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Lucy Van Voorhis White papers

Identifier: IWA0074

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Scope and Contents

The Lucy Van Voorhis White papers date from 1866 to 1932 and measure 12.25 linear inches. The collection is arranged in the following series: Biographical Information, Correspondence, Diaries, Memorabilia, School Work, Teaching Material, Transcripts, and Photographs. This collection is rich in documenting the experiences of rural women in Iowa from the late 1880s to 1930s.

Biographical Information (1880- 1929) includes a newspaper article about Lucy Van Voorhis; a family history written by her; birth, graduation, and wedding announcements; a Van Voorhis family history tracing Lucy Van Voorhis' descendants back to Holland in the year 1660, the year they immigrated to the United States; and a family tree. An account book contains a record of what was earned and spent on the White farm. Prices of eggs and hogs as well as crop estimates are included. There are three autograph books dating from 1880 to 1882, belonging to George Thomas White and Lucy Van Voorhis. Also included in this series is a list of correspondents and genealogical materials concerning Charles S. Van Voorhis and Frank Lemert Van Voorhis, the father and brother of Lucy Van Voorhis White.

The bulk of the collection is Correspondence (1888-1933) written by and to Lucy Van Voorhis White. The letters are arranged by author, except those written between George White and Lucy Van Voorhis during their courtship. These letters are arranged chronologically. The remaining correspondence includes letters from Lucy White's sisters, nieces, nephews, and long-time acquaintances. Included are letters from George's White's mother and George and Lucy White's children. Much of the general correspondence consists of "circle letters", which were circulated among Lucy White's family, each member responding to the original letter. These letters offer a view of the family over a wide span of years, as they grew up and married, moved away, and reflected on the state of affairs in the United States.

The Diaries (1882-1898) kept by Lucy Van Voorhis White date from 1882 to 1897. The Daily Log consists of student grades that Lucy Van Voorhis recorded while teaching primary school and facts and figures relating to farm purchases and inventories, as well as diary entries.

Memorabilia includes a hand made book with locks of hair collected from the White family, and a Certificate of War Service acknowledging Lucy Van Voorhis White's participation on the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense in 1919. Also included is a small notebook in which Lucy Van Voorhis pasted newspaper clippings about her graduation from Eldora High School, including the speech she gave, and an article on a Van Voorhis family gathering near Benson Hill, Union, Iowa.

School Work (1883-1885) consists of essays and three notebooks. One is undated. These appear to have been used in primary school by Lucy Van Voorhis. Included are physiology drawings, maps of the world, and grammar lessons. The essays were written by her as well.

Teaching Material (1885-1896) contains teaching certificates of George White and Lucy Van Voorhis, as well as letters of recommendation and teaching examination test results.

Typewritten Transcripts ( 1861-1917) were edited by Jeane Van Voorhis White. Jeane White was the daughter of Stanley V. White and granddaughter of Lucy and George White. The transcripts are divided into incoming and outgoing and arranged chronologically. The outgoing correspondence is primarily in the form of circle letters. The outgoing letter from 1861 is from Lucy A. Dennis Van Voorhis to her sister in Ohio concerning Charles Smith Van Voorhis' enlistment in the military. All of the letters written by George and Lucy White in this collection have been transcribed, as well as a few incoming letters. The letters between George and Lucy White are filed separately. Diary and journal entries are arranged by date. Also included are journal excerpts concerning Lucy White's children.

Photographs (1885-1939) include portraits and group shots of the White family and their family farm.


  • Creation: 1861-1939


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

Charles Smith Van Voorhis and Lucy A. Dennis were married on March 17, 1860 in Knox County, Ohio. They had seven children: Mattie, Lucy, Frank, Minnie, Eva, Ora, and Hattie. Lucy Van Voorhis was born on May 8, 1869 in Grundy County, Iowa. When Lucy was two years old the family moved to Liscomb, Iowa, where they farmed until 1872. In the fall of 1874, there was another move to Pleasant Township, Iowa. It was here that Lucy attended her first school. Farming was a family affair, the women sharing the work equally with the men. Lucy managed, however to devote much time to her studies, and decided early on that she would become a school teacher.

On May 8, 1884, at the age of fifteen, Lucy wrote in her diary, "I am going to be an old maid, and teach school in a little yellow schoolhouse in the backwoods of Dakota, if it is proper to speak so of a prairie state." The latter but not the former proved true; Lucy Van Voorhis taught her first class in 1888, and continued teaching until her marriage.

On February 22, 1896 Lucy Van Voorhis married George Thomas White of Dallas County, Iowa. George and Lucy White had three children: Louise (b. July 17, 1898), Stanley V. (b. December 9, 1901, who married Sarah B. Dykstra in 1927) and Phyllis (b. August 13, 1905). Stanley and Sarah Dykstra had three children: Jeane (born Jean Eloise) Van Voorhis White, Carolyn Ruth White Robertson, and Janice Marie White). The family farmed in Dallas County, Iowa, growing crops of corn, hay, wheat, and oats, in addition to raising lambs, chickens, hogs, and dairy cattle.

When Phyllis was nine months old, Lucy Van Voorhis White began teaching Sunday school at the local Presbyterian church. She was an avid seamstress and cook, as well as being a writer of "circle letters" that were distributed regularly among her family members The Whites moved to Ames in 1920. While there, all of the children received degrees from what was then Iowa State College. During that time the farm was rented out. After Stanley White married, he returned to the farm and together with George White resumed the operations. The "home 80" of that farm is still owned by Jonathan M. Kimple, son of Jeane Van Voorhis White, and became a century Farm in 1982. Lucy Van Voorhis White died from cancer in 1935.


12.25 linear inches

Language of Materials



Schoolteacher and farm wife of Dallas County, Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 131) were donated by Jeane Van Voorhis White in 1993.

Related Materials

Sarah Dykstra White papers (IWA): Sarah Dykstra White was Lucy Van Voorhis White's daughter-in-law.

Robert J. Jett, 1993 and Elizabeth Engel, 2006. [WhiteLucyV.doc]
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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)