Skip to main content

Peg Mullen papers

Identifier: IWA0082

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The Peg Mullen papers measure 5.25 linear feet and date from 1966 to 2010. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and newspaper clippings from the 1970s related to the anti-warmovement. The papers are arranged in five series: Biographical information, Correspondence, Friendly Fire, Vietnam War resource files, and Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir.

The Biographical information series (1970-2010) includes newspaper clippings, articles, and interviews with Mullen from the 1970s through 2003; most of these materials describe Mullen's activism against the war in Vietnam, but a few are related to the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. Newspaper articles about Michael Mullen and the circumstances of his death in Vietnam are included in this series as well as letters written by Michael Mullen from Vietnam to his parents. A history of the Mullen family, "Six Generations in Black Hawk County, 1852-1996," and a short sketch of her father written by Peg Mullen. Four interviews with Mullen conducted in the 1990s, newsletters carrying columns written by Peg Mullen, and several photographs of Peg Mullen, and of her son, Michael, complete the series.

The Correspondence series (1968-2003) consists primarily of letters written to the Mullens during the 1970s, and especially from the periods immediately following Michael Mullen's death in 1970, the publication of Friendly Fire in 1976, and the television adaptation of the book in 1979. It includes contacts with the White House, the Pentagon, political leaders, and letters from hundreds of Americans expressing support for the Mullens. The series also includes correspondence between the Mullens and the Pentagon pertaining to the Mullens' quest to determine the cause of their son's death. Carbon copies of many of the outgoing letters are included with the responses. (Many additional letters from this period can be found in the series, Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir.) The series also includes letters from the 1990s relating to the US wars in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, and correspondence between Mullen and high school students from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Mullen continued to receive letters from Vietnam veterans in the 1990s.

The Friendly Fire series includes the portions of C.D.B. Bryan's book, Friendly Fire, which first appeared in The New Yorker magazine and correspondence from 1971 to 1979 between Mullen and Bryan. Also in this series are a typescript of the book, published in 1976; Fay Kanin's script for the television adaptation; a VHS copy of the film, Friendly Fire, and a bound notebook of articles concerning popular response and television critics' views.

The Vietnam War resource files (1966-1978) include anti-war correspondence, draft resistance materials, petitions, newspaper clippings, reports, speeches, and memoranda gathered by Mullen during the 1970s. The series contains a "Vietnam Information Packet," which was compiled bymembers of Milestones, an independent high school newspaper. This series includes information from six organizations that Mullen belonged to: American Friends Service Committee, Another Mother for Peace, Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace (BEM), Common Cause, SANE, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Other causes Mullen supported include National Strike for Peace, the abolition of the draft, and Four folders of letters and one folder of postcards written by persons in support of Amendment 609 complete the series.

The Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir series (1970-1996) includes four drafts of the manuscript. Also included is correspondence datingfrom the 1970s to and 1990s that Mullen used while writing the memoir. Part of the correspondence is organized topically, the remainder chronologically. The newspaper clippings pertain to the Vietnam War, especially casualty notices. Materials relating to the publication and response to the book complete the series.


  • Creation: 1966-2010


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

Social activist Margaret (Peg) Mullen was born in 1917, in Pocahontas, Iowa, the daughter of Clair and Josephine Wolfe Goodyear. She graduated from Sacred Heart High School and was employed as a secretary in the US Department of Labor from 1937 to 1944.

In November 1941, she married Oscar Eugene (Gene) Mullen of Waterloo. During World War II, he served in the Army in Des Moines, Iowa; Springfield, Missouri; and Fort Logan, Colorado. After his discharge, the Mullens moved to the 120-acre family farm near La Porte City, Iowa. From 1955 to 1961 Peg Mullen commuted to Waterloo to work in an advertising agency. In addition to working the farm, Gene Mullen was employed as a quality control supervisor at the John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo.

Peg Mullen participated in community affairs, including the church youth group and 4-H, and in politics as a Democratic delegate to county and state conventions. The Mullens had four children: Michael, Patricia, Mary Margaret, and John Kevin.

Michael Mullen graduated from Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville, Iowa, in 1963 and earned a BA in chemistry from Rockhurst College, a Jesuit school in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1967. He was awarded a fellowship for graduate study at the University of Missouri and studied there for one year. In September 1968, he was drafted into the Army. He completed basic training at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and attended accelerated Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In September 1969, he was sent to Vietnam and served with the 198th Light Infantry Americal division near Chu Lai. Michael Mullen was killed on February 18, 1970, by shrapnel discharged by United States artillery, also known as "friendly fire."

Peg Mullen had opposed the Vietnam War before her son was drafted, but after his death she became a public critic of the war. She became widely known for urging the Pentagon to release documents that pertained to the circumstances surrounding her son's death and her involvement in the anti-war protest movement. With their son's military gratuity, the Mullens placed two ads in "The Des Moines Register". The first ran on April 12, 1970. It consisted of 714 crosses representing those Iowans reported killed in Vietnam. Another ran on April 26, with 719 crosses. The response to the ads was dramatic and Peg Mullen soon became a national figure. She received thousands of letters of support from throughout the country; gave interviews for radio, television, and newspapers; counseled families; traveled to Washington to protest the war and spoke frequently at anti-war rallies. The Mullens were one of the families featured in a film, "And Another Family for Peace".

In 1972, Mullen served as a McGovern delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In that same year she was nominated Iowa Mother of the Year. The story of the Mullens' attempts to obtain the facts from the Pentagon about Michael's death attracted the interest of journalist C.D.B. Bryan, who first visited the Mullens in La Porte City in 1971. Five years later, Bryan's three-part series appeared in The New Yorker (March 1, 8, and 15, 1976). The New Yorker series was later expanded and published as Friendly Fire (Putnam, 1976). In 1979, the book was adapted for a television movie starring Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty. The show received six Emmy awards. After the publication of the book and the television production, Mullen received waves of mail, telephone calls, and requests for interviews.

In 1976, Gene Mullen suffered a massive heart attack and received a medical retirement from John Deere. Later that year, the Mullens moved to Brownsville, Texas. Gene Mullen died in July 1986. Peg Mullen later moved back to Iowa, where she continued her anti-war activism by speaking out against US wars in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. She published Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir (1995), in which she recalls her activities in the years following her son's death in Vietnam. In 1997, Mullen was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. Peg Mullen passed away in La Porte City, Iowa, on October 2, 2009 at the age of 92.


5.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Anti-Vietnam War activist whose son, Michael, was killed by 'friendly fire' in Vietnam in 1970.


Copies of the hardcover and paperback versions of "Friendly Fire" and a hardcover copy of "Unfriendly Fire: A Mother's Memoir" are shelved in the printed works collection.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 139) were donated by Peg Mullen in 1993 and subsequent years.

Natalie S. Brody; Robert J. Jett, 1993; Suzanne A. Vesely, 2001; Nickol Himschoot, 2004; Sharon M. Lake, 2008.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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)