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Bonnie Kern papers

Identifier: IWA0797

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Scope and Contents

The Bonnie Kern papers date from 1945 to 2014 and measure 2.5 linear feet in six boxes. The papers are arranged in five series: Biographical Information (1945-2014), Employment (2004-2011), Education (1993-2010), Professional Organizations (1999-2010), and Writing (2000-2012).

The biographical series contains information on Kern’s personal life including her marriages, the contract for the donation of her body, her family genealogy and several lawsuits brought by Kern. More of these materials are in a collection of letters, awards and other documents outlining Kern’s life and accomplishments entitled “Lost and Found.”

The Employment series has records of Kern’s work as a commercial truck driver and a disability rights investigator as well as resumes, letters of reference, and corporate and administrative records from her business, Assessing Disability Barriers. In addition, personnel records and her appeal for unemployment benefits after leaving her job as a disability rights investigator for Iowa Protection and Advocacy are included in this section.

Kern’s studies at Drake University, including classwork and syllabi, her graduation ceremony and celebration, and counseling internship are in the Education series.

The Professional Organizations series consists of annual meeting guides with notations of Kern’s presentations and copies of presentations. The Writing series provides insight into the writing, editing, marketing, publication and sales records of her novel, Proclivity, and early copies of her second proposed writing project, The Story/Steel Ceiling. This section also includes both published and unpublished reviews and reader responses about Proclivity and articles about her writing.


  • Creation: 1945 - 2014


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

Bonnie Kern was born in Dexter, Iowa, in 1945. She completed her BA in Sociology at Drake University in 2000 and an MS in Rehabilitation Counseling, also from Drake University, in 2009. A victim of physical and sexual abuse throughout her childhood, Kern was sentenced to prison for writing a bad check in 1963, two years after the death of her nine-month-old daughter in a car accident. She was released in 1969, the first woman in Iowa to be placed in the work release program. Her citizenship was restored in 1974 and eight years later she received an executive pardon. Kern worked for Iowa Protection and Advocacy as a Rights Investigator/Advocate from 2001-2003 and started her own non-profit, Assessing Disability Barriers, in 2009. A sought-after speaker in the Midwest, Kern spoke at several professional organizations’ annual meetings and conferences about her life as a female trucker, her history of abuse and her ability to overcome her trauma. In 2007, Bonnie Kern published her book, Proclivity, a fictionalized memoir detailing sexual abuse, the death of her mother and daughter, and how Kern dealt with these issues afterward. Bonnie Kern died on October 12, 2017.


2.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Iowa author who was a victim of sexual and physical abuse, served time in prison and later placed into Iowa's work release program.


Bonnie Kern's book, Proclivity, is shelved in the printed works collection in IWA.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated by Bonnie Kern (donor no. 1183) in 2009 and subsequent years.


Billie Cotterman Kim Larmee
Language of description
Script of description

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)