, a respected farmer in Marne, Iowa died at the age of 46 in 1921. Elma Trailer remarried within a year, and after being widowed for a second time ten years later, remarried a third and final time. Gladys Trailer attended grade school in Marne, Iowa and completed junior and senior high school in Atlantic, Iowa. She received her bachelor's degree in sociology from the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) in 1933. She later moved to Chicago, Illinois to work for her uncle and pursue a graduate degree in social work at the University of Chicago. Trailer did not complete her graduate work in Chicago; however, while there she supervised fieldwork for the Unemployment Relief Center and worked for United Charities.

After a social worker was murdered in Chicago, Trailer's uncle encouraged her to return to Burlington, Iowa to marry her college sweetheart, Blythe Conn, who was starting a law practice. Gladys Trailer married Blythe Conn in 1935. The couple raised two children, Christopher and Meredith. Gladys Conn was employed by a small private agency in Burlington, Iowa, the Social Service League. The Burlington Social Service League was later absorbed by the Des Moines County Mental Health Center, where Conn was employed as a social worker. During the early 1960s Gladys Conn and her daughter were running the family farm while Blythe Conn served in the Legislature in Des Moines and Chris was a college student at Grinnell College.

During a stormy night the horses had run loose leaving Conn and her daughter to chase after them. Conn recalls being fed up with caring for the farm and sold bonds to take a three month trip to Europe with her fifteen year old daughter Meredith in 1961. Their summer travels included stops in England, Finland, Switzerland, and ten days in Russia. Upon returning to Iowa the two gave presentations about their travels to numerous local organizations; Meredith Conn earned 4H credits for speaking to some 1000 people over a year's time. The Conns' son Christopher was killed in a car accident in 1966.


12.70 linear inches

Photographs in boxes 2-4 boxes

Language of Materials



Social worker and State University of Iowa graduate from Marne, Iowa, whose papers include diaries and family correspondence.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 309) were donated by Gladys Conn in 2003.

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2004.
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Script of description
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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)