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Olabelle Reed papers

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: IWA0343

Scope and Contents

The Olabelle Reed papers date from 1935 to 1997 and consist of ten items. The papers consist of newspaper clippings; biographical material; correspondence; the funeral program of a friend, Susie Ann Cunningham; and a church anniversary bulletin. The newspaper clippings included in the collection pertain to the death of Reed's two sisters, Reed's retirement, and her involvement in Club Les Dames. The church bulletin commemorates the anniversary of Antioch Baptist Church in Waterloo, Iowa, and includes a photographic memorial to Reed's parents. A separate memorial essay is also part of the collection.


  • Creation: 1935-1997


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

Olabelle Reed, teacher and community activist, was born in Iowa City, Iowa on January 30, 1935. She was the seventh of eleven children bornto Freeman and Isabella "Sweetie" Woods. When she was only four months old, two of her sisters drowned in a vault of water at the back of the family's home in Waterloo. While she was in high school, Olabelle Woods participated in many activities including choir, student council, and speech, in which she won a state contest. She was not allowed to join the cheerleading squad or swing choir, however, because of racial discrimination. Woods graduated from Waterloo East High School in 1953.

Despite discouragement from others, Woods went on to college and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) with an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree in elementary education. As a college student, Olabelle Woods married Richard Reed. They had three children: Paula, Mark and Adrienne. Olabelle Reed had difficulty finding work as a teacher but in 1960 she signed a teaching contract with Waterloo Community Schools. This put her among the first five minority women to teach in the district. She taught for nine years before returningto UNI to earn her master's degree. Reed continued to work in Waterloo schools until her retirement in 1996.

Reed was an active member of the Waterloo community for many years. She belonged to various educational and youth foundations and served asa representative for the Iowa and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Reed also helped found Club Les Dames, an African-American women's club in Waterloo, and has held various leadership roles within it.


0.25 linear inches

Language of Materials



Teacher, community activist, and co-founder of Club Les Dames, an African American women's club in Waterloo.


One folder, shelved in SCVF.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 471) were donated by Olabelle Reed in 1997.

Jenny Meyer, 1998; Robert J. Jett, 1999.
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)