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Elvira Houston papers

Identifier: IWA0623

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Scope and Contents

The Elvira Houston papers date from 1928 to 1984 and measure 15 linear inches. The bulk of the papers consist of the Houston family's account books, kept by Elvira Houston from 1928 through 1984. Though Elvira Houston died in 1981, her daughter Alyce Schavone continued to maintain an account book from 1982 to 1984 to comfort her father, Clifford Houston until his death. Several of the account books are handmade and bound with string Elvira Houston took from old corsets. The series of books reveals the financial status of the Houston family through the nineteenth century, beginning just before the Depression, continuing through World War II, the "prosperous" 1950s, and on through the 1960s, 1970s and into the farm crisis of the 1980s. In addition to the account books, the Elvira Houston papers also contain bank notes and Tama County tax receipts for the years 1928 to 1932, and the assessment roll for the years 1929 to 1933, 1940 and 1941. There is also a 1941 application for the homestead tax credit. Also included in the collection is a 1942 newspaper article regarding Elvira Houston's run for city council and a sample ballot with the election returns recorded on it.


  • Creation: 1928-1984


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

Elvira Irene Metz was born on February 19, 1901 in Tama County, Iowa. She married Clifford Allen Houston on March 19, 1924. The couple had two children, Allen Benedict, born in 1925 and Alyce Elvira, born in 1927. They were a rural family, living primarily near Chelsea and Tama, Iowa.

In 1935, Clifford Houston lost everything and the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama to live with and work for Clifford Houston's well-to-do uncle, C.W. Wright. The Houston family returned to Iowa about a year or so later. A poor but self-sufficient family, daughter Alyce recalled that she never had a store-bought garment until she was fourteen years old. Her mother made most of the children's clothes from old coats and other used materials.

In 1942, Elvira Houston ran for city council in Chelsea on the Women's Progressive Ticket. Houston also wrote poetry and often submitted it to be read on a local radio show. In her later years, Houston became an Avon representative. Elvira Houston died on January 24, 1981 in Spearfish, South Dakota.


15.00 linear inches

Language of Materials



Tama County, Iowa farmwoman who maintained the family account books for nearly fifty years. She ran for city council on the Women's Progressive Ticket in 1942.

Method of Acquisition

The Elvira Houston papers (donor no. 167) were donated by Alyce Houston Schavone in 1998.

Lisa Mott, 2003.
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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)