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Elizabeth D. Riesz papers

Identifier: IWA1005

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Scope and Contents

The Elizabeth Riesz papers date from 1966 - 2015 and measure 22.5 linear inches. The collection is arranged into five series: Sarah Riesz (1974-2002), Publications (1984-2010), Services for People with Disabilities (1977-1982), Services for People with Disabilities, Japan (1997-2006), and Correspondence (1966-2015).

The Sarah Riesz series (1974-2002) documents the education and work placement progress of Elizabeth Riesz’s daughter Sarah, who was born with Down syndrome. Sarah Riesz was among the first children with disabilities to be integrated into the Iowa City public school system. Her early years coincided with an expansion of supported work and supported living opportunities for people with disabilities. The series includes progress reports from her teachers and doctors, school work completed by Sarah, and newspaper articles that feature her.

The Publications series consists of books authored by Elizabeth Riesz along with newspaper clippings related to these books. First Years of a Child with Down Syndrome describes Riesz’s early experiences in parenting her daughter, Sarah. The book was first published in 1978 and reprinted in 1984. The series contains copies of the book along with the Japanese translation and an updated introduction. Riesz’s second book, Let’s Cook! Healthy Meals for Independent Living is a cook book aimed at adults with special needs. It is part of a series entitled “On My Own.”

The Services for People with Disabilities series focuses on organizations that serve and advocate for people with disabilities in Johnson County, Iowa as well as the laws that benefit the disabled population. It includes a booklet about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rieszs’ and other parents’ correspondence with the Iowa City Public School District regarding special education. Additionally, the series has newspaper clippings and administrative materials related to Goodwill of the Heartland and the Arc of Southeast Iowa in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Services for People with Disabilities, Japan series begins with several files on Dr. Naoya Yoda’s biography of Lois Kramer, a missionary to Japan who established the Japan Oral School for the Deaf in 1920. These files include a summary of the project, correspondence relating to its progress, and photocopies of documents from the life of Lois Kramer. The bulk of this series contains documents from Riesz’s trips to Japan. In 1997 and 2000, Riesz traveled to Japan to speak about the development of services for people with disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome, in Johnson County, Iowa. This series contains some texts and transparencies used for her presentations, her notes, and trip itineraries. There are also trip itineraries and notes related to groups from Osaka, Japan that visited Iowa City and Cedar Rapids in 1998 and 2000.

The Correspondence series contains letters to Elizabeth and Peter Riesz from friends in Japan. They are arranged alphabetically by last name.


  • Creation: 1966-2015


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

Elizabeth Dunkman Riesz was born in 1937 in Rochester, New York and spent most of her childhood in New York state. She began attending Smith College in 1954. Two years later, her father became a Fulbright Scholar at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan and Dunkman suspended her education to join her family there. This experience was the beginning of an enduring relationship with the country and its culture. After graduating from Smith College in 1959, Dunkman pursued a Master of Education at Harvard University and began her career as a teacher, curriculum writer and educational consultant. She later earned a PhD in 1981.

Dunkman married Peter Riesz in 1968. The couple moved to Iowa City where Peter Riesz was a professor of business at the University of Iowa. In 1972, their daughter, Sarah, was born with Down syndrome. At the time there were few resources available for parents of children with Down syndrome and it was not unusual for parents to send their children to an institution. Riesz chose instead to raise her daughter at home. She published a book about Sarah’s early childhood in 1978, First Years of a Down's Syndrome Child. It was translated into Japanese in 1984.

After the birth of her daughter, Riesz became an advocate for services for disabled people and their families in the Iowa City area. She served as president of Arc of Southeast Iowa (formerly the Association of Retarded Citizens) from 1977-1982, and pushed for more educational and employment opportunities for students with special needs. Her book Let’s Cook! (2010) provided simple recipes for adults with special needs in independent or supported living situations. In 1997 and 2000 she brought her work abroad by traveling to Japan and speaking about the programs and resources available for people with disabilities in Iowa. Riesz also worked with a group from Osaka, Japan that visited Iowa to see these programs in action in 1998 and 2006. Elizabeth Riesz passed away in 2019.


22.50 linear inches

Language of Materials



Iowa City advocate for people with disabilities in the United States and Japan, and author of First Years of a Down's Syndrome Child.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1404) were donated by Elizabeth Riesz in 2015.

Related Materials

Ruth Salzmann Becker papers (IWA)

Processing Information

Elizabeth Riesz's autobiography "First Years of A Down's Syndrome Child" was written and published in 1984 before the adoption of the term "Down Syndrome." Because it is the official name of the book, it will remain unedited.

This collection contains materials from the organization The Arc of Southeast Iowa, previously known as the Johnson County Association of Retarded Citizens, before their name change in the 1990s.

Elizabeth D. Riesz 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)