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May Brodbeck papers

Identifier: IWA0890

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Scope and Contents

The May Brodbeck papers date from 1917 to 2012 and measure 29 linear inches. The papers are divided into six series Biographical (1917-2012), Correspondence (1947-1983), Professional (1971-1983), Publications (1950-1968), Photographs, and Artifacts.

The Biographical series includes Brodbeck’s birth certificate, passport, school transcripts and materials related to her husband Arthur, mother Etta, and brother Philip. The bulk of the series consists of materials related to Brodbeck’s death, including two depositions and correspondence regarding her estate and her will. This series also includes condolences sent to her brother, Philip Selznick, several written tributes to Brodbeck, and receipts for donations to the Universities of Minnesota and Iowa in Brodbeck’s name. The series concludes with remarks from a 2012 celebration of scholars who have held the May Brodbeck Chair of Liberal Arts.

The Correspondence series consists of an address book, scattered personal correspondence, correspondence with Gustav and Leola Bergmann, and correspondence with Sarah Hanley. Most of the Bergman and Hanley correspondence is photocopied from the originals.

The Professional series contains materials related to Brodbeck’s career at the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa. The University of Minnesota materials include correspondence and newspaper clippings concerning Brodbeck’s appointment as dean of the graduate school, and periodicals published by the University of Minnesota. The University of Iowa materials include correspondence and newspaper clippings regarding Brodbeck’s acceptance of a vice presidential position and her retirement. This series also includes the text of an address Brodbeck gave as president of the American Philosophical Association, Western Division.

The Publications series consists of several essays and books written and edited by Brodbeck from 1950 to 1968.

The Photographs series is ordered alphabetically by subject. It contains several portraits of Brodbeck throughout her life, photographs of May Brodbeck and her husband, Arthur, and a photograph of her grandmother. Besides these, the series also includes pictures of Brodbeck’s home in Minnesota, and of her trips to Europe. The Miscellaneous folder of this series includes artistic photographs of architecture, street scenes, and people.

The Artifacts series contains a plaque designating May Brodbeck as a member of the Presidents Club of The University of Iowa, a paperweight with a miniature replica of an official statement from the State Board of Regents encased within it, several book plates, a paper weight commemorating Brodbeck’s fellowship at the Center for Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1981-1982, and an address book.


  • Creation: 1917- 2012

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

May Brodbeck was born in New Jersey to Louis and Etta Schachter in 1917. She married Arthur Brodbeck in the early 1940s. The two divorced in 1949. May Brodbeck attended New York University and received a degree in chemistry in 1941. She taught high school chemistry briefly before leaving to work on the Manhattan Project and later obtained a masters (1945) and a PhD (1947) at the University of Iowa with a dissertation entitled “A Critical Examination of John Dewey’s Logic, the Theory of Inquiry.”

As a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Brodbeck continued to study the philosophy of science as well as to advance her career in academia. She was chair of her department from 1967 to 1970 and served as President of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1972. Brodbeck was appointed Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota in 1972, a position she held until 1974.

Brodbeck left the University of Minnesota in 1974 for the University of Iowa where she served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties. At the time, this was the highest academic position held by a woman outside of exclusively women’s colleges. Brodbeck created the Council on the Status of Women at the University of Iowa in 1976. She retired to California in 1983 and died the same year. In her honor the University of Iowa established the May Brodbeck Chair in the Liberal Arts and the May Brodbeck Distinguished Achievement Award for Faculty.


29.00 linear inches

Photographs in Boxes 3 and 4, artifacts in Boxes 5 and 6 boxes

Language of Materials



Professor of philosophy who served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at the University of Iowa from 1974-1983.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1299) were donated by Doris Fine in 2013.

May Brodbeck papers
Anna Tunnicliff
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)