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Dale McCormick papers

Identifier: IWA0513

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Scope and Contents

The Dale McCormick papers date from 1958 to 1997 and measure 4.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in six series: Biographical, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Women Unlimited, and Electoral Politics. The bulk of the collection relates to women's work in non-traditional careers, including documents related to McCormick's own experiences as a carpenter and those that relate to the organization she founded, Women Unlimited. Much of the collection remains in its original order with original folder titles.

The Biographical series consists of a folder containing resumes and other information on Dale McCormick's life and work. Most of the materials in the 1960s series (1958-1969) relate to McCormick's formal education. The series includes a workbook on the history of Iowa for elementary students and research papers, notes, and tests from McCormick's high school and college courses. Miscellaneous personal and official correspondence, two University of Iowa photo IDs, and a 4-H record book complete the series.

The 1970s series (1969-1981) includes documents related to McCormick's political, personal, and professional activities. The student teaching folder includes a description of McCormick's philosophy of education and her lesson plans for units on McCarthyism and the American judicial system. The folder on the military draft includes a 1969 issue of The New Prairie Primer, an alternative newspaper published in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The folder on women's poetry includes several small self-published booklets of original poetry, none by McCormick. The items in the business documents folder were removed from an accordion file that was arranged in alphabetical order. McCormick's union documents (Carpenter's Local 1260) include her dues book, pay stubs, and receipts for dues.

The 1970s series also contains documents related to a sexual harassment complaint that McCormick filed with the Iowa City Human Relations Commission in 1974, including the reports written by the commission's investigator after interviewing the concerned parties and McCormick's notes citing specific incidents of harassment. The notebook in this series contains many entries, often rather cryptic, related to the production of Ain't I a Woman?, a local women's liberation newsletter that was nationally distributed. The notebook also includes several loose documents such as a handwritten history of Sparky Daycare, a controversial project within the Iowa City women's community, and notes about class conflicts within the women's and lesbian communities of Iowa City. A videotape featuring McCormick on an unnamed television program completes the series. (Note: The videotape was recorded on a Sony-AV-860 solid state video recorder and must be played on same; the IWA does not own such a recorder.)

The 1980s series (1980-1987) contains notes, invoices, and blueprints related to McCormick Construction and Cabinetry. It includes notes McCormick took at workshops for women in the construction trades. McCormick's notebooks contain many technical drawings and blueprints. A letter from Sue Buckley, former director of the Women's Resource and Action Center at the University of Iowa and later a university administrator, describes the successful campaign waged at the University to include sexual orientation in the anti-discrimination policy. This series includes materials related to a television series on homebuilding that McCormick worked on in the early 1980s, including an audiocassette of McCormick and a friend brainstorming ideas for the show. A handbook on vapor barriers written by McCormick includes many early drafts and slides. Two more audiocassettes complete the series: a radio interview with McCormick and a Christian leader debating Maine's proposed gay rights ordinance, and a 1985 interview by an unnamed woman with a young man diagnosed with ARC (AIDS-Related Complex).

The Women Unlimited series (1987-1995), the largest series in the collection, includes administrative files and information on workshops, conferences, policies, programs, clients, grants, trade organizations, and the government agencies with which Women Unlimited partnered. The papers are in their original files and order. Some contain resource materials such as data on jobs and wages in Maine. The series includes three audiocassettes of workshops McCormick attended. Additional notes about the audiocassettes in McCormick's collection complete the series.

The Electoral Politics series (1984-1997) includes memorabilia and newspaper articles related to the 1984 and 1988 national Democratic Party conventions that McCormick attended. McCormick's delegate badges, a ribbon with a button declaring her a member of the Gay and Lesbian Caucus, and coverage of the 1984 convention in the gay and lesbian press are included. The series also contains a small amount of information on McCormick's 1990 campaign for the Maine senate and newspaper articles reporting on her victory. The series includes information on two issues McCormick worked on in the legislature's welfare reform and health care. Telephone logs show the wide range of issues McCormick dealt with on a regular basis.


  • Creation: 1958-1997


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

Dale McCormick-carpenter, author, teacher, activist, and politician-was born in 1947 in New York City. Her mother, Elizabeth Tibbetts McCormick Kramer, was a teacher and her father, Kenneth Dale McCormick, was editor-in-chief at Doubleday. McCormick's parents divorced and her mother remarried Dale Kramer, author of numerous books.

Dale McCormick's family moved to Sigourney, Iowa, in 1955; she graduated from Sigourney High School in 1965, and earned a BA and a teaching certificate from the University of Iowa in 1970. After graduation, McCormick remained in Iowa City, where she participated in the anti-war, women's, and lesbian movements in the early 1970s.

She apprenticed as a carpenter in 1971 with the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and in 1975, Dale McCormick became the first journeywoman carpenter in the nation. McCormick wrote and illustrated Against the Grain: A Carpentry Manual for Women, published by the Iowa City Women's Press in 1977 (A copy of this book is shelved in the printed works collection of the Iowa Women's Archives). McCormick ran her own company, McCormick Construction and Cabinetry, in Iowa City from 1977 to 1980.

In the early 1980s, McCormick moved to Maine, where she founded Women Unlimited, a job training program for women in trade and technical occupations. McCormick served as executive director of Women Unlimited until 1995. She taught classes, attended conferences, held workshops, wrote grants, and initiated partnerships with governmental agencies and educational institutions. In 1987, McCormick published her second book, Housemending: Home Repair for the Rest of Us.

McCormick worked on many issues as a political activist in the 1980s, including gay and lesbian issues, healthcare, welfare reform, women in non-traditional work, and housing. She was a founder and past president of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, and a delegate to the 1984 and 1988 Democratic National Conventions. In 1990, she ousted an incumbent in an upset election for the Hallowell seat in the Maine Senate. In 1996, McCormick was elected state treasurer of Maine, the first woman to hold that position. She served as treasurer for eight years, when Maine's term limits forced her to give up her post. In 2005, Maine's governor appointed McCormick as director of the Maine State Housing Authority, a quasi-governmental organization that finances affordable housing, weatherizes homes, and assists low-income Mainers purchase their first home.

McCormick has received many honors including the Maryann Hartman Award for political leadership and for training women in non-traditional careers (1997) and the Crystal Vision Award from the National Association of Women in Construction (2006). In 2007, McCormick was inducted into the Maine Women Hall of Fame. McCormick and her partner have three children.


4.50 Linear Feet

Slides in Box 4; 6 audiocassettes [AC1237-1242]; 1 videocassette [shelved in non-standard formats] boxes

Language of Materials



Carpenter and activist for women in non-traditional jobs.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 890) were donated by Dale McCormick in 2003.

Related Materials

Ain't I a Woman? (IWA): McCormick belonged to the collective that published Ain't I a Woman?

Dale McCormick papers (Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity at the University of Southern Maine).


Sharon M. Lake, 2008.
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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)