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Philip L. Gerber papers

Identifier: IWA0615

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Scope and Contents

The Gerber papers date from 1988 to 1989 and measure 3.5 linear inches. The papers consist of the prospectus that Gerber sent to the publisher of Girl Alone: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, and the subsequent manuscript of the edited letters, entitled Bachelor Bess: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919. The letters reside in the South Dakota Historical Society, Pierre, South Dakota.


  • Creation: 1988-1989


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

Philip Gerber, author of books on Theodore Dreiser, Robert Frost, and Willa Cather, is professor of English at the State University of New York College at Brockport, New York. Gerber, a native South Dakotan, discovered the homesteading letters of Elizabeth Corey in the South Dakota Historical Society in Pierre, South Dakota. He edited them in a volume published in 1990 by the University of Iowa Press entitled Bachelor Bess: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919. The letters, written to Corey's widowed mother and six siblings in Iowa, reflect Corey's single-handed staking of a claim and simultaneous school teaching experiences from 1909 to 1919.

Corey, born in 1887, grew up on a farm near Marne, Iowa, the second oldest in a family of seven children. Upon the sudden death of her father in 1905, seventeen-year-old Bess Corey quit high school, attended a summer session of normal school, and began teaching school in rural western Iowa. In 1909 she boarded a Northwestern Railway train bound west, arriving in Midland, South Dakota, a town of 400 residents. Taking advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act, Corey took out papers on a 160-acre claim, vowing to prove herself and her land in the requisite time. To support herself and pay for the shack she had constructed, she taught school. She maintained this routine for ten years, writing a total of 180 letters to her family. Corey died in 1954 and is buried at Monroe Church Cemetery in Marne, Iowa.


3.50 linear inches

Language of Materials



State University of New York College at Brockport professor who edited the homesteading letters of Elizabeth Corey.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 190) were donated by Philip L. Gerber in 1993.

Related Materials

Elizabeth Corey papers, South Dakota Historical Society, Pierre, South Dakota.

Paul Corey papers, Special Collections Department, University of Iowa Libraries.

Margaret Richardson, 1998.
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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)