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Bernice Leary papers

Identifier: IWA0030

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Scope and Contents

The Bernice Leary papers date from 1878 to 1977 and measure 6 linear inches. The papers are mostly of a personal nature, containing very little material related to Leary's career.

The collection consists primarily of numerous photographs and other mementos. Photographs (both studio portraits and moreinformal shots) of Bernice Leary, her parents, sisters, and other family members date from 1878 to the late 1950s. Also included are many photographs of Leary's travels and acquaintances in Asia dating from the 1950s. The photograph series also contains photographs and slides of a painting and sculpture displayed in Leary's memory in Madison.

The correspondence file consists of one letter from Leary written in 1964 from the Philippines. Ephemera includes the program from the University of Chicago commencement ceremony at which Leary received her Ph.D. Also in the collection are postcards of Thailand, and a guest book from Bernice and Iva Leary's home in Webster City, dating from the early 1960s. Autobiographical essays about Bernice and her family are found in the biographical material file. Additional biographical material on Bernice Leary and other family members can be found in the newspaper clippings file.


  • Creation: 1878-1977


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been retained by the donor.

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

Bernice Leary was born August 19, 1890 in Ionia, Iowa. Her parents, James Leary and Josephine Bell Leary, had two other daughters, Iva (1885-1977) and Lela (1887-?). Bernice Leary graduated from Riceville High School and then taught elementary school for a short time in Riceville. She attended Iowa State Teachers' College (now University of Northern Iowa) for one year. Leary received her B.A., M.A. and, in 1933, her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago.

The book that she coauthored with Dr. William S. Cray, What Makes a Book?, received an award from the American Education Research Association in 1949. Leary held teaching and administrative positions at a number of high schools and colleges. She also worked as a curriculum specialist for the United States Office of Education in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s and 1950s.

From 1942 to 1955, Leary served as Director of Curriculum for the public schools of Madison, Wisconsin. During the summers she taught at various universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh, where she trained elementary school teachers. After World War II, Leary continued to work for the federal government, travelling to Germany, Thailand, the Philippines, and India from the late 1940s to late 1950s. During these travels, she worked with local educators in the capacity of curriculum specialist.

She retired from the Madison Public School System in 1955. In 1961, Leary moved to Webster City, Iowa with her sister Iva (also a retired teacher). In 1968, they moved to Mayflower Retirement Home in Grinnell. Bernice Leary died March 20, 1973.


6.00 linear inches

Photographs in boxes 1 and 2. boxes

Language of Materials



Educator, author, collector of children's books.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 31) were donated by Mary Noble in 1985.

Catherine E. Rymph, 1992, and Special Collections staff.
Language of description
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)