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C. Pauline Spencer papers

Identifier: IWA0627

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Scope and Contents

The C. Pauline Spencer papers date from 1920 to 1985 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The papers are divided into three series: Career, Family, and Photographs.

The Career series (1920-1985) includes materials from her days as a student at the University of Iowa and her careeras a physical education teacher. Newspaper clippings, memorabilia from sporting and social events, and a handwritten anatomy manual document her achievements as an athlete, a student, and an educator.

The Family series consists of three items pertaining to her sister Helen Spencer who graduated from the Universityof Iowa one year later: a commencement program, a letter of recommendation, and a photograph.

The Photographs series includes a portrait of Pauline Spencer as an undergraduate student and one taken later in her career, as well as photographs of classrooms and the university.


  • Creation: 1920 -1985


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

C. Pauline Spencer was born in DesMoines, Iowa, in 1898. She received her grade school education in Colorado Springs, and her high school diploma at West Des Moines High School. Spencer majored in physical education at the University of Iowa (then known as the State University of Iowa), and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1923. She later received her Master's degree at Iowa State Teacher's College and also did some graduate work at Columbia University in New York.

During her undergraduate years at Iowa, Spencer excelled in athletics and was very active in the Women's Athletic Association (WAA). She served as president of the WAA for two years and was also elected as a delegate to the national convention. Spencer was the first female to win an athletic letter as a sophomore (an "I" sweater), and established another record by winning a second "I" before she graduated. After a particularly outstanding performance at a track meet, one newspaper characterized her as "probably the most perfect girl at the State University of Iowa" and noted that her athletic record was one many men might envy. Her sister Helen was also very active in athletics.

Following graduation, Spencer taught at Iowa City Junior High School. The majority of her teaching career, however, took place at Omaha Technical High School in Omaha, Nebraska. She began her long tenure there as the director of physical education for girls, and later served as a counselor and then dean of girls. She retired from Tech High in 1963. Spencer received a number of honors and awards during her career including a nomination from her students for a national Best Teacher Contest in 1951.

In her leisure time, Spencer enjoyed traveling. She visited every state in the United States, went to Mexico a number of times, and also traveled abroad, visiting ten countries in Europe. C. Pauline Spencer died at age eighty-seven in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1985. Her family established a scholarship for women physical education majors at the University of Iowa in her honor. To date, this prestigious award funds both undergraduate and graduate student recipients in the Department of Health, Leisure and Sport Studies, and also funds a graduate research assistantship at the Iowa Women's Archives.


2.50 linear inches

Language of Materials



An outstanding athlete and the first woman to receive an athletic letter at the University of Iowa. She graduated in 1923.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 257) were transferred by the University of Iowa Department of Health and Sport Studies in 2000 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

University of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women records (IWA).

Shelley Lucas, 2001.
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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)