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Laura F. Hutchison Davis papers

Identifier: IWA0075

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Scope and Contents

The Laura H. Davis papers date from 1869 to 1993 and measure 8.75 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Social Work; Clubs, Church and Civic groups; Education; Personal; and Financial records. This collection provides a glimpse of one woman's role in social welfare from Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s to the period following Johnson's war on poverty of the 1960s.

The Social Work series (1942-1985 and undated) illumnated Davis's professional life. The series documents her role in various positions, from paid caseworker to her voluntary membership on community boards and task forces. Davis worked to start a Family Service Agency in Cedar Rapids and this effort is documented by a report in 1956 and through her involvement with the committee that hired the first director of the agency. The topical speeches and notes provide insight into Davis's views on child welfare, the elderly and the community's role in the life of all individuals. The series also contains Davis's notes and the policy statement she wrote for the 1961 White House Conference on Aging.

The Clubs, Church and Civic groups series (1880-1989 and undated) documents her connection with the Red Cross, YWCA, Quota Club and the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Cedar Rapids. Through her church, Davis volunteered as the secretary of the Board of Directors of the Geneva Corporation and Foundation which built the thirteen-story retirement apartment building, Geneva Tower, in downtown Cedar Rapids. The series includes three booklets entitled Topics for Prayer Meetings that date from 1880s.

The Education series (1928-1993 and undated) contains records of Davis's education from primary school to the graduate level, with notes and papers she wrote for grade school through her master's degree in social work. The series also includes the outlines and lecture notes Davis used for the classes in community organization and sociology she taught at Mount Mercy College and St. Luke's School of Nursing located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Davis was interviewed by the University of Iowa School of Social Work in 1988 as part of an oral history project. The transcript of this interview provides insight into the changing public view of social work from the 1930s through the 1950s.

The Personal series (1869-1993 and undated) represents Davis's domestic and married life and includes extensive correspondence with family and friends. This series also includes papers and letters to and from Lloyd Davis during World War II. There is one folder of victory mail (V-mail), used to minimize the bulk of mail delivered and to expedite delivery during the war. The series has many photographs of Davis and family members. The photograph album of Davis's maternal aunt, Bessie C. Thompson, depicts Thompson's life as a young school teacher in 1918 in Iowa and Wyoming.

The Financial records series (1891-1993) contains Laura Lloyd Davis' personal tax records and estate papers of relatives. This series is closed to researchers.


  • Creation: 1869-1993


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

Laura Francis Hutchison Davis, social worker and community volunteer, was born in Webster County, Iowa, on October 26, 1916, one of eleven children. Her formal education began in 1922 in a rural public school. She received her undergraduate education at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earning her bachelor's degree in 1938 before starting to work for the Linn County Relief Department.

She married Lloyd L. Davis, a Linn County road engineer, in 1942. They had no children. In 1950, she became the first graduate of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) School of Social Work. In the field of social work, Davis held positions as case worker, case consultant, instructor and program planner.

As the first child welfare worker in the county in 1943, she established daycare centers for mothers employed in war plants during World War II. President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty brought a change in how assistance to the needy was provided, including the creation of community action programs that encouraged low-wage earners to become involved in the effort to end economic hardship. Davis began to work as a case consultant for the Linn Economic Action Project (LEAP) in 1965. She was promoted to program planner in 1968 when LEAP merged with the Johnson County Community Action Program and was renamed the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP).

Volunteer service characterized Davis's contribution to others. She served on the Board of Directors of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) (1962-1965), United Community Service (1963-1964), the Geneva Corporation and Foundation (1965-1979) and the Family Services Agency (1959-1965), all in Cedar Rapids. On the state level Davis served on several Governor's commissions, most notably the Iowa Commission for Senior Citizens (1960-1962). Davis chaired the Social Services Committee of this commission and was a delegate to the 1961 White House Conference on Aging.


8.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Social worker in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from the 1930s though the 1960s.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 132) were donated by Joyce Nielsen in 1994.

Related Materials

Mrs. Lloyd (Laura) Davis Collection, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.

Randel W. Lackore, 1995 and 1997.
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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)